Nature Conservation Training Course – the details

What will a typical day look like?

There is no such thing as a typical day. However students will notice a model emerge to the way a week is structured. The week will start with a team meeting on Monday morning where plans for the week are drawn up, start times set and the domestic rota established. This would be followed by a language course for the remainder of the morning. Lunchtime would be a serve yourself affair. The afternoon would follow the language training with an element of specific training, typically following the theme of the language course. For instance the morning may use case studies of farming practice and conservation management, the afternoon would run a workshop on environmental stewardship and farm conservation.

This workshop would leave some homework to complete overnight. Someone would be on the rota for cooking that night, and would prepare a meal for all those staying in the bunkhouse (up to 10). All would eat together sharing their experiences of the day.

Tuesday is the day where we practice our public engagement, and spend the day working with the United Response group or a local school supporting their learning about nature conservation. This will be one of 5 sessions, leading up to a time where you would plan and deliver the entire session.

The Wednesday session would be scheduled to wrap up the Monday themed training, in this case on farm conservation, with a series of field work and indoor workshops. Wednesday evening may be the day where you have to gather species data. With projects including bats, bees and badgers, there will be a routine element of data collection carried out in the shoulder times of the programme (early mornings, late evenings).

Thursday is our practical conservation management, hands on day with activities ranging from stone walling, to fencing, deck building, habitat management and working with volunteers. These tasks would either be carried out on the farm or on the Sharpham Estate.

Friday would be a day set aside to bring together the theme of the week (in this instance farm conservation management.) This may mean a field trip to a reserve, talking to those working in the conservation sector in UK, and learning about different management techniques, or a particular
survey/monitoring task. These range from quadrat samples, to species specific surveys, and will always be pre empted by themed training to ensure you have the skills and confidence to carry out the task.

Friday would also have some time set aside for any personal learning reflections, with
chance to talk to the team about your personal learning journey, and any observations or concerns you may have.

The weekend is free of training but there will be a requirement to apply some of the learning you have, going out with your binoculars or your guide books and becoming more familiar with some of  the subject matter. There is occasional weekend work, however there will be time to explore the local area, visit the local town, or meet friends and family. The domestic rota will continue through the weekend.

The Sharpham Estate

The Sharpham Estate is an 18th century parkland landscape, stretching along the River Dart just outside of Totnes in beautiful South Devon. This 550-acre historic estate is managed by The Sharpham Trust, an educational charity established in the early 1980s by Maurice and Ruth Ash. The Trust’s ethos is a “desire to build a more mindful, compassionate and environmentally-sustainable world.”

Ambios are tenants of the Sharpham Estate, running Lower Sharpham Farm – an 80 acre organic beef and sheep farm managed for wildlife and biodiversity. This is where our UK training is based.

The Sharpham Trust has been awarded £177,400 from The National Lottery Heritage Fund to make more space for wildlife and take action for nature. The project, called Wild For People, will enhance the biodiversity of the Sharpham estate. Ambios are a delivery partner in this project and we are running the training and volunteering opportunities.


How many vocabularly sessions will I get?

Trainees and volunteers that come to the farm are either native English speakers, or have good language skills.

There is dedicated time during the training course to introduce you to nature conservation and land management vocabulary.

For international students: The whole of the training will be delivered in English, so you will be hearing and speaking the language everyday, and interacting with native speakers – which is a fantastic way to improve your language skills and boost your confidence. We also recognise that people feel different degrees of confidence with the language, and ensure that they receive as much support as possible.

What research projects can I expect to be involved in?

Research projects will allow you to take a lead on a specific area of interest, focused around rewilding. You will also take part in a combination of field trips, practical conservation projects, surveys, group education work, presentations, farm tasks and specific themed training activities will make up the rest. Details will be made available of the specific science projects that Ambios hope to pursue over this period in due course.

How many days per week will I be learning?

This traineeship is mainly delivered on a 5 day working week, 6-7 hour days. We aim to provide a real and authentic work experience, so there will be some evening and weekend work, as is the way with a career in nature conservation.

Will I have free time to explore the local area, go travelling, visit friends or have time to myself?

There are some scheduled events and work on the evenings and weekends and some social events that we plan, but you will also have free time to explore. Occasional evening and weekend work is scheduled in, which we would encourage you to take up, but this will be explained at the outset.

We are also flexible and should you have pre-determined dates you would like to be away we can usually support these. We do encourage evening meals to be taken together, but obviously you are free to spend that time how you wish.

How close is the nearest town?

Totnes is a 45 minute walk away, though someone from the farm will often be driving that way, so there is regular transport to and from town – 10 minute drive.

The walk is picturesque, traffic-free and safe (but there are a couple of quite steep hills to walk up and down!) We have a few bikes to loan out, too, to speed up the trip.
In Totnes you’ll find nice cafes, pubs and restaurants; independent shops; a supermarket; and a rail station. There are also the usual health services such as doctors, dentists, chemists, opticians, and a
small hospital.



Where will I be staying?

You will be staying in our cosy bunkhouse on the farm itself. You’ll have your own single room, and will share the rest of the accommodation with up to 7 others. There are 2 shower rooms with toilets, and an open-plan kitchen/dining/living room with a log burner, sofas and wooden floors, with plenty of books and DVDs to borrow. We also have 2 living yurts (round wood framed tents) where students also live.

There is a washing machine in the bunkhouse that you are free to use.

You are also welcome to use our yurt training room to access free wi-fi. Internet is limited by our location (satellite internet link), and so you will be asked to turn off all automatic updates, as well as limit usage to surfing, homework, and light personal use. Skype calls can be made, but use a lot of data and use would be restricted. The cafes and public library in Totnes town (mentioned above) offer free wifi.

Address: The Bunkhouse, Lower Sharpham Farm, Ashprington, Devon, TQ9 7DX, England
Farm telephone: +44 (0)1803 732747

What food will I be eating? Do you cater for special dietary needs?

Food is included in your fee and you’ll take it in turns with your fellow trainees to cook. The kitchen in your shared accommodation has the usual domestic appliances such as gas hob, electric oven, kettle and toaster.

Most of the food is organic, in season and we use as much as possible from the farm: eggs, garden produce, lamb, apple juice etc.

Special diets are catered for too (vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free etc). Totnes has plenty of great health food shops that sell foods for special diets so it shouldn’t be a problem. But it is worth noting that you’ll be sharing a kitchen with other people who might be preparing meat, fish and allergens such as nuts and gluten.

Food provided will be sufficient for all key meals, but will not include items like alcohol, confectionary or expensive, out of season items.

We encourage everyone to respect each other’s individual food choices, whatever they may be, and to ensure you come with an open mind to food. You will sample dishes typical to many different cultures, with ingredients you may not have come across previously, or again. However during your time here it is important to be as open to learning about the domestic side of life, and about yourself as much as about the nature conservation subject.

How do I travel to reach you? Which is the closest airport or rail station?

Our closest airports are Bristol (BRS) or Exeter (EXT) from there you can take a train to Totnes, where we can meet you (with advance notice).

Totnes rail station is 2 miles (3.2 km) from the farm. There are regular services to London (3 hours), Bristol (1 hour 50 mins), Exeter (30 minutes), Plymouth (30 minutes) and more.

Find train times and book tickets:

By Bus
You may find it cheaper to travel by bus from Bristol Airport to Drumbridges Roundabout (which is on the A38 road a few miles from Totnes), where we can collect you with advance notice.

Check times:
Book tickets: