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Surveying the hidden estate

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Archaeology, Belize, Cyprus, Kenya, Land Management, Working at DIO

Landscape of the St Giles' Church in Imber in Salisbury Plain. The church is a scheduled monument that DIO manages and protects.
The St Giles' Church in Imber, Salisbury Plain is an example of a scheduled monument that DIO manages and protects [Crown Copyright/MOD 2018]
I started my career as a chartered surveyor in a very conventional way. I followed the advice of my tutors and applied to all ‘big six’ firms I was directed to, and so my journey began. After 4 years of being under a corporate banner I was getting itchy feet. I had been pigeon-holed into an area of surveying I was not interested in and was desperate to stretch my wings. It was my husband who showed me the advert for a DIO Rural Estate Surveyor. I had never considered working in the public sector before, but after some research I applied.

Variety is the spice of life

The work covers a huge spectrum which includes many UK and European designations, historic sites and quirky landmarks. On my patch alone I deal with 17 Sites of Special Scientific Interest, 22 Scheduled Ancient Monuments and 4 historic churches. As well as this there’s every land type you can think of, from wetlands and mudflats and heathland to intensively farmed arable land.

The UK estate extends to 431,000 hectares of land of which approximately 224,000 hectares is owned by the MOD and we have rights over a further 207,000 hectares. I am based in the Eastern region which includes 23,000 hectares of land. We cover sites in Norfolk, Essex and Lincolnshire and have unprecedented access to some of the most beautiful landscape in East Anglia. I have stood on the top of a Breckland Hill and looked down to the setting of the closing scene of the original Dad’s Army, stood outside my office to hear practise artillery rounds whistle overhead and stood on the beach in Lincolnshire and saw newborn grey seal pups. A particular highlight in the calendar is arranging the Household Cavalry Annual Summer Camp, which involves organising 300 personnel and 100 horses for a month-long exercise which can involve anything from manure removal to building a cross country course.

The Knightsbridge based Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment moved horses to Bodney Camp in Norfolk to conduct their annual Regimental Training Camp. The prospect of a month in the country away from the rigours of ceremonial duty is the highlight of the Cavalry year. Bodney Camp and the North Norfolk coast provide the open space to enable a wide range of training to take place which would be impossible to deliver in central London. The Cavalrymen will undergo advanced riding techniques, weapons handling, farriery training, crowd training, military fitness tests, participate in tent pegging, sword, lance and pistol drill, cross country riding and show jumping.
The Knightsbridge based Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment conducting their annual Regimental Training Camp. [Crown Copyright/MOD 2014]

Conservation is immensely important to the MOD. By the nature of the MOD’s activities there has been very little disturbance to many species which elsewhere have had to deal with developments, industrial agriculture and increased human movement. I have had the joy of working with many different conservationists to better manage and conserve the many rare species which live on MOD land.

Opportunity abroad

For those who like the sand between their toes, there are many opportunities to travel with DIO. There are offices in Gibraltar, Germany and Cyprus. Our surveyors who work abroad are based in Cambridgeshire and travel to Kenya, Nepal, Brunei and many more countries.

Sun, sea and sand at Happy Valley in Cyprus [Crown Copyright/MOD 2016]
The breadth of work available has been a revelation to me, as has the incredible knowledge of DIO staff. In a corporate setting it is common for the interesting work to move to specialist departments, but at DIO you are able to get involved with projects right through to fruition. With the autonomy to expand your horizons you could surprise yourself - I certainly have!

My advice to anyone sitting at their computer and wondering if there is anything better out there is to consider applying to DIO. There are huge benefits beyond the work ,including the pension scheme, alternative working patterns and competitive maternity and paternity leave.

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