Country Park Manager Cameron Manson Retires After 30 Years
30th October, 2018
After over 30 years, Dalkeith Country Park is saying a fond farewell to a man that has been the life, soul and, most importantly, the guardian of every inch of the 2,000 acre estate. Meet Cameron Manson, our retiring Country Park Manager
HOW AND WHEN DID YOU COME TO THE ESTATE?
Before Dalkeith I was part of the surgical team working on embryo transfer in cattle and sheep for 20 years or so. It was a small team whose work finally flowered in the first successful cloned embryo in the world – “Dolly “was a milestone in the understanding of embryo manipulation and cell biology. I retired from surgical work as it was time to get out of a surgery into the open air. I started a flying flock of ewes which I kept on the estate and after a short time a position came open for a seasonal ranger. I negotiated with the estate and persuaded them that a full-time post would be more appropriate and that the use of a house would be mutually beneficial.
I moved into Castlesteads about 31 years ago and still enjoy its welcoming warmth. The estate was very run down at the time and the house, which had been used as a kennel for a short time, was in need of some love and attention. The stables had about 300 greyhounds in them and trying to encourage the public into the estate with all the mess and smell that goes with greyhounds was an uphill job. The complete rebuild of the adventure playground, the clearing out of the ice house, the constant security needed, the poaching, the fires and all the other bits and pieces made it an all-encompassing job requiring seven days a week all summer with a chance to draw breath and rebuild over the winter.
WHAT WOULD YOU COUNT AS YOUR MAJOR ACHIEVEMENTS IN YOUR TIME HERE?
There were so many times when it was difficult to reconcile the needs of the keeper with that of the farmer or the forester with that of the public, all the user groups had to see that theirs was not the only use of this wonderful estate. The ranger/park manager was the sort of lubricant between all the other estate users. I was a horse rider, a cyclist, a farmer and a naturalist – doing all these things gave me an insight into these group’s points of view.
WHAT MAKES THIS ESTATE SPECIAL?
The estate survived because of serendipity. The changing fortunes of the place, the politics in the 1700’s could, at any time, have split the place up. The very fact that there was always an heir or heiress to continue the family name and the noblesse oblige that connected it with the town, was an important factor. The land itself would always be here but the land use, this fantastic parkland set in a rapidly urbanised landscape, might be a housing estate or a motorway by now.
WHAT ARE YOUR RETIREMENT PLANS?
My life for the past 30 years has been inextricably bound up with the estate. I have worked almost every weekend in that time and all my holidays have been taken in the out of season months. So I would hope to see more of Scotland in the sunshine. And a boat, not a wee sailboat thing, but a big wooden boat with a muckle diesel engine would be my ambition.
YOUR ADVICE FOR THOSE THAT FOLLOW IN YOUR FOOTSTEPS?
This estate is a place that you fall in love with very easily, it’s not a job, it’s a hobby, a pastime and a vocation. Live gently and treat each new idea with enthusiasm. It’s an art I never managed to achieve. I disliked change but in order to survive change must happen. If the changes can benefit the heart of the estate then by all means accept them.