"IT’S not what you think. We’re not some kind of rural police force, going round like sheriffs on horseback.”

So says park ranger Tim Squire, sunglasses down, as we rumble off in his 4x4 to find out exactly what he does.

It’s worth asking as there could soon be hundreds of new Tims patrolling the countryside.

This autumn, the Glover review of England’s national parks will propose introducing 1,000 new rangers nationwide.

“Imagine 1,000 of me running around,” Tim said.

He hops out of the Land Rover into an American plains scene.

We’re at Cuckmere Haven, a wide, fertile river basin on the eastern edge of the South Downs.

Someone in our party asks if the cattle down in the valley are buffalo. They are forgiven.

“That image of the tough park ranger might be true in other countries, but here our job is a little different,” Tim said.

Before he gets the chance to explain, we’re struck by a view of the cliffs.

Tim leaps into action.

He’s a font of natural knowledge, calmly telling us things we know nothing about – knapweed, ragwort, a submerged chalk reef teeming with seahorses, how the cliffs jut out leaving the sea shallow for miles and how they stay white because bits are constantly falling off.

He explains with sweeping gestures how the valley was once scarred with pillboxes and sea defences – and how this wasteland deterred a park committee which came down to assess the South Downs’ suitability for the new National Parks scheme in 1949.

“It must have looked a right mess,” said Tim.

“But people fought hard for this park and 60 years later, we managed to get it recognised. We’re the newest national park.”

We’re given a flavour of what Tim knows, but not quite what he does.

“It’s very varied” he said.

His job title says he “works closely with local communities, farmers and landowners and plays a pivotal role in conserving and enhancing the 1,600ksqm of landscape, biodiversity, cultural heritage and the famous South Downs Way”.

But Tim has just been out clearing scrub from a Bronze Age field to expose 3,000-year-old agricultural markings.

Mostly, he says, he is talking to farmers, dealing with problem fence posts and chatting to dog owners.

“We don’t really police the downs in any way,” he said.

“But we do try to encourage responsible behaviour. I’m often telling dog owners to keep their pets on leads.

“Not everyone understands that a pregnant ewe will often abort if it’s chased by a dog.

“I spend a lot of time dealing with sheep worrying.”

Tim is being slightly modest about his role.

Trevor Beattie, chief executive of the South Downs National Park Authority, said: “Rangers are the lifeblood of the South Downs National Park.

“All our rangers have valuable local knowledge and have a crucial role in countryside management and wildlife monitoring.

“They educate visitors about why the South Downs is so special.

“We would enthusiastically welcome a significant increase in numbers and look forward to hearing more on the detail of the recommendations when the Glover Review is published in the autumn.”

Tim’s main function, of course, is to tell people about the park.

He is out most days giving tours, talks, and even offering Airbnb visitors the chance to be guided around the downs.

“It’s an important thing to do,” Tim said.

“Take an example. Nesting birds can be disturbed when people walk in the countryside.

“Most people don’t even know that skylarks and nightjars make their nests on the ground. But the people I tell tread more carefully.

“A big part of my job is talking to people to help them understand and enjoy the South Downs.

“If people know about the park’s wildlife, they can help protect it.

“And just think – there could be 1,000 of us out there now.”