5 Lessons To Be Learnt in Forest Management

A blog by By Paige Brown, Tilhill Assistant Forest Manager and Forestry Graduate, North Scotland 

Learning on the job: 

Forestry is, at its core, about trees. We plant them, we grow them, we cut them down and we turn them into useable products. But this production line is fully dependent on an industry of people working together to make sure everything runs smoothly and safely. The skills we require as people to be able to do this are not always taught in school, or at university or college. They’re best learnt on the job. So below are five of the most valuable lessons I have learnt that have very little to do with the actual trees themselves but have still helped me grow into a better forester and find my place within the industry. 

Lesson 1: Ask the question


First, I’m not sure there’s a nicer bunch of people than those that work in forestry. Or maybe I’m just biased, but we’re great. Everybody wants to help you out, whether that be your line manager, your business support team, or contractors you’re working with. Everyone being so lovely means that any question you have, someone will be happy to answer it or at least direct you to a person that can answer it. So, lesson one: ask the question. Even if you can’t fully understand what the question is, or how to ask, just try. Send an email, pick up the phone, just always be sure to communicate.  

Lesson 2: Learn from contractors and everyone around you

Instructing operations, you are not familiar with can be overwhelming, whether this be fencing, roading, ground preparation, anything at all. Nobody expects you to know everything at the very beginning, but my advice is not only to ask your colleagues for guidance but make the effort to learn from the contractors. We rely heavily upon contractors and having a greater understanding of the way they carry out operations, their limitations and how they make decisions, builds better relationships and results in safer, more effective work planning.    

Lesson 3: Keep a site diary and keep it up to date

A site diary is invaluable. Write everything in it, date it, keep photos, write it on paper, write it with the help of technology, share it with someone. Whatever, and however, just keep one! It seems tempting to think you’ll just be able to remember something or what someone said, but one day your memory might not be so great, or a conversation gets interpreted differently by different parties, or you need dated evidence. The importance of a paper trail is crucial in forestry.  

Lesson 4: Work together

The forestry grant system can seem overwhelming, but it’s not too hard with a bit of patience, practice, and with reference to lesson one, asking for guidance. Take some time to familiarise yourself with the language used, the phrases and terms in place and what they all mean. Read through previous applications, save example maps, and if you still have questions, email your local regulatory team. As a Woodland Officer once said in response to a panicked email about tree species and suitability, they are not a computer says no organisation, it is always worth getting in touch. Forestry is about working together, not against each other. 

Lesson 5: Learn from your mistakes

Lastly, mistakes will turn into your biggest lessons, as with anything in life. Don’t miss out on something just because you’re afraid you’ll do it wrong. If you do make a mistake, see it as an opportunity, not a failure. Just don’t forget to communicate the mistake. Let someone know if something hasn’t gone quite right, there will be someone able to help you if you work through it together. As is becoming a theme throughout these lessons, communication is key.   

And just one final tip, perhaps the most life changing of all – invest in a good thermos flask for the winter months for hot tea, hot soup, hot anything. You won’t regret it.