Our series of photographic portraits by Neill Menneer shows Bath people at work
I grew up on the edge of Bristol, and as a teenager it felt like a big day out to visit Bath. At school, I loved science and geography, and chose to study environmental science at the University of Plymouth.
Despite my dad being a keen gardener and growing veggies together when I was young, it was at university that I was instilled with a love of soil science.
My favourite fact about soil is that it takes up to 1,000 years to make 1cm of soil. Soils store and filter water, protecting us from floods and providing us with clean drinking water. Soil provides the structure and nutrients needed to grow crops. It gives us the foundations for houses. Soil stores carbon (it is estimated that there are 15 thousand million tonnes of carbon in the world’s soils – three times more than in all vegetation and forests). And, without it we wouldn’t have the beautiful landscape and habitat we love so much around Bath. Soil is a vessel for life.
After university, some travelling, and another university, I got a job with a soil consultancy in Oxfordshire. I worked on a number of projects alongside landscape architects, and am very proud to have worked on the London 2012 Olympic Parklands.
I applied for a job at the Environment Agency and moved back to the west in 2011. My husband James and I moved to Bath largely because of work and life commitments, but I have really enjoyed our time here. I love that Bath feels local despite being a city. We often walk in to town and see the same familiar faces.
In my job as environmental officer for the Environment Agency, I regulate businesses and individuals who have an impact on the environment. Mostly these people will have an environmental permit registered with us. These will be for things such as taking water from springs, rivers and boreholes; discharging effluents back into the environment via ditches and rivers; and dealing with waste sites and farms.
Although I live in Bath, I work across the Bristol Avon river catchment. This stretches as far north as Berkeley Castle and Wotton-under-Edge, east to Devizes, south to Frome and west to Avonmouth. It’s a pretty big area. You might not always see us, (our uniforms are green and blend in to the environment easily), but we are always around, trying to make the place a bit greener and cleaner.
I love being outdoors in my wellies and surrounded by nature, so I’m really lucky to be in a job that allows me to be out and about so much. Neill has photographed me inspecting one of my favourite Bath rivers, The By Brook. Outside work I enjoy yoga, long walks, playing board games with friends (it can get very competitive), and going to some of Bath’s best drinking establishments. A lot of our friends are musicians too, so there are always plenty of gigs and festivals to go to.
Last but not least, as part of my job, I also respond to pollutions. There are people like me at the Environment Agency on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, ready to respond to pollution. So if you spot something that doesn’t look right in your environment, report it, tel: 0800 80 70 60. You never know, it might be me who turns up!