Blog number two. I’m starting to feel like the new Stephen King already. In my last blog I promised I would talk a little more about what I actually did on a day-to-day basis and how varied different District roles could be. But first, I should note that my geographical exploration of the UK continues, as I will be moving down to the Tilhill Forestry Groombridge office on the Kent/Sussex border in June. My district manager Stuart Pearson, Southern England district manager Julian Ohlsen and our director of forestry Tim Liddon have all been incredibly helpful making this move happen. This support speaks volumes about how Tilhill Forestry values its staff, and takes the growth and development of its employees seriously. As an aside, the main reason for the upcoming move is the desire to bring a long-distance relationship to an end (the long distance, not the relationship), and has nothing to do with any big personality clashes or anything in my current office. That’s a whole different blog.
What I’ve come to realise is how the role of a forest manager is determined as much by climate as it is by anything else. Back in Wales, it rained. Deer, for whatever reason, decided on the whole to avoid the place, which allowed a wide variety of species, including Sitka Spruce, to thrive. This meant that the priority was to maximise productive conifer yields, whilst managing areas at risk of diffuse pollution. Much of my time was dedicated to managing teams of contractors replanting areas of clearfell, and subsequently keeping these areas free of weeds and in good health. Furthermore, as I learnt more about GIS and other mapping systems, I supported other managers in new woodland creation schemes. This included many site visits, often utilising portable GPS devices, mapping out site sensitivities or boundaries.
In Nottinghamshire, it’s far drier, flatter, and more densely populated. The species mix is therefore very different to that in the West, and generally there is a greater focus on pines and broadleaves. Moreover, many of the woodlands we manage are located on private estates, where shooting and a wider variety of land uses can make the forest management – dare I say it – more complicated. My role in this District has generally been more varied, and this again is due to the different types of work that we do. Hedge planting, grass seeding, vegetation removal; these skills supplement the core services that Tilhill can offer.
I have been visiting Kent every couple of weeks over the last few months in preparation for the upcoming move, and so have only had a taste of what my role may be. One aspect that really interests me is sweet chestnut coppicing, something that we don’t really do in the midlands. It’s very likely I’ll be getting far more involved in the harvesting side of things when I move, which I think will be incredibly useful as my career in Forestry progresses. I think it’s incredibly important that a forest manager has an appreciation for the pressures and challenges that harvesting managers face, as well as the other way around.