‘A Week in the Life of’

I came to work at Cain Bio-engineering as an intern out of a chance meeting with Simon and his wife Sally at a mutual friend’s birthday party while on holiday abroad.

It was through an immensely varied conversation that ranged from baroque music to the social problems of the Caribbean, that Simon managed to spark in me an interest in Bio-Engineering. A few months later, I found myself halfway through my biology degree at Durham University and having decided to do something useful with my summer, I thought of bio-engineering. I remembered my meeting with Simon and resolved that working at his company would be a productive way to spend my holidays while gaining experience in this fascinating, hybrid branch of engineering. After a good browse on the company’s website, looking through various case studies of different projects Cain has worked on, I became increasingly absorbed in the world of Bio-Engineering. And it so happened that I emailed Simon to ask if they had room for an intern the coming summer! After a friendly and welcoming exchange of emails, I was very kindly offered a place at Cain for a period of seven weeks during late summer 2018.

The idea of the internship was for me to make myself useful to the company, while gathering experience and further understanding of all the various disciplines that play important roles in this area of work. As you might expect, my student’s mind was blown away with the downpour of learning that followed in everything from engineering and design to ecology and even a tad of business management!

The Consulting offices of Cain Bio-engineering are on the top floor of an old Victorian dairy on the sidings of ‘Breamore Halt’ steam train line. The company has been restoring the Old Dairy over the past five years following its relocation to Breamore in 2012.

The semi open-plan offices allow an atmosphere of collaboration in the consultancy, facilitating conversation and the sharing of information between workmates.

The Old Dairy is set in an idyllic landscape close to the Hampshire Avon floodplain.

You can just about make out the Old Dairy roof on the top corner of this photograph taken from Castle Hill in the New Forest National Park

I was even given a mountain-bike to explore the wild and muddy cycle-tracks of the New Forest in my free time!

Anyway, cutting a long story short, on the 23rd of July 2018, I arrived in the village of Breamore in north Hampshire where Cain Bio-Engineering is based. Unsurprisingly, the first couple of days involved much training and following people around to understand the inner workings of the company. Once I had “my feet under the table” I was able to help with small tasks such as filling out purchase orders, opening post, assisting in the preparations for our operations team going off to projects and other such details of the day-to-day running of the business.

It was not long before I accompanied Simon and Matthew, one of our consultants, on a site visit. A couple of days under the dedicated tutoring of Matt involved making all the necessary preparations for the visit, reading notes from previous site visits and looking through project reports to give me an idea of what to expect from a first client-meeting. With all the preps sorted, we headed north on a sunny Wednesday morning to attend the water-engineering needs of a stately home in Shropshire.

A few photos from the site visit

A leat originally created as part of a mill to serve the old ironworks built by the estate in the early 18th Century.

The site of an old forge that once produced iron for the estate

A large weir that was part of the old forge system

Looking over the weir from the bridge

Once there, we were kindly shown around the estate’s grounds and visited the various sites where our client required advice on several water management and erosion concerns (see pictures above).

My first sketch of one of the sites we visited

Typing out of notes and a bit of sketching soon followed back in the office, and I got my first insights on the management of project proposals and the first steps the company takes when going into a new job.

To further expand my understanding of the work Cain does, I was then tasked by Will Stringer, our engineering consultant, with the writing of case studies of recent projects completed by the company. Through this I gained substantial insight of the diverse variety of projects that Cain has been involved in (see below), while developing skills on website marketing and content management.

Some of the project case studies I worked on…


Bio-engineered ‘green-waste’ mooring site on a canal.

Weir removal & habitat restoration for endangered Atlantic salmon on the world-famous river Test at Bossington estate. This was a ‘catchment-scale’ river restoration project supported by the environment agency.

River restoration & pond design for a private landowner within a rural garden landscape

I was then thrown into the world of digital design, drawing out cross sections of topographic surveys to help James Sowden, our professional surveyor & design consultant. With a bit of practice, I was soon given more relevant tasks in the making of the design drawings, which I found was an enjoyable way of making myself useful to the team.

Here I am in my own personal office with a huge drawings desk, working on a garden project design.

Simon put these newly developed illustration skills to work, asking me to help him in developing his new ideas for the Old Dairy expansion into digital drawings.

And of course, it was not long before the time came to get my feet wet and my hands dirty, a central component of being a river doctor! Having had a goodnight’s sleep, I stepped into my wellies and with a packed lunch in my rucksack, I got ready to see our work from under the hard hat assisting the ops team in the installation of one of our designs for the Church of England Commissioners.

The project involved the repair of a breached mill leat which had caused severe flooding of farmland

Getting out of the office and into the field, I believe, was paramount in giving me a more rounded view of the world of Bio-Engineering. Participating in the actual installation of a project showed me how the making of drawings and the writing of method statements in the office is only a part of the wide range of skills and knowledge necessary in this line of work.

Dirty hands and wet feet!

Come the end of the seven weeks, I found hard work paid off with the satisfaction of seeing happy clients and of becoming useful to the team. I left Cain having happily achieved my purposes of exploring the world of bio-engineering and with the nagging knowledge that I still have much to learn!

And now, after whizzing through seven weeks of happy memories, I find it’s only appropriate to end this brief account of my time at Cain with a big thank you to Simon, Sally and the whole team for making this a rich, whole and thoroughly enjoyable experience.

Jeremy Teale

Intern at Cain, Summer 2018

Durham University, Level 3 BSc Biological Sciences student