A Charity offering personal help and advice for all serving and former members of the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, Royal Fleet Auxiliary, their Reserves and Families


Published 21/03/2018 10:53:00, by Marina Maher

A military charity and College in Devon joined forces to host a fundraising event with famous gluten free sausage producer The Black Farmer leading proceedings.

The Black Farmer, otherwise known as Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones, shared how despite leaving school with no qualifications and a short-lived career in the Army, he went on to carve himself successful careers in catering, television and PR. 

He also bought a farm in Devon and launched the gluten free brand The Black Farmer, which is now worth £15m.

His story fits in with HighGround’s mission to help military personnel transition to civilian life, while host Bicton College has long been an advocate of giving people the necessary skills and training to forge successful careers. 

“I was delighted to be invited to the fundraising event and to tell my story,” Wilfred explained. 
“I know how therapeutic working in a land based environment is and how it can be the perfect career path for ex service personnel.” 

HighGround runs Rural Weeks held at Bicton College, which give an introduction and insight into career opportunities with the equine and agriculture industry, rural estate management, arboriculture, gamekeeping, commercial horticulture, forestry, engineering and plant operations, rural estate management, greenkeeping and running a smallholding.  

“These residential weeks are a superb way of finding out which is the right path to take and I hope companies will support them,” Wilfred added. 

Approximately 14,000 members of the Armed Forces leave HM armed forces every year and it is well recognised that a critical component of a successful transition to civilian life for most is gaining employment.    

Anna Baker Cresswell has been working in the military charity sector for over a decade, and she became aware of the lack of opportunities for those leaving the military to find help and support to access employment opportunities in the land-based sector.

Aware also of the chronic shortages of skilled manpower in industries such as Agriculture, Horticulture and Forestry, with funding from the CLA Charitable Trust, the RAF Benevolent Fund and Lloyd’s Patriotic Fund, Anna piloted Rural Weeks at Plumpton College in autumn 2014, moving to Bicton College in 2017.

Speaking on behalf of HighGround, Anna said “Wilfred captivated his audience by sharing his forthright and passionate views on entrepreneurship and UK farming, and his belief in the ability to turn customers into sales force”.   

“We had a fantastic first year at Bicton in 2017 when we delivered eight Rural Weeks to 72 serving personnel and veterans who we call HighGrounders,” she continued.  

“The feedback has been terrific and in 2018 we want to not just increase the number of Rural Weeks to 10, but also to begin to roll out the concept to other agricultural colleges throughout the UK.”

The cost of these residential weeks is £1,360 per person so if a HighGrounder is still a serving member of the Armed Forces, and uses their resettlement allowance to fund their Rural Week, there is still a shortfall of £376, according to Anna. 

“We are committed to raising funds so we can develop our Rural Weeks for Service Leavers and Veterans and we are working with referral agencies such as Walking With the Wounded, the Royal Marines Charity and the Service benevolent funds to help them secure funding,” she added. 

HighGround works tirelessly to raise money to fund the attendance to Rural Weeks both for serving and ex-military personnel and as part of their fundraising activities, they hosted an event at Bicton College on 14th March attended by local businesses, aimed at raising awareness and sponsorship.

Speaking on behalf of Bicton College, Phil Le Grice, Principal said “We were delighted that HighGround chose Bicton College at East Budleigh to not only host the Rural Weeks but to raise awareness and hopefully help them to secure sponsorship.”

Anna concluded by saying “With the South West’s link to both the military and rural community, and the superb knowledge of the resident lecturers Bicton College was the natural choice for us!”


  1. For more information about HighGround please contact Anna Baker Cresswell anna@highground-uk.org  or 07951 495272
  2. For more information about Bicton College please contact  

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