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Harper Adams degree takes graduates to a palace in the countryside (Part 2)

Posted 27 July 2016

The whole project was totally new to me, and has increased my confidence in dealing with new, unknown tasks."

Ellie Exelby

Ellie Exelby

Today we bring you the second of our two Blenheim Palace graduate profiles, ahead of the inaugural Countryfile Live event being held at the World Heritage Site. 

Yesterday we published a Q&A with Christian Halbert, 27. Today it is the turn of Ellie Exelby, 24, former Countryside and Environmental Management degree student and now Assistant Rural Manager at Blenheim

Q. How did you come to be working at Blenheim Palace?

A. At Harper there is a compulsory working placement year in the third year of academia, during the second year you apply and login to an online page and look at advertisements posted by many agricultural/ environmental companies.

I remember reading the Blenheim Placement advertisement and immediately thinking how varied and challenging it sounded, I sent it straight on to my dad saying I was going to apply. Soon after, I heard about how a lot of people from my course were also applying too! I was in shock when I received the email saying they would like to offer me the placement role, an email and memory I still have to this day!

Q. Tell us about an exciting typical day on the job?

A. The beauty of a large estates lies in the many business opportunities and thus many departments which all work together. Whether it is managing the land, properties, or the visitors. I enjoy my job and find every day exciting, as the work and the people that I meet with are so varied and interesting. I learn so many new things every day - there is never a dull moment!

My working week begins with a weekly forestry meeting, where the Rural Manager and I catch up with the five foresters, we can discuss anything from event management, forestry contractors or machinery! I also have weekly meetings with the Rural Manager to discuss progress on my jobs. In the lead up to events it is necessary to have trees surveyed to identify whether they are safe for the event to go ahead. Leading up to Countryfile Live I have worked with our independent surveyors, forestry foreman and our contractors to prioritise health and safety.

In the winter, I work with the foresters more closely in the run up to Christmas. I manage the Christmas Tree Enterprise with the team, organising deliveries to Oxford (Christchurch have three trees every year from us), and selling trees outside the front of the palace and at a local sawmills.

In March we ran a project with Stonesfield School where we rejuvenated their primary school play area with trees, hedges, and Blenheim benches (made by the foresters). I work with local play groups, and primary schools to improve access to woodlands and the outdoors for young people, the Forest School contracts allow children to play in the woodlands, have picnics and learn about tree and plant species in an enriching learning environment.  At the end of April we lamb 1,700 ewes, I assist in the lambing for three weeks, and organise work experience students who wish to study veterinary.

Q. What has been the standout moment of your time at Blenheim thus far?

A. It was a proud day the first time my dad came down to visit me on my placement year. I was checking the sheep on the weekend and gave him a tour around the magnificent estate.

Another one which sticks out is the reward of receiving fantastic feedback on a pilot project, our boxed Blenheim lamb. Last year we launched our boxed lamb scheme to members of Blenheim staff. With the support of my manager and the shepherds we launched an amazing fresh boxed product, we received numerous emails commenting on how delicious our product was.

We now repeat our scheme every season and hope to expand to the local public once we have all our supply chain in order. The whole project was totally new to me, and has increased my confidence in dealing with new, unknown tasks. 

Q. Where do you hope to be in 5 years’ time and what would be your advice to anyone who wants to follow your career path?

A. I have a few ambitions and ideas for the future, I hope to have completed a Masters in Rural Estate and Land Management equipping me with all the skills to become a Rural Estate Manager. If I can, I hope to do my APC and become a Rural Chartered Surveyor, as I also have an ambition to set up my own consultancy business.

It's not too late to follow in Ellie's footsteps. Click here for more information.