A Day In The Life: Vicky Phillips, Associate, Bidwells Rural Division

Bidwells is one of the UK’s leading property consultancies and has been operating for almost 200 years. It has a strong rural presence and manages thousands of square miles of the English and Scottish countryside and coastline, as well as consulting on high-growth forestry, renewables, and agriculture markets. Here Vicky Phillips, Associate in the company's Rural Division, takes us through a typical day at the office.

I’ve often been asked by friends and non-farming professionals just what exactly being a rural surveyor involves. The title itself seems to conjure up a mixture of days off shooting, walking around grand country estates and having the kind of job akin to the agent on Downton Abbey, whereas the reality is perhaps more a cross between the tales of James Herriot or Bridget Jones’ Diary. There is no average day. Some days involve several client visits, for example with landowners on the HS2 route, or valuation inspections and can be followed by days of research and write-up. Having flicked through my diary for the past few weeks, this represents a pretty fair snapshot:

6.30am: Alarm goes off, wake up, mentally run through today’s to-do list, with the first site visit scheduled for 10am, in Buckinghamshire…with 60 miles of rush hour traffic to get through, via the office. Spend a few minutes scanning my wardrobe for an outfit suitable for both a morning walking the muddy fields of the Chilterns and an evening’s networking event, today’s being at Reading University with graduates, professors and professionals. It turns out no outfit on earth is that versatile, and instead throw a suit and shoes on the back seat and wellies in the boot. Roll out the door in land agent classic combo: chinos, blouse, and Chelsea life jacket (Schoffel body warmer for the uninitiated).

8.30am: Arrive at the office to an orange flashing desk phone, listen to messages, check nothing too urgent and make a note of calls I can return on the way to my meeting. Very apparent from our spot on the now swaying 9th floor, that Storm Doris has arrived.

9am:  Set off; grab engineer’s plans, showing location of boreholes across the land. Make phone calls (hands-free): first to local bank manager, to discuss ongoing estate valuation report; second to farming client, discussing the wheat price and input costs. Agree to engage in discussions with landlord’s agent to lower the rent at the next review.

10am: Arrive at client’s farmyard (along with Storm Doris), to meet the client, client’s dog, and the HS2 team. Realise the company car is probably not best suited to off-roading the now rutted farmstead, grab a lift in client’s Landrover – in the dog’s seat – and make our way to the first borehole. Sketch area of damage on sheets of paper flapping furiously in the wind, add scale to sketch by pacing out areas of damage in “1 meter” strides, take photos to substantiate claim. All discuss required works, and conclude the most pragmatic solution is for the client and I to cost a solution using his own farm equipment, rather then use the HS2 contractor’s machinery which is more suited for large scale construction than breaking down compacted soil. Other boreholes inaccessible by car, so plod round in gale force winds for two hours until the whole farm is covered. Move on to second farmstead, second client and repeat process, keeping an eye on the overhead storm clouds.

2pm: Rain started in earnest just as site visits end, jump in car, turn heating up to maximum and attempt to warm up and dry out, whilst tapping ‘find supermarket’ into Sat Nav to grab some sandwiches for lunch on the way back to the office.

3pm: Arrive back in the office, ask how everyone’s day is going, and sit down with team to run through any issues that have arisen that morning. Back at my desk, in addition to the bank valuation, I have a Contract Farming Agreement to finalise. I spend an hour adding field schedules and plans before printing, binding and posting to the client.

4pm: Need to leave office and head to evening event. Remember that I haven’t filled my timesheet in, so sit there for 10 minutes recording the day thus far in 0.1 hourly intervals. Not my favourite activity but surveying, like law and accountancy, works on charging time and its much easier and more accurate to record as you go. Run to the loos and change out of the now muddy chinos etc. into a clean suit.

4.20pm: Actually leave the office, and set off to evening learning/networking event.

5.30pm: Arrive at Reading Uni. Realise that in the 10 years since graduating campus it has been entirely re-built and I have no idea where the Real Estate Department now lives; I phone my colleague who is already on site, send apologies for lateness and finally meet up with everyone. Spend an hour with our former lecturers and discuss ways the Industry can work with the University. One way is the Mentee/Mentor Scheme, which we do, as it pairs you up with a current graduate and provides a ‘day in the life’ type opportunity to discuss work experience, CV’s, the average day, and perhaps to give an angle on current essays or dissertation topics.

6.30pm-7.30pm: Evening lecture starts. There are often evening events, committee meetings, CPD and technical learning, professional networking evenings, quizzes or drinks receptions and dinners.

7.30-8.30pm: Drive home, receive call from a graduate surveyor who is in the process of submitting their final coursework and submissions for the RICS Assessment of Professional Competence (APC), which culminates in an hour-long panel interview determining whether or not you can become a Member of the RICS, and a Chartered Surveyor. We discuss technical aspects of their submission and final amendments before agreeing to submit. Arrive home, make notes: to follow-up on crop loss claim in the next few days, finish bank valuation, and go through colleague’s final submissions before the deadline.

Another busy day!

To find out more about Bidwells visit www.bidwells.co.uk

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