Our People – Q & A with Regional Harvesting Manager Alan Christison

Alan Christison is Tilhill Forestry’s Regional Harvesting Manager for the Central Region covering an area from Yorkshire to Rannoch.

We interviewed him to find out more about the role he plays within the company and our harvesting business:

Q. What is your job role?

A. My role is to oversee and manage the harvesting activities of Tilhill Forestry’s Central Harvesting Region which generates approximately 650,000 tonnes of timber each year from standing sales. In addition, the Region’s team is also responsible for the procurement and supply of sawlogs to the BSW sawmills at Petersmuir, Dalbeattie and Carlisle.


Q. What was your journey before becoming a manager?

A. I developed an interest in forestry from the age of thirteen while in second year at Secondary School. This led me to the University of Aberdeen to study forestry where I graduated in 1984 with a BSc (Hons) Forestry degree.  Prior to commencement of my studies and to gain practical experience, I worked for the Forestry Commission at Strathyre Forest as an unskilled forest worker.

I started work with Tilhill Forestry in 1984 as a contractor working for the Lhanbryde office, and then as an Assistant Branch Manager in Jedburgh from 1985 until 1990 (Yes that really was my title!). During my time in Jedburgh, I gained valuable experience in upland afforestation in the Border hillsand the management of mixed lowland woodland in Northumberland. My remit also included farm and estate woodland establishment and managementand I became a Member of the Institute of Chartered Forester.

Following changes to the support mechanism for forestry in 1988, I decided to look for a change of career direction. This led me to Adam Wilson & Sons Ltd of Troon where I spent 18 years, first as Forest Operations Manager and then Forestry Director. Wilson’s were a 5th generation family sawmilling company established in the 1850’s, who owned and managed forests and tenanted farms, carried out primary sawmilling in several locations through Ayrshire and Argyll, were timber and general builder’s merchants and designed and manufactured timber framed house kits. During my time at Wilson’s, I was responsible for log procurement and for the management of the company properties.

Adam Wilson’s were sold to Glennon Brothers of Longford, Ireland in April 2008 which prompted me once again to seek out change and, in January 2009, I returned to Tilhill Forestry to take up the role as Regional Manager responsible for the Company’s timber harvesting activity in Scotland.


Q. Tell us about the changes in the company from 1984 to now.

A. The people and faces certainly have changed as has the political and social backdrop to forestry.There have also been significant changes in forest ownership. Tilhill itself has undergone 4 changes in ownership and name, and the nature of our business has varied considerably over the period. However, in some senses there has been little change. The Company’s positive ethos and high professional standards remain a constant. Forest managers have at their heart a desire to do the best for their clients and take pride in providing a high quality, professional service.

Of course, now we are very much integrated into the timber processing side of the industry with BSW. Our activities cover the full extent of the supply chain and we are very much closer to the largest consumer of sawlogs in the UK. 100% of BSW UK sawmill’s raw material procurement falls within Tilhill’s responsibility and for me, with Petersmuir, Carlisle and Dalbeattie in my patch, the challenge is great and the motivation to deliver is strong. The combined requirement of these three mills is approximately half of BSW’s total annual timber consumption in the UK. Our customers extend beyond the BSW mills though and include UPM Caledonian at Irvine and most of the third party processors active in the region.


Q. What do you enjoy most about your role?

A. Apart from the challenge and motivation that comes from the scope and scale of my responsibilities, I enjoy working with a diverse range of individuals who are commercially driven and willing to overcome the many and varied challenges associated with harvesting standing timber We work as a team and that is satisfying. We interact with forest owners and managers, contractors and their employees, regulators and purchasers of timber. I get satisfaction from a job well done, a satisfied client or customer and achieving or exceeding targets.


Q. What do you feel makes Tilhill Forestry a great company to work for

A. Tilhill Forestry’s major strength is the quality of its people. The Company offers a fantastic opportunity for young foresters to gain experience, develop new skills and accept new responsibilities today, as it did for me in 1984. Tilhill Forestry aims to operate to high, professional standards, aspiring to be the leader within the Forest Industry. For these reasons, I think Tilhill is a great company to work for.