Hi everyone, I’m Cameron and for the past 10 months I’ve been on a student placement at Rothiemurchus. Back in early 2015, during my 1st year of studying Countryside Management at Harper Adams University in Shropshire, I discovered that one of our modules was a work placement, our lecturer detailed how the placement process works and informed us about the assignments we would have to complete along the way. We were given presentations from past placements students, who told us how their placement went and the things they got up to and were given the opportunity to ask them questions. One presentation stood out for me in particular and that was from Cameron Bliss (quite conveniently the same name as mine) he had done his placement at Rothiemurchus the year before. I really liked the look of Rothiemurchus and so Cameron put me in touch with their Countryside Manager, Julian. I filled in an application form, emailed it to Julian and soon arranged for an interview around New Year time. I got a quick tour around Rothiemurchus on the day of my interview and was happy to hear soon after that I had been successful.
Cameron at the fishery and some red deer on a Feed the Deer experience.
My placement year started on the 1st September 2015. All new staff at Rothiemurchus get an induction which includes the opportunity to try some of the outdoor activities on offer. I got to go on a Quad Bike Trek and Land Rover Experience and I also went Clay Target Shooting and on the Feed the Deer experience. The first couple months were busy for me as I was split between different departments – I was learning about Rothiemurchus as part of the front desk team one day and then walking up a hill to check for storm damage the next, it kept me on my toes! One of my particular highlights from the first few months was an early start at 6am to wein the young deer from their parents at the same time as administering medication and sexing the red deer. This was a very long and tiring day but great fun and it was also a bonus to work with some of the team that I hadn’t worked with before.
Towards winter, Rothiemurchus is less busy with visitors which gives them the opportunity to catch up with other things like maintenance work so I went to help Euan, Neil and Paul, who take care of all the maintenance on Rothiemurchus. During my time spent with them over Christmas and into the New Year I learnt a lot of things I didn’t know before and expanded some of previous knowledge. Before I joined Rothiemurchus I knew very little about stock and deer fencing, working with the maintenance department I soon learned the ins and outs of building and repairing fences.
Helping the maintenance team otter proof the a fish pond
I also spent some time working in the Druie Cafe Restaurant, in the kitchen washing dishes to start with and then soon moved onto serving out the front and and taking orders. My auntie and uncle have pub in the Isle of Wight where I have helped out before, so I generally knew what I was doing and it meant I got a free lunch too!
During the days when I was part of the Countryside Ranger service I was given lots of tasks too complete, from patrols to grass cutting. My favourite part of the Ranger work was taking tours! I enjoyed all the tours that are offered at Rothiemurchus, but my personal favourite is Feed the Deer. This is where we take members of the public up to the deer farm, once there, they get to feed and stroke the deer, this goes down particularly well with small children! I always enjoyed seeing the happy faces during the Feed the Deer experience, people are always amazed at how close they are able to get to the deer. If your planning doing Feed the Deer, end of June and July is a particularly great time as all the young deer have been born and there are lots of young calves running around!
One day that will stick in my memory was a day in December when I was the only person scheduled to work at the fishery. When I arrived at Rothiemurchus they did mention that the fishery sometimes floods over winter… The evening before it was raining very heavily and the heavy rain continued right through the night! On my way to work I found the road was shut due to flooding so I went around the long way to work and collected the Land Rover and headed down to the fishery. When I was almost there, I was greeted with a totally flooded fishery, not what I was expecting! The water was up to the window sills. Over the day the water level dropped and I eventually managed to get into the fishery to have a look and see what the condition was. Thankfully we had prepared the day before by lifting everything and put it on top of worktops, so there was no major damage. Once the rest of the water had gone it was the clean-up operation that took place. My colleague Craig, and myself set about cleaning the fishery from the flood, it almost took us a week to get the place clean and ready for opening again.
Cameron on patrol in winter and the flooding on the road beside the fishery
My time at Rothiemurchus is almost done and then I will be having a small rest before heading back to complete my FdSc in Countryside Management at Harper Adams University. It has been a very busy 10 months and I have learned a lot of useful things and even though I am sure I do not fully appreciate all that I have learned until I am in a management role myself. I have had a great time at Rothiemurchus and would like to say thank you to everyone who has made me feel very welcome at here!