Arboriculture students reach new heights

Level 3 Diploma in Forestry and Arboriculture students reached new heights at the Arboricultural Association’s (AA) College Climbing Competition, held for the northern region on our campus recently.

New career in the countryside for passionate conservationist Wendy

Reaseheath opened doors to a new career for Wendy Nulty after working for 12 years in the NHS.

Wendy Nulty

Wendy Nulty

With a passion for the outdoors and countryside conservation, Wendy looked to Reaseheath to help take her first steps with a career change by studying our Foundation Degree in Countryside Conservation and Recreation Management.  After just a year on the part time degree programme,  she was chosen to join the National Trust Ranger Academy training scheme, which she pursued alongside the degree.

Combining the academic knowledge and practical experience gained from her degree and the National Trust programme Wendy’s now a fully qualified Ranger, working for the National Trust.

As a Ranger, Wendy coordinates the day to day operational and land management of a number of National Trust properties across Cheshire, spanning Bickerton and Bulkeley Hills. The properties cover just short of 400 acres and contain a mix of woodland and lowland heath habitats. Responsible for a mix of practical estate maintenance, habitat management and visitor engagement, Wendy also manages groups of volunteers for 2-3 days a week. With no two days ever the same, she absolutely loves her job.

During her degree Wendy covered all the components of countryside management studying a wide range of topics from plant identification through to visitor management.

Said Wendy: “The opportunity to make industry links and the support from dedicated staff really helped me get the most out of my degree. I really enjoyed the variety of modules and the field trips helped to inspire us and see the importance of the content of lectures in the ‘real world’ of land management.”

“The flexibility of the course allowed me to work full time whilst studying, which was invaluable as I took the plunge with a career change.”

Wendy’s top tips –  careers in countryside conservation

  1.  If you want to get into conservation, having plenty of volunteering experience is essential. Look at role profiles of the jobs you are interested in and try and find volunteering roles that help you fill the practical or public engagement elements of it. It takes effort and perseverance to get into this sector so be smart about how you spend the little free time you may have.
  2. Whilst you are at college or on work placement remember you are meeting potential future employers or work colleagues so make a positive impression. I always remember the hard workers or those that take an interest in field trips to Bickerton. Likewise I always remember those that don’t make a great impression!
  3. Don’t be afraid to contact people who are already doing the job you are interested in. They can often give you valuable advice that can help shape your career path and tell you what to focus on.

Reaseheath College welcomes royal visitor at Cheshire Show

Reaseheath College gave Sophie, Countess of Wessex, a right royal welcome when she visited the college’s award winning stand at the Cheshire Show earlier this week (June 23 and 24)

Her Royal Highness, who is Cheshire Show President, spent 20 minutes chatting to staff and students and inspecting the stand’s activities. She particularly admired Reaseheath’s mechanical horse and a pizza oven built by construction students and was keen to find out more about apprenticeships.

Stand organiser Stephanie Owen said: “The Countess seemed to be very knowledgeable and supportive of landbased industries and asked a lot of pertinent questions about our work with rural businesses. She seemed very natural and was obviously enjoying carrying out her duties at the show.”

The Nantwich college’s visitor friendly stand had earlier taken the top award in the education section, with judge Marie Birkenhead paying tribute to the range of activities on offer and the enthusiastic and well informed staff.

Mrs Birkenhead said: “Reaseheath College’s stand was far and away the best exhibit in its section and really met the criteria, which is to educate and inform visitors about the countryside. We were impressed with the attractive display offering activities for all ages, but what was most outstanding was the wonderful welcome which all visitors received when they went on the stand.”

Top crowd puller on the stand was a Caterpillar digger which gave visitors the chance to operate the controls. Apart from riding the mechanical horse, families were able to have a go on a climbing wall and try milking a model cow. Other activities, under the banner ‘Do Something Different’, included a display of the latest horticultural technology and a chance to make floral buttonholes and beaded dragonflies. Animals from the college’s zoo and a scarecrow from this summer’s ‘Superhero’ maize maze were also on display.

Reaseheath agriculture students took part in breed showing and young handler classes in the cattle show ring with heifers and a cow in milk from the Reaseheath Holstein dairy herd. The student team were awarded first place in the ‘tidy lines’ competition.

Deputy Marketing Manager Faye Thomson-Butt said: “This has been a fantastic opportunity for us to demonstrate the range of vocational courses we offer. We are very proud of the success of our students and coming to the Cheshire Show each year gives us a great platform to show the public what we can do.”

Caption: Sophie, Countess of Wessex, joins Stephanie Owen and agricultural lecturer Mark Walton on Reaseheath College’s stand at the Cheshire Show.

Reaseheath student wins award for floodplain orchard

Reaseheath College undergraduate Daniel Ackerley has won a national award with his flood plain orchard.

Daniel, who is studying for his Foundation Degree in Countryside, Conservation and Recreation at the Nantwich college, was a runner-up in The Conservation Foundation’s ‘Gardening Against the Odds’ Awards.

The annual competition seeks out horticultural projects which are inspirational in their own right, which benefit people who face physical, mental or environmental ’odds’ and which can also offer wider benefits to the community.

Daniel, who lives in Vicars Cross, Chester, successfully grows over 100 fruit trees near the River Dee in Farndon despite the land being flooded with up to six feet of water during the winter.

He has planted the two acre plot with unusual and heritage varieties of fruit trees including apples, pears, plums, quince, mulberries, walnuts and hazelnuts, some dating back to Roman times. He is also growing endangered native black poplar and elm trees which he is monitoring as part of national programmes to grow disease resistant species.

As the plot adjoins a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) Daniel manages the orchard to provide diverse habitat for wildlife and hopes that as it matures it could be used to educate young people in conservation methods.

He also hopes to increase his involvement in community activities, as the orchard is near Holt’s medieval castle and is on a popular walking route around Farndon and Holt.

The 46 year-old engineer, who had to retire prematurely from his work on off shore oil rigs due to Crohn’s Disease, has found that the project and his college course has given him an alternative focus.

Passionately interested in conservation and in garden history, Daniel decided to go ahead with his orchard once he realised that a similar scheme nearby had been successful centuries ago despite being regularly flooded.

Daniel receives his certificate from actress Susan Hampshire

Daniel receives his certificate from actress Susan Hampshire

He said: “Having an underwater orchard might seem a bit strange but the knowledge that it’s worked in the past gave me the confidence to go ahead. My college course has enabled me to carry out the project scientifically and in a structured way, using both traditional and modern techniques.

“Basically I’m trying to retain a vestige of medieval field system which is surrounded by modern agriculture. To do this successfully I need a good understanding of science and current legislation as well as practical skills.

“I was surprised and delighted to make the judges’ selection for the ‘Gardening Against the Odds’ award. The whole event was extremely positive. All finalists were selected because their projects were outward looking and went beyond their own boundaries.”

The Conservation Foundation Director David Shreeve said: “Daniel is a great example of what the ‘Gardening Against the Odds’ awards are all about. The judges were really impressed with his story and what he is doing.

“Susan Hampshire, a keen fruit grower herself, described it as an inspired use of space, growing trees and producing fruit.”

The finals of the prestigious competition were held on Wednesday at a gala tea party at Syon House in London.

Find out more about the Foundation Degree in Countryside, Conservation and Recreation.


Reaseheath graduation opens doors to careers success

Graduates from Reaseheath College received degrees designed to boost their careers at a ceremony in the centre of Nantwich.

Dressed in gowns and mortar boards, almost 150 graduates spilled out of St Mary’s Church to celebrate with Britain’s best known Paralympic athlete Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson OBE, who was guest speaker.

The ceremony marked the achievement of students who had completed degrees in agricultural science, equine science, food technology, garden and landscape design, engineering, countryside management, adventure sports management and rural events management, all delivered in partnership with Harper Adams University.

Animal management and science students on degree programmes validated by the University of Chester (UoM) graduated alongside other UoM students at Chester Catherdral  in November.

Describing the Nantwich ceremony as one of the highlight of the academic year, Reaseheath Principal Meredydd David emphasised that the graduates would see a massive return on their financial and emotional investment. An independent analysis had shown that £40,000 spent on course fees and living expenses would secure an additional £250,000 over the span of a career. Nearly 90% of Reaseheath graduates who completed degrees last year were in related employment within six months of completing their course on an average starting salary of £21,000.

Degrees gained at Reaseheath College were specialist, technical qualifications which enabled students to gain both knowledge and the necessary skills and competencies to carve out a successful career.

In such a competitive jobs market it was important that higher education (HE) programmes were delivered and validated by high quality, well respected institutions. Reaseheath’s own HE programmes had recently been inspected by the Quality Assurance Agency and had received fantastic report, equivalent to an ‘Outstanding’ from Ofsted.

Reaseheath continued to invest in specialist facilities and resources which would give students the competitive edge in the jobs market. Over £40 million had been spent on facilities which were recognised as among the best in the country. A further £10 million would be invested this year into a national centre for Food Futures and Environmental Management and this would be followed by a £13 million spend on a 200 room residential building and an extension to the Higher Education Centre, both to be completed for September 2016.

Reaseheath currently had 700 students enrolled on degree courses. A significant number were mature students or were studying while working with the support of their employers. One of its most successful programmes was the Eden Project, which offers dairy technologists the chance to gain a globally recognised Foundation Degree in Dairy Technology. The qualification had been developed in close partnership with industry and was aimed at meeting demand for future managers.

Although academic progress was important, Meredydd pointed out that many graduates had helped to organise social events and charity fund raising, which last year contributed £12,000 to worthy charities.

Congratulating the graduates, Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, who studied politics and now has a seat in the House of Lords, said that education was vital and led to wider choices. Her key advice was to try something new and not be put off by failure. Although she had been dedicated to wheelchair racing from the age of 12 she did not win for four years and this had taught her how to train and be committed.

To find out more about our degree programmes please visit the Higher Education pages on our website.

For more photos from the day visit our Facebook page.


Farm lead sets sights on new Forest Schools initiative

Pig and GeeseSteve Waterworth, the Reaseheath College Countryside department’s  student of year 2013 is putting his Diploma in Countryside Management to good use as the Farm Lead at Ladybridge High School, Bolton.

Ladybridge High is a part of a growing number of schools across UK offering outdoor educational opportunities, through running their own farm.  Steve manages the farmlands and cares for the range of animals onsite including; donkeys, pigs, goats, rabbits, ducks and hens. The farm is currently primarily utilised by visiting primary school groups, used to create an interactive learning environment to contextualise the teaching of ‘life cycles’ in plants and animals.

Aside caring for the farm’s animals, the role of Farm Lead requires Steve to maintain the woodlands and meadows surrounding the school grounds. Steve’s current restoration project involves revitalising the pond area at Ladybridge, which has suffered from some considerable neglect in recent times.  He will then be moving on to redevelop the woodlands and meadow lands, creating a nature trail with a den building and mini beast hunting areas.

Steve Waterworth at work at Ladybridge High School

Steve Waterworth at work at Ladybridge High School

Steve achieved an overall Distinction in his Level 3 Diploma in Countryside Management from Reaseheath,  returning to education after a break of nearly 30 years. Steve commented; “taking that leap back into education is the best decision I’ve ever made.  After 16 years in the motor trade and previous jobs as a printer and furniture maker, I’ve finally found my calling in conservation and countryside restoration.

“My time at Reaseheath has been an important part of my life and will always be grateful for the help and advice from my tutors, which as a result I have the job I wanted and enjoy”.

Moving forward, Steve has ambitious plans to establish a ‘Forest School’ at Ladybridge. The Forest Schools initiative is a national educational movement  that takes an active and immersive approach to learning in the outdoors. Steve mentioned: “ the farm and revitalised woodlands will be perfect to facilitate Forest School sessions. I’m excited to get this project off the ground and help forge more opportunities for young people to engage with the farm and their beautiful natural surroundings.”


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