Over 700 years of history Clinton Devon Estates has continually adapted and adjusted in order to remain successful and relevant. This agility is no less relevant in todays’ ever-changing landscape than it was during the Civil War, world wars, industrial revolution or the recent global financial crisis. With so much history it would be easy to look back rather than ahead. The continual evolution of our strategy is critical to keep us focused on the future and to ensure that we meet the wider demands of Society and we are prepared for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.
Successful strategies do not sit on shelves but are embeded into the language and behaviours of the organisation, and are communicated and discussed constantly both internally and with our wide range of partners and stakeholders.
Our 2021 Strategy was launched in 2011, building on the successes of the previous ten years. The strategy focused on investing for our future. A future for the Estate, the Clinton family, our employees, tenants and customers, as well as the many communities and stakeholders we engage and work with. A future also for our built and natural environment – which is critical if we are to leave a lasting legacy of which we can be proud.
In an ever changing and challenging political and environmental backdrop sometimes it is easy to forget what makes the Estate and our purpose special and perhaps different to many other businesses. Our new 2030 Estate Strategy will build on the 2021 Strategy and focus on Clarity and Purpose. Ensuring that the ambition, enthusiasm and commitment, which has been the core of our approach, continues in a way which is not only right for today, but also tomorrow.
Everyone, in whatever role, has an important part to play in contributing to the delivery of our 2030 Strategy and living its values and ambition.
Our award-winning team are responsible for the sustainable management of the Estates in North and East Devon.
John Varley OBE TD joined Clinton Devon Estates as Estate Director in 2000 after a very varied career in senior management with BT plc, mainly in the global and operations divisions. John’s roles included responsibility for BT’s routes to the USA and Middle East, advertising and marketing for the international division, BT’s $10bn Joint Venture with AT&T and leading a field operations division of over 3,000 in Scotland.
Since 2009, John has been a Board Member of the Environment Agency, to 2021 (Chair of the £3bn EA Pension Fund to 2014), and Chair of the “Varley Review” – the Network Rail Vegetation Management Review for the Government’s Rail Minister. John is a member of the Steering Group for the Royal Society’s “Living Landscapes Programme” aiming to inform a long term vision for how the UK manages its land.
John was an independent member of the Lawton Review, “Making Space for Nature”, in 2010, which was a major influence on the Government’s Natural Environment White Paper. In March 2011 John was appointed to the Defra Independent Forestry Panel, which made recommendations to Government on the future of forestry in England and in September 2011 he was appointed as a judge on the Government’s Nature Improvement Area Competition Panel. John has served as a board member for Natural England, the Commission for Rural Communities and the Countryside Agency. He has chaired and been a member of a number of Government audit and risk committees. Between 2015 and 2017 John chaired the Estates Business Group of major urban and rural estates.
Until 2002, John spent 22 years as an officer in the Territorial Army, Royal Artillery, in his “spare time”. John is a Fellow of the Royal Agricultural Societies and the Chartered Institute of Marketing. He was awarded the Territorial Decoration in 1991 and appointed OBE in the 2016 New Year’s Honours List for services to agriculture, environment and the rural community.
Chief of Staff
Ben is responsible for overseeing the development and execution of the Estate 2030 Strategy, ensuring the correct and effective management of staff and resources to drive the business forward.
Graduating from University of Plymouth with BA (Hons) Business Administration, he has extensive experience in business improvement, operational efficiency and performance management. In previous roles Ben has been responsible for improving operational productivity and shifting the culture of the organisations he has worked with towards continuous improvement, alongside ensuring compliance with health and safety and implementing effective and improved strategic reporting.
Ben has a keen interest in sport, having played rugby for many years. He also enjoys camping weekends with his family and supporting the Exeter Chiefs whenever possible.
Head of Property and Land
Leigh is responsible for property and land operations on the Estates as well as development and strategy. He graduated from the University of Reading with a degree in BSc Estate Management and he is a fellow of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). He acts a Director of CCH Property Company Limited, the Estates property investment arm.
Leigh joined the Estates team from the National Trust where he was responsible for the strategic and operational management of over 43,000 acres of property and land in Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire and the Derbyshire/Staffordshire Peak District.
He has previously been a Secretary of State-appointed Board member on the Peak District National Park Authority and a Board member of the Derbyshire and Peak District Destination Management Partnership (Tourist Board).
Additionally, Leigh is also a past Chairman of the RICS Nottinghamshire Derbyshire Rural Practice Division, and was a regional committee member of the East Midlands Country Land and Business Association.
Currently, Leigh is a member of the Environment Agency South West Flood and Coastal Committee, the South West CBI Council and the RICS Countryside Policy Panel as well as his local Parish Council. He is also a Board member of The International Coalition of Historic Sites of Conscience.
In his spare time Leigh enjoys tennis and skiing as well as the challenge of training his gun dog. During weekends, he is a part-time lorry driver, supporting his youngest daughter’s equestrian ambitions!
David joined the Estates team in 1997 having worked for Francis Clark Chartered Accountants. He works as part of the management team responsible for the 2021 Estates Strategy.
Specialising in the implementation of financial and treasury management, along with wider tax planning, David’s role is to help deliver the Estates’ succession plan for future generations.
David is a member of the Chartered Institute of Taxation, a fellow of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants and a member of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners.
Head of Forestry & Energy
John is a Chartered Forester with responsibility for woodland management across the Estates 1900 hectares of woodland in Devon. He also leads on renewable energy projects including biomass and solar voltaic.
John is a Member of the Forestry Commission’s South West England Regional Advisory Committee and represents the Estates on the East Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Partnership Panel. He Chairs the South West Deer Initiative Steering Group and is a member of the South West Grey Squirrel working group. He is a member of the steering group of the South West Timber Business Development Programme and sits on the Woodland Forum on the North Devon Nature Improvement Area.
John is an adviser on the tree disease Phythophthora ramorum, leading discussions with other Estates and woodland owners.
In 2011, John was appointed a member of the Government’s Forestry Regulation Review. In the same year John received an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) for outstanding services to the environment in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.
Prior to joining the Estate in May 1997, John worked for Tilhill Economic Forestry, based at Farnham in Surrey where he was a deputy district manager of a woodland management and contracting business operating over central southern England.
In his leisure time John enjoys deer stalking and is a keen game fisherman and rough shooter. He is a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists and active member of the Devon Advanced Motorcyclists Club.
Head of Wildlife and Conservation
Dr. Sam Bridgewater CEnv MCIEEM joined the Estate in 2012. He has responsibility for ensuring that the protection of wildlife and natural habitats are embedded into all aspects of Estate decision-making.
His remit includes oversight of the management of the Estate’s core nature reserves – the 1,000 hectare East Devon Pebblebed Heaths and the Otter Estuary – and he advises on the development of the Estate’s environmental strategy, including natural capital accounting.
Formerly a researcher at the Natural History Museum and the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, Sam’s interests include describing and explaining patterns of plant diversity, the management of cultural landscapes and the economic use of plants.
He has published over 20 academic research papers, two books and numerous book chapters. He is the Estate lead on the River Otter Beaver Trial and the Lower Otter Restoration Project.
General Farm Worker
Adam started working on the farm in September 2017. He assists the dairy team with milking, yard work and cattle tasks.
Adam is enjoying being on the farm as he has a keen interest in animals.
Alice started on the farm in September 2017 having moved down to Devon from Gloucestershire where her family farm is based. She holds a First Class Honours degree in bio-veterinary science from The University of the West of England and has lots of experience working with herds on many different systems. Her role is managing young stock from birth to 1st lactation, this involves monitoring growth and health of replacement heifers and beef animals.
Amanda joined the Estate in 2001 while in the process of gaining her AAT qualifications after working in travel for Thomas Cook & Travelworld when she also enjoyed a 2 year working break in the USA.
Amanda is involved in processing invoices and paying all the Estates Expenses, while covering a variety of other duties in and around the accounts department.
Outside of work Amanda enjoys walking the dog, gardening, trying to keep fit and traveling.
Bicton Arena Manager
Andrew Fell joined the estate in August 2021. He oversees the running of Bicton Arena, an equestrian competition venue running events from local Pony Club to the highest level in Eventing, CCI5*. Prior to joining the Estate, Andrew was a Regional Coordinator for British Eventing covering the SW.
Andrew grew up at Ballindenisk in Ireland surrounded by horses and equestrian competitions, the first Point to Point ran at the farm in 1927. After completing Agricultural Science at The University of Reading he pursued a career in Eventing working his way up to the highest level in both Cross Country Design and as a Technical Delegate. Andrew has worked on 5 different continents in the sport and brings a wealth of knowledge with him to the role.
In his leisure time Andrew is passionate about rural pursuits and shooting.
Property & land
Since 1998, Andy has managed the Estates’ residential and commercial property repairs and maintenance. He is also in charge of conducting Health and Safety audits for commercial tenants.
Prior to joining Clinton Devon Estates, Andy worked as a building consultant and site agent for a range of regional companies, covering all types of construction work, including residential, commercial and civil engineering projects.
Head of Project Governance and Assurance
Carla joined the Estate in 2010 after graduating from University with a BSc (Hons) in Psychology and was shortly appointed as Office Manager. Carla’s natural interest and enthusiasm for clear organisation of projects led her to complete the APM Project Management Qualification in 2016.
Outside of work Carla loves baking and is passionate about theatre; prior to her degree Carla attended the Oxford School of Drama. In more recent years, theatre has had to take a back seat whilst Carla has welcomed her young family into the world.
General Farm Worker
Charlie started working on the farm in Spring 2020. She manages the milk vending machine in Otterton and lends a helping hand on the farm as and when needs be.
Charlie has two children and in her spare time enjoys running and cooking.
Chris joined the Estate as Finance Manager in 2017, having previously trained and qualified as a Chartered Accountant at a South West firm, working closely with a broad range of businesses across the region.
In addition to supporting the Finance Director, Chris’ duties include overseeing the finance function, preparing year-end accounts, and working closely with the agricultural entities and Pebblebed Heaths team.
Away from the office, Chris enjoys exploring the wonderful Devon countryside with his young family and plays football for local team.
Property & land
Clare James is the Estates Surveyor with responsibility for the residential and agricultural properties on the East Devon and Beer Estates. Her passion and drive, since joining the Estates in 2002, is to ensure the countryside is a living, working place.
Clare is a committee member of the Devon and Cornwall Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors Rural Group and held the Chairmanship in 2011-12.
She lives in East Devon with her young family and, when time allows, she enjoys walking on the beach and the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths along with running and gardening.
Forestry & environment
Dom joined the Clinton Woods team in 2016 as an apprentice and now works in the establishment and maintenance of young plantations. Since completing his apprenticeship Dom has shown a hands on, level-headed, approach to his role in the team.
He previously worked on a Dairy Farm in the South West, where he has lived his whole life. In his spare time, he enjoys long walks in the countryside with his dog.
Ed studied Countryside Management at Aberystwyth University and has specialised in heathland management since 2004. After a period as a contractor he joined the Trust’s team full time in 2011. In addition to undertaking practical management and education work he specialises in wildlife surveys, including of nightjars and Dartford warblers
Gaynor joined Clinton Devon Estates in September 2005 with the initial role of dealing with tenant rental payments. This role has evolved over the years to include the cash management and balances of all the Estates’ entities and Bank accounts, assisting in credit control and she has become the main day to day contact with our various banks.
Gaynor enjoys making cakes and keeping fit and has recently taken up cycling. Gaynor has taken part in several charity cycling events with her fellow colleagues.
Gemma joined Clinton Devon Estates in October 2011 as the Arena Assistant for Bicton Arena, helping to manage an ambitious calendar of equestrian events including Affiliated and Unaffiliated in-house competitions, one-day events and camps.
Dressage is Gemma’s passion and, in her spare time, she enjoys competing as well as spending time with her young daughter who is already showing signs of following her Mum’s keen interest in horses.
Georgie moved to Devon from Jersey in 2018 to study a degree in animal health and management at Bicton college.
Georgie has worked at Dalditch farm since March 2020 and assist with milking as well as general yard work.
Accountant and Insurance Manager
Graham Vanstone is one of Clinton Devon Estates’ longest serving members of staff, having joined in 1976 as a junior clerk in the accounts department. He is now responsible for property and land accounts, all insurance matters and human resources, ensuring that the organisation constantly meets all the criteria for Investor in People status.
Graham has successfully helped the Clinton Devon Estates team win accolades including the Sunday Times Best Companies to Work For and Employer of the Year 2012 in the Farming and Food Industry Awards.
Graham is a member of the Association of Accounting Technicians and the Council for The Insurance Institute for Exeter. He has a diploma level membership of The Chartered Insurance Institute.
In his leisure time, Graham enjoys tennis and watching cricket, rugby and football. He is also a keen gardener and reader of crime novels.
General Farm Worker
Greg moved to Devon from Dorset in December 2019 to undertake the role of Feeder wagon operator/general farm worker. Greg has 25 years experience in farming, ranging from farm work to large scale agricultural contracting.
Greg is Married, has three children and a dog.
In his spare time, Greg likes to enjoy time with his wife and children exploring the countryside and visiting local shows.
Forestry & environment
Ian joined the Estate woods team in 1988 and works towards the establishment and maintenance of young plantations.
In his spare time he maintains a range of rare habitats specifically for butterflies.
Jayne joined Clinton Devon Estates in 2012 as an Administration Assistant. Jayne supports all departments across the Estate with a remit that far extends Administration, she is entirely unflappable too!
Prior to joining the Estate Jayne spent 15 years with Barclays Bank, beginning her career in her home town of Wolverhampton in 1978 and moving to Devon in 1992.
Outside work Jayne enjoys exploring towns and villages in the beautiful Devon countryside, walking on the coast path and visiting classic car motoring events with her husband and two daughters.
Jola joined the Business Support team in the Rolle Estate Office in 2021, bringing with her a wealth of knowledge in business administrations having previously worked in a forward facing job for many years.
Living in the area, Jola enjoys singing in the choir, walking and spending time with her family.
Karen joined the Estate in 2005 and works within the Finance Department processing data for the Property & Land Department, working towards improving data capture and report writing in the Property Data Management System.
Outside of work Karen enjoys singing in a choir, tap dancing, playing classical guitar and being with her grandchildren.
Countryside Learning Officer
Kate joined Clinton Devon Estates in 2014 after 14 years as a teacher. Her role is to broaden understanding of how and why the countryside is managed and to ensure that the views of local communities are reflected in the Estate’s strategy and approach to business.
Part of her work involves developing educational links with local primary, secondary and higher-level organisations, and promoting lifelong learning.
Business Systems and Information Co-Ordinator
Katie joined the Administration team in the Rolle Estate Office in November 2016 as an Business Administration Apprentice. She has since completed her exams with excellent results and her solution-based approach to everything that lands in her lap means has quickly become the ‘go-to’ person for many queries.
Katie’s knowledge of the local area and rural community means she has a detailed understanding of many of the key issue that our local communities face.
In her spare time Katie enjoys horse riding and competing and walking in the countryside with her dogs.
PACCo Project Manager
Kendal started working for the Estate in the December of 2020 to work on the Promoting Adaption to Changing Coast (PACCo) project, having previously worked in environmental project management for the past six years, mostly in London. In this time, she also completed an MSc Environment, Politics and Globalisation.
Kendal’s experience includes working on a broad range of environmental topics, from air quality to waste reduction, energy use to wellbeing, with projects often involving many diverse partners and audiences.
In her free time, Kendal enjoys hiking, reading and spending time outdoors.
Property & land
Prior to emigrating to Australia in April 1982, Kevin undertook an Electrical Technician Apprenticeship at Portsmouth Naval Base, followed by a posting to Navy Headquarters in Foxhill, Bath. Employed by the Australian Department of Defence in Canberra, Kevin held several design and project related positions within the Royal Australian Navy Headquarters. During these years he undertook a Bachelors Degree in Administration and a Masters of Business Administration at the University of Canberra. On completion of his MBA he took a position within the Defence Science and Technology Organisation, remaining with them for 17 years. Undertaking a variety of responsibilities, the pinnacle of his career came when employed as the Chief Executive Assistant to the Chief Defence Scientist, followed by a 3 year posting to Washington DC. On retiring from the Department, Kevin returned to the UK, moving to North Devon in February 2014. He joined Clinton Devon Estates as a gardener in April 2015 and is in the process of completing his RHS Level 2 in Horticulture at Bicton College.
Property & land
Kevin is responsible for wildlife management on the Heanton Estate in North Devon where he has worked since 1980. He also runs a commercial shoot for the Estate.
His interest in game keeping began at a young age and he was only 16 years old when he started his first job on the Pixton Estate on Exmoor. Kevin’s interests include wildlife, sport, cinema, history and field sports.
Kevin started on the farm in November 2017. He has many years of herd management experience and is currently responsible for the day to day management of Dalditch Farm. He is very pleased to have moved back to his roots from Shaftesbury, Dorset.
EDPH Site Manager
Kim joined the Estates’ conservation team in 2017 from a senior role with the Eastern Moors Partnership, a collaboration between the RSPB and the National Trust within the Peak District National Park. Kim leads on the site management of the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths.
Property & land
Les moved down to Devon from his native Gloucestershire in early 2017. He has 20 years of experience managing herds of varying sizes and systems. He is responsible for the day to day management of all cattle and Otter Dairy, managing staff and is directly responsible for herd health and cow management.
Les has four children and married in 2018.
Trainee Management Accountant
Lorna joined Clinton Devon Estates in July 2017 as a trainee Management Accountant and is in the process of studying to achieve her ACCA Accountancy Qualification.
Having achieved a Master degree in Mathematics from the University of Exeter she worked as an Assistant Manager in a lettings firm for 3 years before deciding to pursue her love of numbers and finance further and start the journey to becoming a fully qualified accountant.
Outside of work she is a keen horse rider with plans to compete next year at Bicton Arena. Lorna also crafts prop weapons and costumes for events in London during the year to keep her creative side active.
Lucy joined the Bicton Arena team in 2021, having previously worked in a hospital.
Lucy has a passion for horse riding and takes a keen interested in competing. With a broad knowledge of equine events, she brings an all aspects view to the team and has successfully assisted in delivering the first 5* Bicton Arena has had, along with an immense calander of events.
In her spare time, when not participating in equine activities, she enjoys going for walks in the countryside with her two dogs.
Property & land
Luke graduated from Sparsholt College with a National Diploma in Horticulture and a National Certificate in Arboriculture. Taking these new knowledge and skills, Luke’s first career position was with an herbaceous wholesale nursery and then as a tree surgeon for national power supplier. Where he was a member of a team responsible for continuous supply of electricity to the county of Hampshire.
In the summer of 2010 he moved with his family to a farm in North Devon. He increased his horticultural knowledge by working in the plant department at St John’s Garden Centre in Barnstaple.
He joined Clinton Devon Estates in December 2014 responsible mainly for grounds and lawns. He was promoted to Assistant Head Gardener in July 2018.
In his spare time he helps run the family farm. As well as being a Leader at a local Cub Pack along with additional scouting roles.
Trainee Management Accountant
Max joined Clinton Devon Estates in July 2021 as a trainee Management Accountant and is in the process of studying to achieve his ACCA Accountancy Qualification.
After having completed his master’s degree in Management with Innovation from the University of Bristol, Max rolled with the punches as a post-pandemic graduate until finding himself at Clinton Devon Estates.
Max takes a scattergun approach to hobbies the south-west has to offer; with Golf with his family, Football with friends, and Paddleboarding with his Girlfriend his most cherished.
Heanton Woods Forester
Forestry & environment
Orri is a forester who works primarily in the woodlands of the Heanton Estate in North Devon coordinating forestry management, maintenance and harvesting operations. His role also includes representing the Forestry Department by engaging and developing positive relationships with the local community and the various stakeholders in the area.
Orri started his career working in arboriculture and forestry contracting as well as sawmilling and traditional timber framing. He graduated from the University of Bangor with a degree in Forestry in 2013 and stepped into management and supervisory roles in harvesting and marketing timber across South West England. He also worked on the Plant Health team for Forestry Commission South West working principally on detection and prevention of pests and diseases entering the country through shipping and importers. After more than five years of balancing practical and managerial roles within forestry and timber processing, Orri joined Clinton Devon Estates in the summer of 2018.
Growing up on the North Devon coast with Exmoor on his doorstep, Orri has developed a passion for the outdoor environment and spends much of his time walking, surfing and swimming. His interests also include rugby, boxing and music.
EDPH Operations Manager
Paul comes from a farming background and has been working with the Trust to conserve the Pebblebed Heaths for over a decade, putting his long-standing machinery and animal husbandry skills to good use. Initially assistant warden, Paul leads the practical day-to-day management of the Commons.
Assistant Herd Manager
Phil joined the estate in early 2019 as Assistant Herd Manager at Otter Farm. He is responsible for supporting the Herd Manager in all aspects of maintaining and continuing to improve the management, production and welfare of the estate’s all year round calving dairy herd.
Phil came to agriculture via a circuitous route; a small holding upbringing in Pennine West Yorkshire followed by an architectural education in Plymouth which brought him to the South West. Following a career in quality management primarily within the transport sector, Phil took the decision to get back outdoors to his more livestock-based roots. This was a step change which meant learning the ropes on a conventional, high yielding herd before pursuing an interest in organic dairy farming.
Particularly interested in environmentally responsible farming methods, Phil is proud to be part of an organisation that places the conservation and biodiversity of the rural environment at the core of what it does.
Phil mostly spends his spare time chasing his dog around the Devon countryside, alongside interests in rugby, cricket, gardening, history and music
Property & land
Roger manages a range of domestic and operational duties on the Heanton Estate. He also provides the administrative support for the commercial shoot.
Roger joined Clinton Devon Estates in 2002, having served in the Royal Marines since 1974 finishing as Corps Regimental Sergeant Major, the most senior NCO in the Royal Marines. During his career Roger was chosen to skipper the Combined Services Rugby team – the highlight of his sporting career.
Roger was appointed MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in 1999 for service to the Royal Marines. He is married with two children and five grandchildren and an active member of his local community, sitting on the Merton Village Hall Committee.
Clinton Farms Manager
Sam joined the Estate as Farms Manager for Clinton Devon Farms Partnership in 2020, bringing with him over 10 years of experience in Dairy Farm Management with Velcourt Ltd. He is responsible for managing the Estate’s in hand organic farming operations.
Sam is a graduate from the Royal Agricultural College with a BSc (Hons) in Agriculture and is a member of the Institute of Agricultural Management (IAgrM). He has experience of working on a variety of farming systems in both the UK and abroad.
Away from the farm Sam spends most of his spare time with his young family and enjoys walking, shooting and a range of other countryside pursuits.
General Farm Worker
Samantha started on the farm in January 2020 having moved down to Devon from Dorset with her family.
Her role is to assist with the day to day running of the dairy. In her spare time she enjoys spending time with her family and friends and attending country shows.
Property and Land Administrator
Property & land
Sarah joined the Property and Land team as an Administrator in 2021, after relocating to Devon with her family.
Since that time, she has been invaluable in supporting the team in all administrative aspects, from property viewings and inspections, to tenant engagement and much more.
Sarah has worked in the housing sector for over a decade so brings a vast expanse of knowledge.
In her spare time, Sarah enjoys water sports and long walks in the countryside.
Forestry & environment
Tom is responsible for deer management on the Clinton and Beer Estates in East Devon and has been behind the launch of a successful range of Clinton-branded venison products that are sold locally.
Before joining the team in 2005, Tom was a Royal Marine for seven years. He is also responsible for vermin control on the Clinton Devon Estates Home Farms and in his spare time he is enjoys game shooting, fishing, rugby and cricket.
Property & land
Tom joined the Estate in July 2021, having recently graduated from Harper Adams University with a BSc (Hons) in Rural Enterprise and Land Management. As part of his degree, Tom spent a year in industry as Trainee Land Agent on the Chatsworth Estate, Derbyshire, igniting his passion for Estate Management.
Tom primarily assists in the day-to-day management of the Estates’ agricultural, residential and sporting portfolios. Tom’s next target is achieving chartership with the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.
Having grown up on a traditional agricultural and sporting estate in North Norfolk, Tom naturally developed a passion for the outdoor environment. He spends much of his time shooting, both game and clays. Tom competed nationally in clay pigeon shooting competitions, representing both Norfolk and the East Midlands for several years prior to his university career. Away from shooting, he is also a keen runner and cyclist.
Vanessa started at the Estate in 2022 and works as an Accounts Assistant for the finance team, working closely with the Arena and Farms.
She started her career working in banking and customer service sectors. After having a 10-year break whilst raising her family, she returned to a working life around 8 years ago pursuing an accountancy role.
In her spare time, Vanessa likes keeping fit walking her two pugs and is also enjoys singing and participates in a local choir.
Property & land
Will Dale is the Estates Surveyor with responsibility for commercial properties.
Prior to joining the Estates team in 2022, Will worked at JLL, King Sturge and DTZ, where he specialised in lease advisory and valuation. In an earlier life, Will served in the Royal Navy as a navigating officer and hydrographic surveyor.
Will has a MA in Real Estate Management and a Border Terrier.
We are proud to have received the following recognition for our work and achievements.
Gerald Millington, 93, from Otterton, has been awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) for his services to local history in Devon and Hertfordshire following archiving thousands of historic Clinton Devon Estates documents in a career spanning more than thirty years.
The East Devon Pebblebed Heaths has received international acclaim after being presented with the much coveted declaration of National Nature Reserve. Joining the UK’s ‘crown jewels of nature conservation.
Much praise was given to the team at Bicton who produced a beautifully-presented competition with just 11 weeks’ notice, providing the competitors with the first chance to tackle a 5* in two years, in Britain. 2021
Bicton Arena saw 1 million live stream views of competitions, gained just under 30,000 social media followers and attracted over 189,000 visits to their website.
Trainee Land Agent Matthew Thompson has received a much-deserved award in recognition of his efforts during his placement year. The university has awarded Matthew a coveted Aspire Prize which celebrates students who best demonstrate the development of personal skills in a variety of areas during their placement years.
Bicton Arena was named Britain’s top show centre by Horse & Hound magazine. The accolade followed an online poll by Horse & Hound asking their readers to vote for their favourite show centres across the UK.
Helen West, manager of Bicton Arena in East Devon, became an advanced level cross-country course designer – only the second woman in Britain at the time to achieve this standard.
Clinton Venison was a finalist in the 2018 Eat Game Awards, the only finalist from the South West in the Best Farmers Market Stall category.
Clinton Devon Estates was presented with the prestigious Client of the Year Award at the 2017 Landscape Institute Awards, nominated by LHC Design. The award recognises excellence in working with and respecting landscape architecture in our developments.
Bicton Arena was awarded British Dressage Venue of The Year 2017, presented at the BD Organisers Convention held at Warwick Racecourse.
John Varley, Estates Director, was appointed OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to agriculture, the environment and the rural community.
This award in the category of Sustainable Development, is Clinton Devon Estates’ third consecutive Queen’s Award. It first received the award in 2005, again in 2010 and now holds the 2015 Queens Award for the next five years.
Each year since 2003, Clinton Devon Estates has been accredited as an Investor in People.
“Horizon”, Clinton Devon Estates' development in Budleigh Salterton, was awarded a Gold at the prestigious WhatHouse? Awards. The joint venture project with Cavanna Homes, and Cornerstone providing the social housing, was named the Best Partnership Scheme in Britain.
Honoured for the fourth time in the Best 100 Small Companies awards, Clinton Devon Estates.
Honoured for the third time in the Best 100 Small Companies awards, Clinton Devon Estates also ranked second for its efforts to protect the environment, and 8th for its contribution to society.
HR Manager Graham Vanstone received the award on behalf of the Estates, who were said to have stood out as a ‘clear winner’.
John Wilding, Head of Forestry and Environment was appointed MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for outstanding services to the environment.
For the second time in five years, Clinton Devon Estates has been presented with the prestigious Queen's Award for Enterprise in the Sustainable Development category.
Clinton Devon Estates were ranked 11th in the Sunday Times Best Small Companies to Work For with employees strongly believing the Estate works hard to protect the environment.
Tom was recognised for his Clinton Venison venture; a range of venison cuts and home-made sausages sold at the local Farmers’ Market.
For the Rolle Estate Office. (In association with the Royal Institute of British Architects - RIBA).
The British Council for Offices, in association with the Estates Gazette, named the Rolle Estate Office the South West of England and South Wales regional winner.
Rolle Estate Office is named winner of the Eco Building of the Year in the 6th annual awards ceremony.
Rolle Estate Office receives South West regional gold award for the Built Environment and Architectural Heritage.
The award for the Rolle Estate Office was presented to Estates Director John Varley by HRH The Princess Royal.
Clinton Devon Estates is named as one of the best companies to work for in Britain and the very best nationally for its efforts to protect the environment.
A ‘Special Prize’ was awarded to Clinton Devon Estates in the Southern England and Wales regional final.
The award is approved by Her Majesty the Queen, on the recommendation of Prime Minister and is the premier national award for business excellence.
On 1 November 2004 Bungy Williams was presented with an MBE for services to the environment.
Presented by Eternit UK, sponsors of the Country Land & Business Association Farm Buildings Award Scheme.
Presented by English Nature in recognition of outstanding management of the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths – a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
The Clinton Barony originated over seven centuries ago, when King Edward I rewarded John de Clinton for his service in the Scottish and French campaigns, notably his leadership of the Royal Army in the defeat of Scottish forces under William Wallace at the Battle of Falkirk in 1298.
The Clintons have served their country as soldiers, politicians and landowners for generations. A commitment to public duty and service pervades the family history to this day.
The Clinton family has owned and managed land in Devon since 1550. In 1907, with the death of Mark Rolle (who was required to change his surname from Trefusis on inheriting estates from his uncle John, Lord Rolle) much of what had been the Rolle estate was inherited by the 21st Baron Clinton, becoming part of the Clinton Estates.
Today, less than a third of the Rolle estate as it was in the mid-nineteenth century remains in the ownership of Clinton Devon Estates. The main house is now Bicton College, part of Cornwall College; the adjoining park is privately owned by a third party and open to the public (Bicton Gardens). Thousands of acres of what was once Rolle farmland are now owned and managed by local farming families, many of them former tenants.
The 22nd, 23rd and 24th generations of the Clinton family continue to take an active part in the stewardship of Clinton Devon Estates, with the support of a professional management team and trustees.
For an overview of seven centuries of history in less than three minutes, please view our animation –
We recognise the growing public interest in historic links to slavery and overseas plantations. Some of the results of our research, undertaken over the past twenty years, are summarised here for those with an interest in the Rolle family, and in particular Denys Rolle’s and John Rolle’s cotton plantations in Florida and Exuma.
Denys Rolle (1725–1797) was an independent Member of Parliament for Barnstaple between 1761 and 1774. He inherited extensive property in Devon and was a generous benefactor to charities and religious societies, a serious student of natural history and science and a keen agriculturalist. The Rev J H B Andrews, vicar of Chittlehampton and historian, wrote that Rolle was “the richest man in Devonshire, and yet nothing pleased him more than to do a labourer’s work. He would set out early in the morning, bag of provisions and spade on his shoulder, dressed like a peasant, and work as hard as any day labourer on his estates.”
Denys Rolle spent much of his life in Florida, attempting to establish an “ideal society” and seeking to ensure that the indigenous people living on the land were treated with respect. His biographer Robert Legg records that “before he went to Florida he set out the principles which he intended should guide his conduct towards the native people. He said that there would necessarily be close contact with the Indian people, and that both natural justice and humanity required that they should be treated as true and original owners of the land. Nevertheless, it was inevitable that disputes and causes of complaint would arise – and therefore necessary that such conflicts of interest should be quickly resolved if greater troubles were not to follow. To this end he proposed that, from the first, any settlement which he made should have some proper judicature established within it. This was not granted, but on the arrival of Mr Lloyd his name was inserted in the Commission of the Peace.”
Denys Rolle brought to the Florida colony a group of 300 homeless and criminal people rescued from the London slums. However, many of them fled seeking an easier life, and were replaced with about 140 slaves. Following the loss of Florida as a British possession in 1783, the community, together with its dismantled houses and livestock, moved to a smaller site on Exuma in the Bahama Islands. The ship on which they sailed was the “Peace and Plenty”, now the name of an Exuma hotel.
Denys Rolle’s son and heir John, 1st Baron Rolle (1750–1842) inherited a colony of some 377 slaves on Exuma. By 1822, about fifty of them were over 40, and had most probably been brought to Exuma in 1784. The remainder were under that age and had probably been born there.
The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography records that while serving in Parliament John Rolle actively supported William Pitt’s campaign to abolish the slave trade.
No land or other assets in the UK were purchased with money derived from slavery. The Rolle Estate that passed to Mark Trefusis (later Mark Rolle) in 1842 was practically unaltered from the property which Denys Rolle had inherited during the previous century.
The compensation John Rolle received on losing ownership of the Exuma plantation following the abolition of slavery was substantially less than he had spent in sustaining the plantations in Florida and later Exuma. They had generated little, if any, revenue for their owner, and required a substantial subsidy to keep the business afloat and the families housed and fed. Between 1818 and 1828 Rolle spent over £5,000 (the equivalent of roughly half a million pounds today) in supporting the Exuma community.
When the slaves were officially declared free on 1st August 1838, many of them adopted the surname Rolle. They took over the Rolle lands in Exuma and ran them communally, although there was no formal deed of conveyance to them. Today there are still five Lord John Rolle Commonage Estates on Exuma, including the village of Rolle Town. These have been passed down to the descendants of the former slaves and cannot be sold.
Although the name of Rolle died out in England on the death of Lord Rolle in 1842 (revived for a while in the person of his heir Mark Rolle), the surname Rolle is still, in the 21st century, commonly found on Exuma and in the wider Bahamas. For example, the actress Esther Rolle, born in Florida of Bahamian parents; Myron Rolle, the Bahamian National Football league player, member of the Tennessee Titans and Rhodes Scholar; and Magnum Rolle, a professional basketball player born in Freeport in 1986.
‘The Rolle slaves, both male and female, were mainly employed as field or agricultural workers. However, because of the failure of cotton [due to soil exhaustion and the attack of the chenille bug], the plantation system had declined and their labour was less intensive than a comparable sugar plantation in Jamaica.’
‘By 1822 the Rolle slaves lived in families, the predominant household being the nuclear type family. Due to the decline in cotton, the slaves were left more and more to their own devices and seemingly had much freedom and mobility. They developed their own provision grounds, tended their animals, fished and gradually came to spend more time at their own affairs. It appeared from the records that they were strongly attached to their homes and their farmlands. By the 1830s they had probably become self-sufficient in food production.’
‘Between 1818 and 1828 Lord Rolle had spent over £5,000 to support his slaves at Exuma, while his return during those years was about £130 from cotton production.’
John Rolle, whose father Denys is described as a ‘major colonial landowner in Florida’, owes his inclusion to a career in politics:
‘Except on parliamentary reform, he [John Rolle] almost invariably backed Pitt, whose opposition to the slave trade he approved, even though he was heir to his father’s plantation in the Bahamas which was compensation for the loss of his Florida estates in the American War of Independence…At first peeved [in the 1830s] by the effect on his Bahamas plantation of the anti-slavery campaign, he became reconciled to it’.
‘On August 1st, 1838 all of John Rolle’s slaves were officially declared free. The slaves took over the Rolle lands on Exuma, running them communally. There are differing stories on how the slaves came to own the land. Some reports say John Rolle gave it to them while other reports say that Rolle simply abandoned the lands allowing the slaves to claim it. Either way, Rolle is remembered fondly in Exuma to this day. A large portion of his freed slaves took up the last name Rolle. In fact, Rolle is one of the most common last names in Exuma.’
John Rolle’s memory lives on in Exuma to this day. It’s estimated that around 60% of local residents have the last name, Rolle. A number of towns were named after him as well such as Rolletown and Rolleville and are still standing today.
There are five Lord John Rolle Commonage Estates on Exuma today. These are protected properties that cannot be sold. These include:
John Rolle might not have been the generous revolutionary history remembers him as, but he still played a vital role in Exuma’s history.
A Pioneer in Xanadu (1997) – Robert Legg
Bahamian Loyalists and Their Slaves (1983) – Gail Saunders
Exuma Online website
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
The Story of the Bahamas (1975) – Paul Albury
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Details of our current vacancies can be found here, together with details of how to apply.