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I grew up with a fascination for nature and spent many of my early years outside chasing butterflies, identifying plants and trees or in ponds collecting insects and amphibians. As I got older, I worked on a local farm at every opportunity I had which meant every weekend, evenings and holidays which led me to Sparsholt to study agriculture with the plan to become a dairy farmer. However, after completing the course, my path changed direction and I decided to go towards a more wildlife ranger type route which was well timed as foot and mouth hit. I enrolled on a National Diploma in Countryside Management which was a three-year course, working for the Duke of Wellington at Stratefield Saye Estate on my middle year out, and I really enjoyed the outdoor practical work on the estate managing the deer herd and the maintaining the country park.
Upon finishing my National Diploma I headed to the uplands of the Lake District working as an Estate Worker for the National Trust and spent my time drystone walling, laying hedges, fencing and working alongside all the farmers in Wasdale Valley, which was a very physical but rewarding job knowing the walls that I had built would hopefully be there for a lifetime (and I have been back to check they are still standing, which they are!). But I decided that I could not see myself doing that job long-term and headed back home to Hampshire, and to Sparsholt, obtaining a BSc (Hons) in Ecology and Conservation.
I accepted a job offer with Natural England weeks before I graduated from Winchester Cathedral and combined my love of ecology and agriculture as a Land Management and Conservation Adviser delivering Agri-Environment Schemes and actively engaging with farmers, assisting them into stewardship schemes and linking up agreements with their neighbours so to create huge corridors of continuous wildlife-rich habitats across the Hampshire Downs.
Since leaving Natural England I have worked as an Estate Land Manager for a sporting estate in Devon which covered five separate shoots across Exmoor and more recently I worked for the CLA for just over eight years as a Rural Adviser covering the South East region assisting members on a vast array of member enquiries, some of which included stewardship agreements (old, new and upcoming), BPS, designated sites, protected landscapes, grants, protected species, woodland management, biodiversity offsetting, nitrate trading and resource protection, as well as representing CLA members at many regional stakeholder meetings. During my time at CLA I also spent over a year on a temporary promotion as a Senior Policy Adviser. I attended national core meetings with Defra and Natural England, namely the development of Countryside Stewardship on the technical stakeholder group, Environmental Land Management Scheme stakeholder group, Championing the Farmed Environment and the National Pollinator Strategy group, representing the CLA and its members.
As a part of my degree, I completed two placements, one of which was with the GWCT working on the Grey Partridge project undertaking counts and conducting a mate choice study of the grey partridges. I enjoyed my time with the Trust and always hoped that I would return one day, and nearly 15 years later, here I am!
As the Farmland Biodiversity Advisor, my primary role will be working with landowners in the Allenford and Martin Down Farmer Clusters, whilst also providing support for the southern Advisory service. I aim to draw on my previous experiences to continue the great work that has already been achieved within the Farmers Clusters. In my first two weeks in this fantastic role, I have been overwhelmed by the cluster members enthusiasm, commitment, drive and determination and I am excited to see them to continue to achieve great things and to develop and grow into the future for generations to come.