Newton Rigg College is a campus in Penrith, which is part of Askham Bryan College. The game and wildlife department there is currently celebrating its 25th year of operations and I was delighted to be invited to experience first-hand what life is like for the game and wildlife students.
The facilities at Newton Rigg are quite breath-taking. The college has its own pheasant and partridge shoot, along with a deer management study site. It also has access to a commercial grouse moor and a rifle range, resulting in students getting a very detailed and in-depth knowledge and understanding of the topics they study. There are lectures on many different aspects of the countryside, field sports and wildlife, all of which teach the students just how vital conservation is for the British countryside. This approach gained national recognition back in 2010 when Newton Rigg won a Purdey Award for the way it emphasised the importance of conservation in its gamekeeping courses. This was a very proud moment for the college and as game and wildlife lecturer Sam Riley-Gunn said: “Conservation is at the core of everything we do.”
Almost all the students live on campus, which means that they get to build a great bond, learning how to help one another and work together in daily tasks. This is key for the students’ assessments as they will be asked to run professional shoot days. These include pheasant, partridge and grouse days, with the students running the day from start to finish for an external team of Guns. I had the absolute pleasure of witnessing one of these days and the students performed impeccably. Although lecturers were there to offer support, the students managed to run a full driven day all by themselves.
Chatting to some of the current crop of student, it was clear to see the enthusiasm of these young adults bursting out as they explained just why they wanted to become the lowland pheasant and highland grouse keepers of the future. This brought a smile to my face as it will be up to these students with the same passion for shooting and the countryside to ensure a sustainable future for shooting. The good practices that are taught to the pupils at Newton Rigg really carve a path in the right direction to a stronger, more knowledgeable future of shooting.
When interviewing the ex-senior lecturer at the college, Curtis Mossop (now BASC’s head of pathways to shooting), I wanted to get an idea of how students cope with living away from home and being put into a rather strange environment. Curtis explained that “a huge amount of time and effort is always personally invested by the dedicated staff to create a strong, professional and respectful staff-student relationship”. On my visit to the college, it was clear to see that the students’ friendship groups were extremely strong as they all live together on campus. This helps them perform better at their studies, and is also good for their mental health, which is something the college is keen to foster. This was demonstrated by the students and staff members shaving their heads to raise awareness of mental health issues among gamekeepers.
Overall, I feel that Newton Rigg College is really leading the way in terms of educating and preparing the new generation of shooters. Without the tireless efforts of such establishments and the keen, enthusiastic students who attend them, shooting would really struggle to progress or even to continue to exist.
Many thanks to Newton Rigg for allowing me to see their amazing set-up.
If you are looking to get into gamekeeping or similar land management/wildlife career, I would strongly recommend you take a look at what Newton Rigg has to offer.