Saturday, 11 October 2014

Educating our future land managers

The future of the countryside is in their hands

As you know I work for the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust, and one of the Trust’s charitable objects is to “advance the education of the public and those managing the countryside in the effects of farming and management of land which is sympathetic to game and other wildlife”.

As part of this remit GWCT staff spend a lot of time up-dating a wide range of people on our research, which might take the form of showing a group of farmers or politicians around our farm at Loddington in Leicestershire, or lecturing to a wide range of colleges and universities.

Yesterday was the turn of the Royal Agricultural University or RAU as it is now often called, (previously known at the Royal Agricultural college) which is based in Cirencester, Gloucestershire.  Established in 1845, it was the first agricultural college in the country and continues to thrive, offering a wide range of courses.

Annually, the GWCT and the Temple estate near Marlborough, host a “couple of coach loads” of students from the university who spend the day out on the estate, learning about some of the practical ways in which a large commercial estate is run in the modern era.

Yesterday I was joined by two of my GWCT colleagues, Mike Swan and Austin Weldon. Between us we covered a wide range of topics such as general game management, predator control, Stewardship schemes, Government “Greening” options, soil, water and importantly, how all the different departments within the estate work closely together to bring out the best of the land that they all collectively manage.

We enjoy presenting this day, as long as the weather is kind to us, which it most certainly was yesterday! Standing on top of the Marlborough downs with hail coming horizontally at you on a force 8 gale, talking to a bunch of soaking wet students huddled together for warmth, (probably dreaming of a pub with a roaring fire and maybe a career change!) is not a lot of fun on the other hand!

The student feedback is always encouraging, perhaps most often picking out how practical the advice is, and watching it being demonstrated in front of their eyes – for real as it were! One student said that the day had been one of the best of her three year course! That makes it all so worthwhile!

It is also very rewarding for us when we come across ex-students from the University in our everyday lives, working across a wide range of positions to do with countryside management. Education plays such an important part in not only helping them to get a job in the first place, but then most importantly, insuring that they can carry out their role successfully and with skill.

The students enjoying the beautiful surroundings of the Temple estate
Mike Swan - offers so many pearls of wisdom based on years of experience 

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