Meet the Team – Nick McDonald, Estate Land Manager

“The environment is now top of every Estate’s agenda, and at Cowdray we are working hard to do everything we can in the fight against climate change and to reverse environmental decline.”

  1. What is your role on the Estate?

My role on the Estate encompasses a wide range of land management responsibilities. While protecting the environment and looking after the land has always been key at Cowdray, there are many more projects and changes which can be implemented to help in the fight against climate change.

As Estate Land Manager, I am researching and overseeing a diversity of environmental projects to ensure that we play our part in the green recovery. As well as the challenges posed by climate change, farming and land management has also been affected by Britain leaving the EU and I am looking at helping the Estate navigate through these changes.

I am also responsible for more day-to-day issues such as mapping, filming enquiries, assisting the property team with Estate management duties specifically in relation to land based issues as well as helping to manage fishing trips and wildlife tours.

  1. What first attracted you to work at Cowdray?

I started at Cowdray as a contractor eight years ago in June 2014 – I was initially employed for three months to help during the peak polo season. After the Gold Cup, I stayed on for 18 months in a self-employed role before being offered a staff role managing the newly created Parks and Gardens team.

  1. How has your role changed over time?

After heading up the Parks and Gardens team, I made a natural progression to work alongside the property department. In the last two years, my role has become more environment based.


  1. What environmental projects are you most excited by?

I am involved in several exciting projects.

We are currently researching a river restoration project over the 91/2-kilometre stretch of the River Rother which Cowdray owns. The aim will be to allow the river to flood earlier to store and filter more water, manage the floodplain in a way that increases biodiversity and carry out in channel habitat enhancement as well as allowing the public better access to the river and encouraging children to learn more about natural habitats.

We are working with Sussex University carrying out a study on wild bee colonies across the Estate and have implemented a reduced mowing scheme which currently focuses on the verges along the A272. By allowing the verges to grow longer and to flower, we are creating a natural habitat where insects can flourish.

There is also a Hedge Restoration Plan as hedges provide a valuable corridor for nature. Cowdray Home Farm has approximately 30 kilometres of hedges which are an incredible asset. We are looking at restoring our hedges to the best condition they can be through incremental cutting, laying, and coppicing.

We are also installing electric charging points for vehicles initially at the Farm Shop and Golf Club, but that will then be expanded across the Estate to support the transition of our fleet vehicles to EVs. I am also responsible for working with various departments to find alternative ways of disposing and using waste on the Estate.

One project that has is ongoing throughout the year is our Estate-wide compost initiative which you can learn more about here.

  1. Do you have any ideas for the future direction of the Estate in relation to your role?

The environment is now top of every Estate’s agenda, and at Cowdray we are working hard to do everything we can in the fight against climate change and to reverse environmental decline.

There are plans to expand the Land and Environment team to help implement environmental changes across the Estate. It is an exciting area of the business to be involved in and I feel proud of my role and of Cowdray’s commitment to the environment. A lot of what we are doing now is not new, it is just being implemented more quickly.

  1. Tell us about your involvement in fly-fishing.

At Cowdray, we have about six kilometres of the River Rother that can be fished, with a small syndicate of about 20 members. We offer fishing experiences to the public for either one or two people. I manage these trips ensuring that our customers are happy, the banks are in good condition and that there is enough fish in the river.

We do stock with brown trout but are focussed on supporting the wild fish population.

  1. And filming?

We have many enquiries about filming at Cowdray as there are such a diverse range of locations across the Estate. These include event venues, cottages, quarries, forests, vacant barns, off track roads, rivers, and lakes. I oversee logistical issues on the ground from meeting location managers to overseeing the actual shoot on the ground.

  1. Where is your favourite place on the Estate?

My favourite place on the Estate is down by the river – it is so quiet, and you don’t see anyone there. Be it winter or summer, the area is filled with natural life, and you can hear the birds singing.

I feel very lucky as through my role I can visit all corners of the Estate and I love being out and about.

  1. Do you have any particularly memorable moments while working at Cowdray?

Filming is always exciting to be involved in; the crews can spend weeks setting up for just a few seconds of filming but it’s always exciting when they shout: ‘Action!’. We’ve had a medieval building built and then burnt down, ‘explosions’ at the Ruins and Top Gear racing around our private grounds.

One memorable moment was a concept commercial for Direct Line. The concept was that in the future drones could be called up on an app to help guide you home at night. The shoot involved multiple drones flying over some of our most precious assets such as Cowdray House and the Ruins.

  1. What are your interests outside work?

I love running and skiing, and my young family keeps me entertained!

I am also heading up the Cowdray bee keeping team, which currently consists of five people. We look after three hives and are hoping to expand that this summer. We have a mentor who teaches us, and we are hoping for lots of honey this summer!

  1. Where do you live?

I live in Angmering, the other side of Arundel, where I have lived all my life apart from a short time in Hampshire and the French Alps.

  1. Where is your favourite place to go on holiday?

I’m not a hot holiday person – I love to go skiing.

  1. Outside work, what means the most to you?

My wife and two children. And Woody, my Fox Red Labrador.

  1. What can’t you live without?

The outdoors – I’ve lived between the South Downs and the sea all my life and couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.




Written by Matilda Reid.

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