Pilgrims has gone from strength to strength and over the years it has evolved into a two site practice employing 5 full-time vets, as well as an amazing staff team. As a local practice serving Dorset and New Forest, we are very proud of the part our Pilgrims team plays within the local community.
Luke Gamble BVSc DVM&S FRCVSPractice Principal
Pilgrims was a childhood ambition of Luke’s and has grounded, inspired and shaped him as a vet.
Having qualified from Bristol in 1999, Luke began his career in the West Country before undertaking a post-graduate scholarship in large animal medicine and surgery at Cambridge University.
Luke worked in a variety of practices around the UK to develop his experience working with different species (equine, farm, wildlife and companion animal) before setting up Pilgrims at the end of 2004. Luke also set up an emergency night service in Bournemouth which he ran for eight years (covering 28 practices) and was excellent grounding for him to develop his skills in emergency surgery and critical care.
Luke has won the British Small Animal Veterinary Association Alf Wight Memorial Award (James Herriot Award) given to one vet in the UK annually for outstanding contributions in the field of animal welfare, the International Jeanne Marchig Animal Welfare Award, CEVA charity professional of the year, IFAW Vet of the Year and the 2016 WSAVA Global One Health Award. Luke has also been asked to sit on an expert panel for the World Health Organisation (WHO) regarding the International Control of Neglected Zoonotic Diseases. He featured on the Independent on Sunday’s New Years list of 101 Inspirational Great Britons and was awarded Honorary Degree of Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and Surgery by Edinburgh University in recognition of pioneering leadership in the field of animal welfare.
In 2018 Luke was made a Fellow of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons for meritorious contributions to the profession. Fellowship is the highest status of membership of the College and is awarded for outstanding contributions to the veterinary profession.
Luke now works two days a week for the practice and is based at our Cranborne surgery. His wife, Cordelia, also an experienced small animal vet often covers for Luke when he is away.
Outside of work, Luke has written a couple of books and done some TV work for Sky One, Animal Planet and National Geographic following his charitable veterinary work around the world in extreme situations. Luke lectures internationally on animal welfare and veterinary subjects. He is the ideal one to see if you suspect your pet is turning rabid. Luke’s website is here: Luke Gamble
James Hood BSc BVSc MRCVSPartner
James grew up in Malawi and qualified from the University of Pretoria in South Africa.
Having worked for a busy mixed practice in South Africa for a couple of years where he gained invaluable experience in all aspects of mixed practice work, particularly in the equine racing industry and small animal surgery, James travelled to the UK to seek adventure and fortune.
After working as a locum in Surrey for a few months James received a call from Luke and was subsequently coerced into joining the team at Pilgrims in April 2012.
With a broad experience in farm, equine, small animal and exotics, James helped to drive the practice forward and establish its reputation as a leading first opinion mixed practice.
Dreams can come true and James became a full partner in the practice in February 2013. In his holidays, James has helped Luke and his charities with rabies projects in Africa and India and was also dispatched to health check and assess some lions WVS rescued in Armenia – proving his adaptability, versatility and the fact he can be talked into most things.
James is ideal to see if you want a want a steady competent pair of hands, like a straightforward approach and perhaps need help with something a bit extreme…
Nikki Bentley BSc BVetMed MRCVSPartner
Nikki graduated in 2007 from the RVC in London and promptly headed to the wild woolly hills of North Wales, which she called home for three years. Here she gained an invaluable grounding in dairy, beef, sheep and small animal work while still seeing the odd welsh mountain pony. After locuming around the UK in mixed and emergency practices and time abroad, volunteering as a vet for the Tibet Charity and working in a busy New Zealand small animal hospital, Nikki joined Pilgrims in July 2012.
Her main interests are soft tissue surgery and farm reproduction and she enjoys good food and wine, preferably after a muddy walk in the forest with her spaniel.
Nikki became a partner of Pilgrims in 2013 and heads up the small animal side of the practice. She has an in depth knowledge of both medicine and surgery as well as overseeing much of the admin and day-to-day management of the practice.
Nikki is ideal to see if you want an honest and objective opinion about a complicated medicine case with your dog or cat. She is also the best person to speak to regarding any account query, invoice, instalment plan, insurance enquiry or complaint. With a superb all round competence in handling anything Pilgrims related, the only thing Nikki can’t do is edit this page of the website.
Saara Harma BVSc MRCVSEquine Vet
Saara was born and raised in Washington D.C. and has been surrounded by horses before she could walk.
Having graduated from Liverpool University in 2000, Saara’s first job was working in a mixed practice in Yorkshire. After her first year, she moved into the role of senior equine assistant and has remained in equine practice ever since.
Having subsequently locumed all over the country, Saara spent the last five years working in Essex, where she handled a variety of clients from children’s ponies to international showjumpers.
Saara has a clear affinity and manner with horses, while her passion for the job shines through. Her professional interests include lameness and dentistry, and when not on duty, Saara is a hardcore gamer, loves rock and keeps pet rats (which are hugely under rated).
Saara is ideal to see if you have a sick horse, need a vetting or in depth equine advice and tips. She is also able to play the guitar.
Sarah Davison BVM+S BSc MRCVSVeterinarian
Sarah graduated from Edinburgh University in 2010 and spent her first three years working as a vet in Australia. In between beach barbecues and crocodile wrestling, Sarah cut her teeth working with a wide variety of species before heading back home.
On her joyous return to the UK, Sarah worked in mixed practice in Sussex for a year before achieving her career ambition of joining Pilgrims in 2015.
Sarah works on our small animal and farm side and, although a fantastic generalist, she has a special interest in soft tissue surgery. Her calm and professional approach is peppered with wit and hugely appreciated by our team.
Sarah is ideal to see if you want an experienced and competent vet to champion the welfare of your pet. She also loves her picture being taken.
Kate Baker BVM&S MRCVSVeterinarian
Having qualified from Edinburgh university with distinction in 2004, Kate subsequently moved to the south coast to work with small animals at 3 very different practices around Bournemouth and Salisbury. She has a special interest in complex medical cases and ultrasound scanning as well as pain management, acupuncture and regenerative medicine. She is a member of the Western Veterinary Acupuncture Group and her own dog was the first dog in the area to be treated with pioneering stem cell therapy for joint disease. In her spare time, she likes to go horse riding, spend time with her family and go for dog walks in the forest (and sometimes the cat will go for walks too!)
Helen Carmichael BSc BVSc MRCVSVeterinarian
On graduating from Bristol University Helen spent two years gaining experience in a busy small animal hospital in Hampshire before embarking overseas to work as a vet in the Cook Islands and Singapore. On returning to the UK she worked in London for 7 years before moving back to the countryside with her family. Since then Helen has worked as a locum in various practices before starting at Pilgrims.
When not working Helen has a secret passion for upholstery as well as a love of running and being outdoors, whatever the weather!
Nikki Manston RVN GradDipAVNHead Nurse
Ever energetic, Nikki joined us from a specialist referral hospital to lead our nursing team and enjoy the variety of work available at Pilgrims.
Uber qualified with over twenty years nursing experience, Nikki has a Diploma in Advanced Veterinary Nursing. Nikki has transformed the standard of care our in-patients receive (from great to jaw droppingly amazing), and is a qualified veterinary nurse trainer.
An accomplished equestrian, Nikki additionally relishes assisting the equine vets with procedures out on yard and seems to manage the work of ten during her working day. She is subsequently the most economical member of staff we have.
Nikki is ideal to see if you want practical, friendly and knowledgeable advice about just about anything animal related. Approachable, supportive and generous, Nikki has inspired all of us at the practice in ensuring we give the animals under our care our absolute best.
Helen Pilling RVNVeterinary Nurse
With 25 years experience as a qualified veterinary nurse, Helen brings a wealth of experience to Pilgrims as well as an ever cheerful and pragmatic approach. Helen works part time, can be seen at both branches and enjoys travel and yoga when not raising her young family. One particular weekly highlight for Helen is operating on Wednesdays at Cranborne with the crack team based there.
Helen is a huge asset to the practice. Having lived in the area for most of her life, Helen knows many of our clients and we’re lucky to have her support and help on the days she is with us. Helen is ideal to see if you want nutritional advice, support or general nursing tips on the health and welfare of your pet.
Katie Gulliver BScAccounts and Administration Manager
Katie joined Pilgrims in 2011 as an Animal Nursing Assistant after completing an honours degree in Animal Management.
Whilst fantastic in this role, it rapidly became apparent that Katie was super organised with a head for figures. Clearly excelling at her administrative duties, Katie took the lead on our reception protocols and policies, implementing new systems whilst ever increasing her responsibilities.
Katie manages our client accounts and debt, insurance claims, wellness plans and book-keeping. In short, whilst more behind the scenes, it is fair to say that without Katie, we would be stuck.
Sophie EwensTrainee Veterinary Nurse
Sophie joined the team in 2016 and having proved herself a natural with animals as well as a general fantastic asset to the running of the practice, we managed to persuade her to train as a Veterinary Nurse!
As Pilgrims is a registered veterinary nurse training practice, as accredited by both the RVCS and the BVNA, Sophie is now on year one of her two year course to qualify. Lots of exams along the way but with her dedication, compassion and attention to detail, she has everything going for her in achieving this challenging goal. Go Sophie!!!!