Managing Sustainable Forests 

A Tilhill Blog by Jay Williams, Assistant Forest Manager in Wales, UK 

As an Assistant Forest Manager in my second year of my graduate training, I aid in the management of forests and woodlands stretching from East Shropshire to North West Wales. I get a pretty diverse experience – with the open landscapes and drier sandy soils of Shropshire contrasting the upland peat bogs and rocky crags beyond Bala. I have truly become aware of the complexities, challenges and nuances that each site presents. There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to sustainable forestry, and this is where the skill and value of professional forest managers lies.  

Forest Fires 

I have unfortunately now witnessed my first forest fire – albeit a relatively minor incident. The drought conditions have created problems. Having discussed the slight smell of smoke with the gamekeeper on the Monday and unable to locate the source, it wasn’t until the Friday that the gamekeeper discovered a flare up and called out the fire brigade.  

Trespassing campers had evidently left embers of a fire that had smouldered through the needle layer and under the roots. The survival of the restock will likely be lower than expected as a result. Fire risk is evidently something that is going to increase in importance over the coming years.   


Timber Harvesting 

Forestry management requires a careful balancing act between financial gain and environmental sustainability. The goal of growing the best quality timber within a site’s parameters is not the only challenge. It provides the justification, necessity and funding for the management of a much wider land unit that often goes unnoticed by the general public.  

Most people can grasp the idea of woodlands capturing and storing carbon, but the idea that these same trees need to be felled, processed into durable products and the ground restocked seems to go unnoticed. The distinction between deforestation (images of illegal logging in the Amazon conjured up) and harvesting, needs to be recognised. The idea of a forest as a mosaic of habitat types and as a never-ending machine that provides carbon storage – both in the soil, growing trees and in the products we make from them needs to be acknowledged if we are to move towards a wood-based culture and achieve net zero.   


Hidden Gems 

Without our sustainable commercial forests, some of the hidden gems I have stumbled across whilst surveying and marking felling boundaries may never have existed or have been preserved.  

I would like to share with you some of my favourite gems – veteran Yew and Oak trees now hundreds of years old. 

I feel privileged to be in a career that enables me to enjoy these magnificent trees.

Veteran Yew Tree


Veteran Oak Tree