Gaining valuable work experience at Clinton Devon Estates

The Estate is committed to providing work experience opportunities for young people where possible, giving them the chance to learn more about the work we do and what it takes to run a modern rural business.

This summer, we welcomed 17-year-old Kit Sunderland from Okehampton College sixth form, who spent a week with different members of our team. Afterwards, he wrote a blog about his experience, which he has shared with us.

Work experience student Kit Sunderland

My work experience week at Clinton Devon Estates – By Kit Sunderland

“My time at Clinton Devon Estates was a very positive one which allowed me to develop my own capabilities, involving working outside while also opening me to the importance of the Estate and what it does for the land.

I became aware of the Estate through watching the BBC Countryfile episode on it; an episode which strongly showcased the significance of the organic dairy operations, tenant farmers, East Devon Pebblebed Heaths and the Lower Otter Restoration Project.

I followed up the interest I gained from this episode by attending a speech presented by Dr Sam Bridgewater (Head of Wildlife and Conservation) who discussed the valued conservation matters on the land and how the Estate went about it. It was at this point I knew for certain that it was here I wanted to do my work experience.

Day One
I began my work experience placement by meeting the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths Ranger, Ed Lagdon, at the attractive Rolle Estate Office. The day got underway with a health and safety induction about the potential hazards that may be found on the Heaths. After this I was able to gain valuable insight concerning the methods the team used to tackle environmental issues that the Heath faces, such as dealing with the litter problem that takes up so much of the team’s time.

Following this, much of the day was spent with Ed placing and then subsequently hammering down fence posts, in order to later contain cattle. This was hard but rewarding work, especially considering the toughness of the ground caused by the recent hot, dry weather.

However, this was temporarily put on hold as at one point in the day I was invited to join Sam Bridgewater in carrying out a rough survey in which he counted the number of different types of damsel and dragonflies on a particularly boggy area of the Heaths; this was very enjoyable.

From this day I really got a feel of the Heaths and furthered my understanding of why it should be preserved to the level it is.

Day Two
On this day I was invited to join other volunteers of the Estate in butterfly watching in Dorset. This included visiting places such as Portland and the Arne Nature reserve. Here, I heavily expanded my butterfly knowledge while also meeting the friendly and knowledgeable volunteers who were more than happy to inform me of the very many different types of butterflies.

A notable sighting was of the Lulworth skipper which can only seen in Devon and Dorset from June to July.

One of Kit’s photos from the week

Day Three
Today I joined Countryside Learning Officer Kate Ponting for the first half of the day, removing Himalayan balsam from a local wood with a weekly volunteer group.

It is particularly important to control the spread of balsam due to its extreme invasiveness of riverbanks and ditches, invasiveness which can lead to erosion and damage to other woodland plants.

However, as informed by the kindly volunteers it turns out the balsam is in fact less prominent in the wood this year than the one before, a very encouraging trend. The latter half of the day was spent assisting Kate in her jobs of the day which overall gave me good insight for the duties needed for someone working at the Estate.

Day Four
This day I spent with Forestry Team member Dom Dorling, helping him with summer weeding and clearing. The enjoyment I got from this work paired with the positive information Dom gave me about working on the Estate resulted in a very constructive day.

Furthermore, this day also lent me the opportunity to expand my knowledge on woodland, despite living right next to one, thanks again to Dom’s advanced knowledge on the ins and outs of trees.

This included the distinctions between soft and hardwood trees, one of them being that the first is typically easier to grow and the latter is generally more beneficial for wildlife.

Day Five
The last day I spent on Otter Farm with Head of Agriculture Sam Briant-Evans and Herd Manager Leslie James, along with several others. As Otter Farm is a dairy farm, the first half of the day was spent feeding various herds and the latter, assisting the members in milking others.

Again, thanks to the co-operative and helpful nature of the team this day was most enlightening, showing the tasks involved in running a dairy farm and how the Estate approaches things in such an environmentally friendly manner.

In conclusion, I had a fantastic and informative time working for Clinton Devon Estates thanks to several reasons.

Firstly, the diversity of activities from Heath work to farming must be mentioned, as it guaranteed a broadly educational and ultimately enjoyable week. Secondly, the marvellous state of the Estate both inspired me to consider the importance of land conservation on wildlife and nature, while also helping me to understand what needs to be done to maintain such a large land area.

Most importantly however, it was the team at Clinton Devon Estates who truly made this week so special, as they were all so equally friendly and informative and I thank them greatly for the time they gave me.”

The Rolle Estate Office

Thank you to Kit for sharing his blog with us. While we welcome the opportunity to offer work experience placements, unfortunately they are very limited and we are not able to offer them every year.

For further information about Clinton Devon Estates, please click here.