RHES visit and receive a talk on Manchester Museum’s Live Vivarium

On the 17th February, the Reaseheath Herpetological and Entomological Society (RHES) travelled down to Manchester for a talk and live amphibian display by Adam Bland, the Assistant to Head Curator of Herpetology at Manchester Museum.

RHES Members listening intently to Adam

RHES Members listening intently to Adam

Upon arriving at the museum we were invited into the conference room by Adam where the talk would take place. RHES and Adam discussed at length the conservation work done within the museum as well as abroad, with members asking a barrage of questions throughout the event hoping to further their knowledge of international conservation and amphibians.

Throughout the talk Adam displayed a remarkable knowledge of tree frogs in particular a subfamily of tree frogs known as Phyllomedusinae, more commonly known as leaf and monkey frogs. There are roughly 45 species within the subfamily Phyllomedusinae, the large majority of which are endangered or threatened due to disease, habitat loss and climate change.

All the frogs Adam displayed during his talk were from this subfamily and included well known species such as the Red-Eyed Tree Frog (Agalychnis callidryas) and Monkey Wax Tree Frog (Phyllomedusa sauvagii) as well as more obscure species such as the Lemur Leaf Frog (Agalychnis lemur), Splendid Leaf Frog (Cruziohyla calcarifer) and the Tiger-Legged Monkey Frog (Phyllomedusa tomopterna) all of which were beautiful and full of character.

Tiger-Legged Monkey Frog

Tiger-Legged Monkey Frog

Lemur Leaf Frog

Lemur Leaf Frog

Red-Eyed Tree Frog

Red-Eyed Tree Frog

Splendid Leaf Frog

Splendid Leaf Frog

After the talk Adam lead us to the Live Vivarium itself, here Adam showed us the other species housed here including a multitude of other frogs, several species of reptiles and a variety of butterfly species. Adam also answered some more of our questions and gave members some advice on getting a foothold in the animal industry before ending the tour.

I’d like to thank all the members who attended and hope you all had a great time, as well as a huge thanks to Andrew, Adam and Manchester Museum for being such great hosts and taking the time to meet with us, Lauren for helping me organise the event and James, Dan and Annabella for photography.

Fiji Island Iguana in live planted display

Fiji Island Iguana in live planted display

Behind the scenes enclosures

Behind the scenes enclosures




International recognition for Reaseheath College’s Food Centre

Reaseheath College’s Food Centre has become the first and only educational institution in Britain to achieve an internationally recognised British Retail Consortium (BRC) certification.

The £7million Food Centre, which is on the Nantwich, Cheshire, college’s campus, has been awarded a Grade A BRC, the highest possible quality mark within the food industry’s global standard for food safety.

The unique certification was approved after a robust two day audit showed that the department’s food manufacturing systems were operating under highly controlled conditions and to the highest industry standards. Areas inspected included hygiene procedures, cleanliness of the facility, food safety controls, quality systems and the traceability of food ingredients.

The accolade is particularly prestigious as many food businesses strive, but never achieve, the elusive BRC standard at Grade A. The successful bid was led by Reaseheath Technical Manager Katharina Vogt.

Food Centre Head Toni-Anne Harrison said: “This was a tremendous achievement, gained through hard work and dedication and by an understanding of how these procedures and practices underpin everything that we do in the Food Centre.

“I am extremely proud to head up such a fantastic team, where individuals from both the commercial and educational worlds work so tirelessly together to move the department forwards.

Our students are now fully immersed in industry standards and practices, and understand the value that is placed on ensuring these standards are both maintained and continuously moved forwards.

“This certification will lead to increased exposure to  blue chip companies, many of which are already clients and partners, and this will create enormous opportunities for our students. It will also further strengthen Reaseheath College’s reputation for being at the forefront of teaching and learning within the food sector.”

Reaseheath Principal Meredydd David added : “This has been a tremendous achievement, as only the very best companies achieve BRC Grade A status. This certification proves that our Food Centre has a deep understanding of the industry it serves. It will bring the department tremendous credence and will heighten our standing within the food industry.”

Reaseheath’s Food Centre was opened in 2011 and is one of the best equipped food processing teaching and practical facilities in Europe.

Built to the exacting standards required by industry and staffed by a team of specialist food technologists, the facilities include dairy processing halls and production areas for butchery, bakery and confectionery. Many local, national and international food and drink manufacturers use the bespoke food halls for new product development or staff training.

For further details see www.reaseheathfoodcentre.com or contact (training enquiries) Julie Bent E: julieb@reaseheath.ac.uk or (commercial enquiries) Katherine Tunnicliffe E: katherinet@reaseheath.ac.uk

Valentine message from Reaseheath florists

Reaseheath College floristry students made floral messages to present to their loved ones on Valentine’s Day.

Level 1 Certificate in Floristry students at the Nantwich college enjoyed making heart shaped designs from fresh flowers during a Valentine themed practical lesson on Friday.

Said Louise Birks: “It’s been really good fun because we’ve been able to choose our own flowers and make our own designs for Valentine’s Day. Being a floristry student is great if you like art and design, because you work with colour and texture. And everyone loves getting a bouquet of flowers as a gift.”


Love is in the air for Reaseheath rabbits

Every bunny needs some bunny to love! This is the Valentine’s Day message from Reaseheath College’s animal management department in support of a national campaign encouraging owners of lone rabbits to find them a companion.

True love is definitely in the air for Bluebell and Beau, two of 25 rabbits kept by the Nantwich, Cheshire, college to educate students about their correct care. The former unwanted pets have become inseparable after being introduced by keepers.  In a far cry from their singleton days, Bluebell, a female Beveren Blue rabbit, and Beau, a white cross bred male, spend most of their time snuggled up together enjoying each other’s company.

Reaseheath’s rabbit keeper Emma Hunt, a member of the Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund, believes that every rabbit deserves a companion.

She says: “Rabbits are social animals but unfortunately many spend their lives in solitary confinement in a hutch at the end of the garden. They are bored, lonely and ignored, and this can lead to behavioural and health problems.”

In line with Britain’s leading animal charities, Emma is urging rabbit owners to look on February as ‘Adopt a rescue rabbit month’ and contact their local rescue centre to find a buddy for their bunny.

But she warns: “You should never attempt to introduce two rabbits unless both are neutered and the introduction should be done on neutral territory under supervision. Rescue centres will normally help with the bonding process, as this can be difficult. Don’t be too disappointed if it’s not love at first sight – not all introductions work.”

Emma also suggests housing the rabbits in a garden shed or playhouse with an attached run rather than a conventional hutch, as these offer more space for exercise. In Reaseheath’s tailormade rabbit room another love match is in the offing. Leonard, a newly rescued rabbit, is about to be introduced to lonely Tilly.

Reaseheath College supports the neutering and vaccinating of rabbits and does not support the casual breeding of rabbits. For further information about rabbit care email Emma Hunt on emmah@reaseheath.ac.uk or contact your nearest animal rescue centre 

Animal Management to Africa and back

Holly and Hayley Africa 1Holly Berry and Hayley Worsfold  attended the 11th International Conference on Environmental Enrichment (ICEE), hosted by the National Zoological Gardens of South Africa (Pretoria), held at Kwalata Game Lodge, Dinokeng Reserve near Pretoria. It was the first ICEE conference held within an in-situ context. The theme of the conference was ‘Visitor Experience through Environmental Enrichment’. This is very relevant to us in Animal Management at Reaseheath, particularly relating to how this impacts on our own BIAZA accredited Zoo open to the public during holidays.

Holly and Hayley deliver Level 3 modules including  Zoo Husbandry and Health and  Animal Behaviour, both of which contain significant content relating to Environmental Enrichment . The conference spanned five days and included six game drives followed by interactive workshops, speakers from all over the world and opportunities to network with guests. Over the course of the week Holly and Hayley attended over forty talks and ten poster presentations from national and international experts.

Hayley delivered her own presentation about the work she has done with students at Reaseheath. This was titled ‘Environmental Enrichment As An Active Learning Tool: Increasing Learner Motivation And Encouraging Visitor Participation’. This focused on the sustainability project she undertook last year with students to enable members of the public to create enrichment at our Family Festival.

The impact on our students and other staff is huge.  Both Holly and Hayley have been able to disseminate up to date knowledge, research findings, methods and skills to students relevant to a wide range of subjects and provide CPD opportunities for other staff.  Students have been exposed to refreshed ideas of the importance of understanding animal behaviour when realising a new concept for enclosure design and re-evaluating enrichment methods.

After the conference the CPD continued with a visit further south to Cape Town. Whilst there they had a specialist visit to SANCCOB Penguin Rescue Centre. Both have a history of working with Penguins and this visit has opened up intern opportunities for our students graduating this year.


Stephanie Dellicompagni

Animal Management 

Reaseheath’s lambing and zoo promise twice the fun

Local families can enjoy twice the fun if they visit Reaseheath College, Nantwich, during the first two weekends in March.

Preparations are well in hand for the college’s popular lambing events and the campus zoo will also be open to the public.

Reaseheath’s lambing weekends have been a community highlight for over 20 years and attract thousands of visitors eager to meet the new arrivals in the lambing sheds. The college has a flock of 500 sheep ready to give birth and about 1,000 lambs are expected over a three week period.

A big screen will show highlights of the action and experts will be on hand to demonstrate the special care required for fostering lambs. Children will be encouraged to watch and learn as lambs are bottle fed and given health checks.

Reaseheath’s shepherd Ollie Bagley, 21, a former Level 3 Extended Diploma in Agriculture student, is in charge of a rota of students who are gaining practical experience in  lambing sheds.

He said: “Everything is ready for the lambing weekends. Fortunately for us the sheep are indoors but we are obviously hoping that the weather will pick up and that the fields will dry out.”

Families will also have the chance to see some of the  animals in Reaseheath’s zoo, which include meerkats, lemurs, tapirs, otters, birds of prey and companion animals such as rabbits and guinea pigs.

This year’s theme is agricultural rare breeds and visitors will be encouraged to meet the college’s golden Guernsey goat kids. There will be children’s arts and craft sessions and other fun activities along with educational talks by Reaseheath zoo keepers. Young visitors to lambing will also be able to plant up baskets with Spring bulbs and flowers.


Reaseheath College’s lambing sheds and zoo will open to the public on Saturday and Sunday, March 1 / 2 and on Saturday and Sunday, March 8 / 9 from 10am to 4pm. Hot refreshments will be available and outdoor plants from the college’s Crop Shop will be for sale.  A family ticket for both attractions is £25. For further details see www.reaseheath.ac.uk/lambing  phone 01270 613215 or email miriamh@reaseheath.ac.uk

Tesco team gets a training taster at Reaseheath Food Centre

A technical and development team from Tesco’s dairy category received a practical overview of  production processes during a bespoke training event at Reaseheath College’s Food Centre.

The team of five, from Tesco’s head office in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, spent two days at Reaseheath’s Nantwich, Cheshire, campus. As well as receiving theory and hands-on training in the college’s industry standard food processing halls, the employees took the opportunity to hold a team building event in the food department’s dedicated conference facilities.

The team, made up of Category Technical Manager for Dairy Claire Lindsay, Product Development Manager Amanda Sankey, Cheese Technologist Anne-Sophie Stutzinger,  graduate Food Technologist Thea Lawson and Technical Administrator Sue Featley, work closely with suppliers to develop products and check food standards.

The training event allowed the team to gain knowledge and develop practical production skills and culminated in them manufacturing a batch of yoghurt.

Senior Dairy Technologist Derek Allen demonstrates yoghurt manufacture on Reaseheath’s flexible process plant to Tesco’s technical and development team

Senior Dairy Technologist Derek Allen demonstrates yoghurt manufacture on Reaseheath’s flexible process plant to Tesco’s technical and development team

Said Claire: “Reaseheath has a great deal to offer, particularly on the production side. The ‘hands-on’ training has been very useful for us because we have been able to see the whole process through. This has allowed us to appreciate the bigger picture and will enable us to work more closely with our suppliers and help us solve issues together.”

Reaseheath’s Business Development Manager Katherine Tunnicliffe explained: “This has been a great chance for us to show Tesco how we can help train their own staff and how this can be rolled out to benefit their supply base.”

Reaseheath runs specialised and bespoke training days for blue chip companies including Kraft Foods,  Tetra Pak and Arla Foods. Prospective commercial clients are welcome to make a site visit.

For further details of facilities and training opportunities see www.reaseheathfoodcentre.com or contact Katherine Tunnicliffe on 01270 613175; E: katherinet@reaseheath.ac.uk


Reaseheath students study fishy business

Reaseheath College fish management students were in line for some prize catches when they carried out a survey of specimen fish at the Coole Acres Fishery and Fish Hatchery,  Nantwich.

The students, who are studying for their Level 3 Diploma in Fish Management at the Nantwich college, spent a practical session investigating the species and size of population of fish in the specimen pool.

The scale of the haul was soon apparent  with the capture of over 500 lbs of fish, the biggest individual weighing in at 18 lbs. Most were large carp with a handful of smaller roach. All the fish received a health check and were returned to the pool.

Ryan Richardson and Regan Reynolds hold two large carp while Ben Cook has a smaller roach

Ryan Richardson and Regan Reynolds hold two large carp while Ben Cook has a smaller roach

This was the first time the group had used seine netting to catch fish, a system which relies on good teamwork and communication.  The students enjoy weekly practical sessions at regional businesses and wildlife sites but this was their initial visit to Coole Acres. Explained Course Leader Peter Bryan: “It’s important that our students learn practical skills and spend time in industry on work experience. These are the skills which employers look for and helps our students when they are moving on into employment.”

Reaseheath’s dedicated fish management course launched this year and has 14 keen students who are hoping to work for the Environment Agency or progress into the management of commercial fish farms. Students on the college’s Level 2 Diploma in Countryside and Environment also study fish management.

Said student Tom Wagstaff: “We learned a lot from our visit and really improved our skills as the day progressed. Although it was cold and we were out in heavy rain we had a great time and we can’t wait to go again!”

The fish management students have  also been working with Greenspaces South Cheshire, a not-for-profit company dedicated to improving the local environment. This has included carrying out revetment improvement and coppicing trees on a tributary of the River Weaver.

For further details of Reaseheath’s fish management courses email Peter Bryan  peterb@reaseheath.ac.uk

Rare breed ponies help to educate Reaseheath students

Two rare breed ponies are helping Reaseheath College undergraduates to understand how the equine mind works.

Exmoor ponies Yasmin and Yohan, who are 19 months old, are being handled and trained by students studying for degrees in Animal Behaviour and Welfare or Zoo Management at the Nantwich, Cheshire college.

The ponies, which were bred by BBC Countryfile presenter Adam Henson, began their education at Reaseheath’s equine centre last year and were featured in several programmes of the popular TV series.

Adam has since donated the filly and gelding to Reaseheath and they have joined other rare breed paddock animals which are used to teach students about their care. Many Reaseheath students go on to work in zoos and farm parks and find the experience invaluable to prepare for their future careers.

The students are training the ponies to lead on a halter in a round pen using natural horsemanship methods. They are also getting them used to being handled and groomed in the hopes that they can be entered into regional agricultural shows such as the Cheshire Show and Nantwich Show next year.

Madeline Harrison BSc ABW works with Yohan

Madeline Harrison BSc ABW works with Yohan

Hoofstock Keeper Kerri Robson hopes to set up a Showing Group for students who are interested in preparing and exhibiting animals in the showring. Apart from training the ponies, members will be involved in bathing, grooming and transporting them. Interested students may also get the chance to show Reaseheath’s rare Golden Guernsey goats.

Plans are already in place to include a fun rare breeds show in the programme for Reaseheath’s popular Family Festival, to be held this year on Sunday May 18.

Kerri successfully showed Reaseheath’s Welsh Section A pony Cassie last year at the Cheshire Show. She explained: “ I am hoping to show the students how rewarding showing animals can be.”

“Thanks to Adam, our students have the chance to show well bred and attractive ponies which will hopefully catch the judges’ eye. It is also an opportunity for them to learn how to do basic groundwork with untrained ponies. Being able to gaining this sort of experience is quite rare and a great privilege.”

Madeline Harrison, 18, who has volunteered to help with the ponies along with fellow students Sophie Dockray, Dani Cowell and Daniel Crutchley, said: “It has been very interesting to learn how to assess the ponies’ behaviour and how to work with them.”

Methane gas from cows makes for illuminating interview

The way Reaseheath converts the slurry from our dairy cows into a renewable energy source made for an illuminating interview on BBC Radio Stoke this week.

Farm Manager Mark Yearsley described the workings of our two Anaerobic Digestion (AD) plants, which produce biogas from slurry. By producing our own energy and using it to power some of our campus buildings, we have been able to cut our electricity consumption by 15%.

Our two plants are demonstration units and widely used to promote on- farm AD to farming groups, who regularly tour the facility.

Mark has recently returned  from a scholarship to America, during which he studied the AD systems over there.

His chat with reporter John Acres followed an international story about an explosion in a building housing cattle in Germany, allegedly caused by the build up of methane gas produced by the animals.

Although sceptical about the amount of methane allegedly produced by the animals, Mark talked about the digestive systems of cattle and how the end product could be used sustainably. The interview was observed by an attentive group of cows from our elite herd, who obligingly provided some sound effects.

Two interviews – one about our cows and one about our AD plants – were broadcast on Monday February 3rd on Perry Spiller’s popular mid morning show.

BBC Radio Stoke regularly consult us for our expertise on rural subjects such as food, farming and horticulture.

Two weeks ago Horticulture Unit manager Neil Bebbington gave a very good live interview from our weather station describing the extreme weather patterns being recorded on the daily data. During the same week, Sam Walton was called upon to answer the bizarre question as to whether a cow could get up if a wall was built in front of it while it was lying down. (This was a radio quiz question and the answer is ‘No’, because cows need to lunge forward when they are getting up!)