Nathan’s story

Nathan studied the Level 3 Diploma in Countryside Management at Capel Manor College.

I found out about Capel Manor College when I started looking for colleges in London that delivered the RHS Certificate in Practical Horticulture. I asked for the prospectus and when I read it, I saw a course in countryside management that I found even more interesting. Why work in gardens, I thought to myself, when I could be working in parks and wider landscapes? 

Before joining the College, I had been working mainly in the public sector doing project management and communications. Office work had negatively affected my mental health and I wasn’t enjoying myself – so I took a break to figure out what I wanted to do next. I realised that being outside in nature was essential for me, and I started to wonder if I could make a living doing it. I started out looking at gardening and investigating Capel Manor College led to me studying countryside management.

I did not know what I always wanted to study. I thought I was interested in horticulture but I became attracted to studying countryside management as I saw wider benefits in terms of large-scale work to improve biodiversity and provide benefits to the public. It was also broad enough that I could look at a lot of areas and in time I might be able to narrow down on what I wanted to do. It is a pleasant setting tucked away behind the M25 and nearby Forty Hall was a beautiful place to work. It always felt like we had a safe space to get on with it.

My course was very practically focussed, and I felt that I came away ready to work in the environmental sector with a good set of practical skills. The importance of this was reinforced by several conversations with professionals working in the sector who emphasised the value of work experience. We visited a lot of reserves and other sites of interest, and the practical nature of the course with regular task-based assessments meant that we spent most of the time outside at work. We did a lot of our own research which added a lot of value to our studies.

I am still in contact with several people from the course who have become good friends. We had a lot of fun together in a really diverse, supportive group. I always enjoyed being at the College because of the energy of the place, with a real mixture of people. I gained a solid grounding in estate skills that has served me well and given me opportunities to develop my career, including finding work that was interesting, and crucially, paid. 

I am now working as an Estate Manager at Deepdale Farm, an arable farm on the North Norfolk coast. Since joining the farm, we have entered organic conservation and started managing most of the farm for wildlife. I gained a full-time role hereafter leading conservation volunteering weekends on the farm for a few years as a contractor. I really enjoyed my time at Capel Manor College, and would recommend it to anyone looking to develop a career working in the environmental sector or farming.”

Nathan’s top tips

“The more effort you put in to study, the more you get out of it. We drove some of our tutors crazy by asking questions and had some brilliant conversations.

Volunteer – when you are still at the College and not just after you leave. Keep building on your experience and meeting new people. Be flexible and keep an open mind. There are brilliant volunteering opportunities available through the Wildlife Trusts, TCV and local friends groups and these can lead to great work opportunities.

Finding work to begin with may not be that easy; professionals we spoke to while we were still at the College said it might take two years of volunteering or working for little to develop a steady job. They were right. It took me some time and I had to go back to full-time office work before the right role came along.

I took my chainsaw qualifications while I was still at the College and they helped me get paid work – try and take extra short courses and get qualifications if you can. They will set you apart!”