Good News Stories
JOEL – “RIGHT TIME, RIGHT PEOPLE, RIGHT PLACE”
Joel is currently serving in the RAF and when he leaves next year he will have completed 22 years of service. He joined us on our 13th Rural Week (RXW13) in July and sent us this heart-warming message earlier this month:
“I’m just about to book a 21 day personally tailored course in Construction Plant Operating with a company in Bristol which will qualify me on the majority of the equipment we sampled at Bicton plus a few more, and to top it all off they have offered me, due to my extensive previous experience on operating hydraulic systems, the opportunity to qualify as an Instructor with a view to being employed by them as a “contractor” Instructor.
After the Rural Week things have really fallen into place – right time, right people, right place so things are massively looking up for me.
A lot of this is thanks to Anna for giving me the Rural Week place and it giving me the information and guidance to find my direction, all of which I didn’t process in early July..!
Thank-you so much, I could never let you know how much this opportunity meant to me and helping each other in mutual comradeship with stuff which has evolved from service and life experiences has been a powerful and unexpected part of the Rural Week.”
SAM ON BUSINESS MANAGEMENT AND THE RAU
Sam Meredith found clerical work after leaving the Army, in which he was a Junior Officer, but after a few years in the office he decided to change his career path:
“The rural sector has always appealed to me but having no family links to the rural industry I was at a loss as to where to start. After a couple of recommendations from friends in the Army, I contacted HighGround to see if they could help focus my job search.”
After a series of phone calls with HighGround, Sam decided to join us for first Rural Week in the new location at Bicton College, Devon. Sam discussed the possibility of studying to gain the knowledge needed to pursue a career in the rural sector:
“The wealth of information from the Rural Week was invaluable, giving me some clear ideas of what sort of business I might like to work in, some of which I would never have thought to look into. It also confirmed that studying for a year at the Royal Agricultural University [RAU] was the best place to start for me.”
Sam is now in his first week of study at the RAU as a Business Management (MSc) student; his first step into civilian business.
“I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Anna’s advice and guidance…HighGround have opened the door to a whole new area of industry that I wouldn’t have understood without attending the Rural Week.”
Sam was passionate about conservation, particularly the anti-poaching efforts in Africa, so Anna Baker Cresswell helped Sam research projects and contacted people across Africa in order for Sam to volunteer his free time before his course in September. Veterans for Wildlife offered him a place on a project in the Kruger National Park in South Africa and he deployed within a fortnight of his enquiry.
“I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Kruger and I can honestly say it’s one the most rewarding projects I have ever been involved in.”
Sam is enjoying his time at the Royal Agricultural University, confident he is “on the right track towards a satisfying and enjoyable new career within the rural industry”.
Sam Meredith – Business Management (MSc)
Royal Agricultural University
DREW STARTS LONSDALE SECURITY
HighGround has been working with Drew for some time now, supporting Drew to pursue his aim of working for himself in the outdoors. Using his military skills and experience, Drew has started a security service called Lonsdale Security, providing clients with the experienced security detail from ex-military and police personnel. The growth of this business could provide much-needed employment opportunities for ex-Armed Forces individuals and we at HighGround wish Drew every success with his new business.
‘Congratulations to Drew for starting his new business! We will do all we can to promote it and wish him every success with his Life beyond the military – Outdoors.’
Drew – HighGrounder
Owner of Lonsdale Security
JOHN ON GAMEKEEPING
Sending our very best wishes to John who starts his Gamekeeping course at Plumpton College this week.
‘Very proud of you John.
You are a shining and inspiring example of how HighGround helps
with Life beyond the military – Outdoors.’
John – Gamekeeping Course
HI-LINE OFFERS HIGHGROUNDER WORK EXPERIENCE
Hi-Line is one of the UK’s leading tree and vegetation management companies, an expert in all areas of arboriculture and ground maintenance, and we are very proud to hear that one of our HighGrounders has been offered work experience with them. Hopefully, this will be the first of many!
HIGHGROUND WELCOMES LEE KIMBER BACK ON RXW13
We welcomed a pathfinding speaker to our evening programme on Rural Week 13.
Former Royal Marine Lee Kimber had been referred by the Royal Marines Charity to a Rural Week in 2015 while he was still serving, awaiting medical discharge. Now 2 years later having started his own Chainsaw training company (LBS Training & Assessing-SW) and a very popular Forest School (Wellington Forest School) business in Somerset, Lee returned to tell HighGrounders (Service Leavers and Veterans) about his transition and his new career.
“I just could not pass up the opportunity of the invite from Anna to come and tell my military to civilian life transitional story to fellow Service Leavers and Veterans so they might better equip themselves for what is a massive change in their lives, and turn this for what could be for some, a daunting challenge into a very positive one to build upon. I found HighGround immensely helpful with assisting me to find the right direction for me to go in, a truly fantastic organisation for Service Leavers and Veterans to turn to.”
Lee Kimber – Rural Week 13
Anna added, “This was a very proud moment for me to meet Lee again and hear his inspirational update, and the fact that he has offered to come back again makes it even more special!”
LOST AND ANXIOUS
Rural Week 12 (RXW12) has ended, and now Rural Week 13 is underway. One of the participants from RXW12 had this to say about the Rural Week programme in the hopes of inspiring and informing others about the service:
‘Beginning the Rural Week as WIS, I was anxious, unsure and scared of what direction my future may take. I felt the course would broaden my views and options as being from Admin background I literally could not see wood for the trees.
The week did not disappoint, the organisation and companies that came along and showed us the side of Rural employment were outstanding. Anna made me feel very welcome and her knowledge, strength, and compassion for me and the others was commendable. I left the week with the positive attitude that being medically discharged was not the end of my life; it is the beginning of a new one.
I would like to thank Anna for helping me get to that decision and now the future looks bright.’
Anonymous – Rural Week 12
MORE ON RURAL WEEK 12
We’ve had some lovely comments from our HighGrounders during our latest Rural Week. It really makes the experience worth it when we get great feedback like this:
“This week was the first week of my new life. It is the first course I have done in 14 years of Army service where I have enjoyed it from start to finish. If I could do this course all over again I would as I enjoyed it that much.”
Jack – Rural Week 12
Go and see the pictures of the Rural Week are on our Flickr page, there’s more to come next week on Rural Week 13!
BEN TWEETS HIS SATISFACTION WITH RURAL WEEK 12
It has been a week since HighGround’s latest Rural Week at Bicton College and one of our new HighGrounders, Ben Smith, mentioned us in his tweet about the programme. We were delighted to welcome 11 HighGrounders from all 3 services to Rural Week 13 referred by Walking With the Wounded, Combat Stress, Headley Court. Found us via the Officers Association and the Career Transition Partnership. We’re glad you enjoyed yourself, Ben, and learned at the same time!
— Ben Smith (@BenSmit23569181) July 7, 2017
Ben Smith – Rural Week 12
MARK THOMAS ON COURSE
Mark Thomas is now on a Countryside Management course at Plumpton College and he has kindly shared his experiences and first impressions of his modules with us.
‘When I came to HighGround I had already completed an ‘Access to Higher Education Diploma (Land Based Studies)’, this allowed me to go on to a two-year foundation degree (FdSc) in Countryside Management. HighGround was instrumental in my decision to make that choice, and obviously opened my eyes to the vast array of opportunities that the Land Based Industry has to offer. Unfortunately, I managed to break my back later that year, so my studies were put on hold until the 2016/17 academic year. My first year comprised of 6 modules: Countryside Management Practices – these were physical tasks, ranging from hedge and path laying to constructing boxes for Dormouse surveying; Plant and Soil science – learning plant biology and identification skills, including their Latin names! People & Countryside – how we can improve people’s enjoyment of our countryside; Principles of Ecology, my favourite subject; and Wildlife Population Management – looking at how we can mitigate the damage we have done to native species of fauna and flora. We also had a module Called ‘Work-based Learning’ that involved work experience, in my case the college farm shop. Needless to say I have enjoyed every minute of it, have been very well supported by the college, and have found it massively beneficial to my mental health.’
Mark Thomas – Countryside Management (FdSc)
HEADLEY COURT ENCOURAGES YOU TO “GET OUT IN YOUR GARDENS”
Carol, HighGround’s Horticultural Therapist, and a few of her patients worked on the Miracle-Gro ‘Come to your Senses‘ gardens which won Gold and ‘Best Discovery Exhibit’ award at the 2017 Chelsea Flower Show. Read what some of the patients had to say about their time at Headley Court and their experiences.
‘Whilst undergoing my rehabilitation programme at the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre (DMRC), Headley Court, I have found the therapeutic interaction with plants, vegetables, and the smells of the greenhouse, a calming influence. They have created an atmosphere which has allowed me to think things through, in a stress-free environment ideal to enjoy and interact with my fellow patients.
My future plans, which are based upon the experience I have gained through my horticultural therapy at Headley Court, are to purchase a plot of land, where I can design my own garden with an eco-friendly house, using as much recycled material as I can find.’
Sgt Troy Reynolds – Royal Engineers – Chelsea Planting Team
‘Working in an environment that does not look back but keeps on pushing the boundaries of pressure, intensity, and workload a military working person is now a machine. For me, that fast pace of life came to a very abrupt stop when one evening, when I was out on patrol with the Royal Marines commandos, I was shot 6 times. It was only with the skills and medical knowledge that was around at that time that I’m here today.
After a number of operations and rehabilitations session at Headley Court, I came across HighGround. HighGround provides horticultural therapy to injured military personal giving us the chance to see into the land based industry. It helped me slow down to a pace of life that now worked for me because of the wheelchair and then crutches of course, which was difficult to deal with at first because I was still in that military pace of life. I asked about HighGround and the work they do at Headley court and I’m so glad I did because it has given me the ability to appreciate the outside environment. As time moved on my physical limitations started to get easier as horticultural allowed me to work at
I asked about HighGround and the work they do at Headley court and I’m so glad I did because it has given me the ability to appreciate the outside environment. As time moved on my physical limitations started to get easier as horticultural therapy allowed me to work at my own pace. It’s not only the physical side that benefits but psychological wellbeing seeing your work grow with time really motivated me to start growing my own vegetables at home, something for me and the family to enjoy.
I would definitely say “get out in your gardens and get dirty because it’s wonderfully relaxing and very rewarding for you and the kids”.’
Corporal James Hill – Royal Marines Commando – Chelsea Planting Team
HAPPY HIGHGROUNDERS – SUCCESS AT BICTON COLLEGE
This week has been a trove of all-round advice, guidance and support from agricultural experts at our Rural week at Bicton college. Laurence, one of our new HighGrounders, seemed to have enjoyed his five days in Devon.
‘I cannot thank you enough – Tony, Chris, especially Anna for providing me clear direction for my future. I have and will be supporting Bicton College who were very accommodating and proactive to suggestions (a big thanks to Andy). I don’t want to miss anybody out, so I’ll say a big thank you to all concerned and hope they get to read this; awesome course ladies and gents.’
Laurence – Rural week 11
Our other HighGrounders enjoyed themselves as well:
‘I truly believe the rural course is really “on point” for those of us looking to move into the land based sector. I thoroughly enjoyed much of the thought provoking content of the course. There were even a couple of areas that I had not realised that I enjoyed so much and have now become a focus for the future.’
‘The staff at Bicton went out of their way to help in any way possible. Nothing was too much trouble. I sincerely hope that this is the beginning of a long and fruitful partnership between Bicton and HighGround, long may it continue.’
‘I also thoroughly enjoyed the interaction with the other members of the course, even our shy HighGrounder came out of his shell and joined in more and more.’
‘Last week was fantastic!! It really was, I shall do my best to give something back to high ground!’
HighGrounders – Rural week 11
HIGHGROUNDERS ‘BROADEN HORIZONS’ AT BICTON COLLEGE
After our first Rural Week at Bicton College, we asked our HighGrounders what they thought about the past five days. We aim to give all our HighGrounders the knowledge and the best opportunities we can in order to give them an all-round, realistic view of the land-based sector. Here is what our HighGrounders said about their time with us:
“There are broader horizons beyond our own thinking and HighGround helped open that up.”
“It has been outstanding and I would recommend it to any service leaver.”
“There are massive opportunities out there.”
“I’ve learnt how I can realistically enter the land-based sector at a managerial level.”
HighGrounders – Rural Week 10
Thank you to all our HighGrounders thus far; we wish you all the success as we continue to provide life beyond the military – outdoors.
GRAHAM’S STORY: BIGNOR PARK ESTATE
Army Veteran Graham Ward left military service more than a decade ago and even after being diagnosed with PTSD, and managing with knee-related issues at the age of 56, he’s been unwavering in his attempts to secure himself new employment and fulfillment. He called and applied for funding and courses in the past all of which had the same outcome: nothing. Despite this, he got in contact with HighGround in April this year in the hope of getting better results.
Graham has experience in vermin control, working on his friend’s farm, so HighGround worked on providing him with courses and information in those areas and any other fields that he was interested in.
In the meantime, he has started his first day of work experience at Bignor Park Estate on their shoots at the beginning of December, which he said he really enjoyed and will be returning this Saturday to participate again.
We are continuing to support Graham to find the courses he wishes to complete and we wish him all the best at Bignor Park Estate this Saturday.
JOHN’S STORY: FOREST SCHOOLS
From The Kings Regiment to a supervisor at Tesco, John Haider has worked in a number of fields and after being discharged from the Army in 1999, he was in need of another role to put all his enthusiasm and determination to good use but didn’t know where to begin.
Combat Stress referred John to HighGround and we immediately got to work. We got in contact with John and gave him all the information he needed. He showed interest in horticulture, green-keeping, and conservation, particularly working on projects in Africa. We encouraged him to go on one of our Rural Weeks and learn about the different options that were available to him.
After attending our ninth Rural Week, John is at a Forest School session at Plumpton College today observing and learning in a woodland environment with specialists. John is looking to participate further in programmes in this field next year.
We cannot wait to hear about John’s experience today and hopefully we will have a positive start to 2017 for all of us.
MALCOLM’S STORY: CARE FARM
We received this email from Malcolm today and are overjoyed by his response. Lovely to know that we have supported him and hope to help even more people transition into the land-based sector. We hope to continue to support Malcolm in the future and wish him all the best, couldn’t be prouder:
Hi Sami and Anna,
I’d like to let you know how grateful I am for your help and would like to tell you my thoughts on what you do.
My Rural Week was a life changing experience. I was not sure what to expect, but the support I got from the both you (Anna and Sami) was excellent. When I got to the college, Plumpton staff were great – could not do enough for me. When meeting the other HighGrounders at the Rural Week, they were all from different walks of life, but the banter and support was just like being back in army life.
I thought the week’s programme was both very entertaining and informative at the same time. All the speakers were extremely knowledgeable and able to present and pass on practical and great advice and guidance. I feel that the Rural Week will be extremely beneficial to all who are interested in working within the land-based sector.
As you know I am very interested in running a smallholding and a Care Farm with the advice and guidance from HighGround and those I met during the Rural Week. I decided I needed to know more so applied for a BSc (Hons) Animal Management course at Hadlow College and, to my surprise, I received a place and started last September. It’s very hard but also worthwhile.
I now have goals for when I finish and, if I can find some land, I hope I’ll be able to open or work on a Care Farm/smallholding, to help other Veterans, their families, and possibly children in the care system.
HighGround has made me happier, confident, and feeling more positive regarding the future.
Thank you so much,
LEE’S STORY: FOREST SCHOOL LEADER
We are delighted to get this email from Lee and wish him every success in his new venture as a qualified Forest School Leader. We hope our Rural Weeks continue to help more and more people gain the experience they need to enter the Land-based sector.
Lee: Second from the left.
Click here for his Facebook page.
Thank you, Lee, we’ll see you for tea at The Ritz.
JAMIE’S STORY: THANK YOU, CAROL
Everyone at HighGround is delighted that Jamie has had such a great experience with our service at Headley Court. We look forward to hearing more Good News in the future and wish Jamie the best of luck.
MARK’S STORY: COUNTRYSIDE MANAGEMENT
Mark served in the 1st Battalion of the Royal Green Jackets before he attended HighGround’s Rural Week, which has helped him decide on his future.
Mark had this to say about the Rural Week:
‘My Rural Week was a great experience. The immediate rapport with the other attendees; the support from all at HighGround and the college; the speakers who were all extremely knowledgeable and able to pass on useful, practical advice and guidance. I feel that courses of this kind will be extremely beneficial to all who attend.’
Initially, Mark was unsure as to whether to go back into education or not, but with HighGround’s supportive network, Mark is now studying for a FdSc in Countryside Management at Hadlow College. Mark hopes to help other Veterans with his newly acquired skills and confidence.
HighGround and Mark are grateful for the support from Help for Heroes and are looking forward to working together in the future. HighGround also hopes that Mark’s skills, experiences, and knowledge that he will gain during his course will help him achieve his goals.
WESLEY’S STORY: TREE SURGERY?
Wesley served in the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers as a Rifleman, progressing to be a Machine Gun Specialist, and then being a part of the Intelligence Cell. Wesley had struggled to find a job or a hobby he was passionate about after completing his tours in Kosovo and Northern Ireland until he attended a HighGround Rural Week and found an interest in tree surgery.
With HighGround’s help, Wesley was advised by subject matter experts and a careers coach on how to fulfil his aspirations. During the Rural Week, Wesley said:
‘Being at Plumpton College was a great experience! I would recommend the rural week to anyone interested in working within the land-based sector. The main thing for me was a completely non-threatening environment. The staff were great, all of who were very friendly and helpful, and I especially enjoyed the food which is all produced within the college! I would also like to thank Help for Heroes for funding my place, it has made a big difference. ’
Wesley left the Rural Week happier, confident and feeling more positive regarding the future. Wesley is currently looking to get himself on an 8-week course in tree surgery at Plumpton College. HighGround will continue to support Wesley and work with him towards his goal of becoming a tree surgeon.
MAJOR ROBIN’S STORY: WHAT DO I DO NEXT?
Robin (Major) Army: Armoured Corps (4TH/7TH RDG) and army legal services based in Swindon. He wanted to attend a HighGround Rural Week to gain a better understanding of the options available to him once his military career came to an end. Working in the land-based sector is his goal, but in a role that would give him autonomy and independence. Robin very much enjoyed being in the countryside and working outdoors. He was on a 3-year FTRS contract but wanted to plan ahead.
After attending HighGround’s Rural Week in June 2016, Robin said that he found the programme to be engaging and useful, identifying a number of roles and vocational opportunities he could potentially do once his career in the military comes to an end. We can happily say that he now has a clearer picture of what steps he should take. HighGround will continue to provide Robin with advice and guidance to support him with his future goals.
REBECCA’S STORY: SMALLHOLDING
Rebecca was a former Captain with the Army Royal Logistics Corps but left the military in July 2015. Now based in York and serving as a Reservist, She was keen to explore opportunities available in the land-based sector with organizations who were looking to recruit Reservists. Rebecca had a number of transferable skills and qualifications in the adventure training sector. However, she did not want to build a career in this sector, she wanted to gain ideas about what she could do in the future.
She attended a Rural Week in May 2016 in which she quickly identified smallholdings as an area she would enjoy and could build a career in. Her rural background, love of working with animals and being outdoors, and the idea of being self-sustained, pulled her towards running a smallholding, which would allow her to experience all four of her joys.
The Former Army Captain has decided that running her own smallholding in the future is something she would like to do. HighGround are running a smallholding course later in 2016 and Rebecca has expressed interest in attending to find out more about how this could be possible.
ROBIN’S STORY: WHAT TO DO WITH 2 ACRES OF LAND
Robin, Army, Commissioned Officer, now serving as a Reservist. Robin had left the military and based himself in Somerset, gaining employment within a procurement company. However, Robin had found himself facing redundancy and decided; that he wanted to pursue a career he was passionate about. He had long-term interest in rural matters; particularly land management and was interested in finding out more regarding the relationship between conservation, habitat preservation and land management/land use. Robin was keen to learn about the rural sector as a whole and find out more about the vocational and employment opportunities within it. Robin also had aspirations to seek an overview of aspects of countryside/environmental management, conservation and woodlands/forestry.
Robin attended a Rural Week in June 2016. He found the programme to be extremely useful in identifying opportunities he could do in the future. Robin owned a property with 2 acres of land. The Rural Week helped Robin decide that he would like to become a smallholder. During the programme, Robin was given many ideas about how his land could be utilised to produce revenue. Much information was gained in regards to managing land, working with animals, producing food, forestry and horticulture, all of which helped Robin identify what he needed to do.
Robin is looking to attend HighGround’s smallholding module later in 2016 to learn more about what he can do with his land. He has already started looking at ways of becoming more self-sufficient and hopes to continue this into the future. HighGround are also looking to support Robin gain some experience – vocational opportunities which may assist him with his plans.
MALCOLM’S STORY: BSc ANIMAL MANAGEMENT
Malcolm, ex-Army Crew Commander, Household Cavalry, attended one of our Rural Week’s earlier this year. Since attending and getting further support from HighGround, Malcolm has now been able to identify the career path he wishes to go down. Congratulations on accepting a place on a BSc Animal Management course with Hadlow College, Malcolm. This is a big step towards your career aspirations and we hope you continue on this path.
ALEX’S STORY: OXBURGH HALL
Alex joined us via the Officers Association and attended one of our Rural Weeks in 2015. We are delighted to see Alex doing so well and the progression he is making towards his career aspirations.
Alex is currently at the Britannia Royal Naval College, starting his new career with the National Trust running Oxburgh Hall in Norfolk. HighGround congratulates him once again on his successes; we wish him all the best and hope to hear from him soon.
CHIT’S STORY: HORTICULTURE TO NEPAL
Chit served with the Army (Queen’s Gurkha Signals) and has been a Veteran since 1998. He came to HighGround and attended our Rural Week in June 2016. Chit was particularly keen on land management, conservation, and horticulture. Here is what Chit had to say about his Rural Week experience:
‘Thank you all for an excellent Rural Week course. I attended this course with very little or almost no idea what to do. With the help of training, I was able to see more clearly what I should be doing in next few years. I think the course was designed just perfect. I found all presentations interesting and it was an eye opener. The one to one with Miranda (Careers Advisor) provided very helpful tips, as this was my first time with an expert. Overall, it helped me to make adjustments that I required for my next steps. Identifying and utilising opportunities that are readily available. There is a lot of enthusiasm and hope going on. So, once again thank you to all of you for your excellent work/course. Keep up the good work. Wish you all the best.’
Chit now has a number of ideas and knowledge and an understanding of horticulture that he would like to one day take back to Nepal. HighGround will be supporting Chit further by discussing relevant training to enhance his newfound knowledge.
MARK’S STORY: ALL THINGS GOLF
Mark came for support from HighGround in February 2016 after leaving the Royal Navy ten months earlier, having spent six years with them. He wanted to find out more about what the land based sector could offer him in regards to employment and was particularly keen on turf management roles within a Golf Club. He was a keen golfer and felt that this passion could be combined with his practical skills to create a fulfilling career.
HighGround were able to use industry contacts to secure advice, guidance and set up an interview with one of Mark’s local Golf Clubs. He gained employment as a Green Manager less than six weeks after making contact with HighGround.
Congratulations to you, Mark; we wish you all the best.