When Bo’ness student Bronwen Winter was considering a career change she looked to her grandmother for inspiration and hasn’t looked back.
Having spent many a happy day in her grandmother Maureen Cheeseman’s garden, she decided to study Countryside Management at Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC). Now Bronwen has just completed an HND at the Oatridge campus and is continuing on to do a Masters degree.
“When I left high school, I studied Graphic Design for two years and realised that I didn’t want to spend my student and working life indoors,” said the 25-year-old.
“I’ve always had a love for the natural world and pretty much grew up in my grandmother’s garden. I learned a lot from her, and it gave me an appreciation for life and living things, and so choosing to study the course was the career change that I both wanted and needed.”
As part of her course, Bronwen spent two years as a volunteer ranger at Beecraigs, Polkemmet, and Almondell and Calderwood Country Parks, learning practical skills such as path work, habitat management and badger surveying. She added: “Being able to volunteer each week really helped to strengthen what I was learning in class as I was carrying out different practical tasks each week, giving me valuable field experience.”
Bronwen was also able to take advantage of placements abroad, studying in Slovenia for a month in her first year, learning about sustainable farming practices and traditional skills. And in Romania in her second year on an archaeology and traditional skills placement.
Returning to study after several years out of the classroom brought a few challenges. But the toughest for Bronwen came after her beloved grandmother died in her final year. “She was an amazing woman, and the inspiration behind my love for the natural world,” said Bronwen.
“Throughout my studies, she would help me with plant and animal ID and continually amaze me with how much she knew. It was very difficult to find the motivation to complete coursework after this, but I wanted to continue studying something that she and I both loved.
“My friends and course tutor were understanding and gave support with hand-ins, which definitely helped me to complete the course.”
Bronwen was awarded the SRUC prize for best second year student in Countryside Management and, following the graduation ceremony at Glasgow University’s Bute Hall, has headed back to Romania to stay with her host family and help on the farm and in the vineyard. She will return to SRUC in September to start the MSc Countryside Management course.
“I am looking forward to the experiences that will bring,” she said.