Student gamekeepers and wounded veterans collaborate in new project

Trainee Gamekeepers and wounded service veterans will partner up in a new project from North Highland College UHI’s Gamekeeping department.

The project titled Recover, Experience, Discover (RED) will offer veterans the opportunity to participate in field sport events organised and led by North Highland College UHI Gamekeeping students in remote and challenging countryside throughout Scotland.

The project was recently trialled at Ardverikie Estate near Laggan when 18-year-old trainee Gamekeeper Ewan MacDonald, from Strontian in Lochaber, was tasked with taking former Royal Marine Paul Barratt on a deer stalk. Paul, from Manchester, served as a First Class Mountain Leader with the Marines and lost his leg in Afghanistan in 2008 when he knelt on an unexploded bomb. Paul now has a prosthetic leg, which provided Ewan with additional challenges whilst planning the excursion.

Ewan said:

"I felt pretty nervous when I met Paul for the first time. I had to devise a route for the shoot which I thought would be more suitable for his disability. We covered about 2 miles over some rough terrain but other than the odd stumble, Paul handled it fine. We only had a short time together so the biggest challenge was covering as much ground as possible in the time we had. It was a bit daunting but I really enjoyed looking after him for the day and taking him through the experience."

RED will be officially launched next summer when the new intake of student Gamekeepers begin their training. Gamekeeping lecturer David Olds said:

"This is a very important and unique opportunity for our students to gain essential employability skills such as planning, communication, responsibility and organisational skills whilst also taking in to consideration the needs of varying abilities within our communities; especially our wounded veterans who have dedicated so much of their lives to ensure the everyday freedom that we enjoy and take for granted. Throughout the experiences, our students will be able to promote the many benefits of the 'natural health service' when out on the estates with the veterans whilst also being able to give something back to the men and women who have had life-changing injuries whilst fighting for our country."

It is hoped that all trainee gamekeepers will be able to participate in the project, which is highly recommended by Ewan after his recent experience. Ewan said:

"It’s been a big learning curve in my trainee experience and has made me think about how much willingness and confidence people can have after being through so much. Once other trainee gamekeepers get involved it will also show them how much they can achieve themselves and help people like Paul achieve more as well."

North Highland College UHI is one of thirteen academic partners across the University of the Highlands and Islands. See more information about Gamekeeping courses with North Highland College UHI.