Resilient Forests Managed by Resilient People!

A blog by Tilhill’s Central Borders Regional Manager, Eddie Addis.

I’m not known for my blogging but in this ‘Strange New World’, as one of the South Scotland managers would say, I thought why not? 

The last few months have been surreal by anyone’s measure, and that is a gross understatement. To date I just feel privileged that my friends, family and loved ones are all well and doing their best to support each other through these challenging times. I have been actively limiting my exposure to media as the older I get (some may say cynical), and the more I read, the more it becomes apparent that a good story doesn’t always deliver the best, or most accurate message and can add unnecessary stress and anxiety above that which we all face on a daily basis.  

In my work life, over the past few years the word ‘resilience’ has become a common fixture. Mainly in reference to the forests and woodland we manage, and ensuring we are doing our best to future proof them. This has largely been driven by a significant rise in pests and diseases in the UK and concerns over climate change. It is a good challenge to be faced with and one that is met with varying degrees of cynicism and resistance from all parts of society. As everyone has their own ideas how, and for what, the lungs of our country should be managed. 

The situation we currently find ourselves in has, however, made me look at resilience again. Not in terms of the forest we manage, but who manages them for us, our staff and contractors. Folk who work in forestry generally are quite independent, flexible and innovative people, but also enjoy the company of others and can regularly be seen standing in groups, in the office or out in the woods catching up on what’s going on both in the professional and personal bubbles we all inhabit. I have always enjoyed this aspect of the industry; the ability to spend hours on your own immersed in whatever project is occupying your mind at that time or spending some time with others who challenge your ideas, perceptions and the way you have done things for a long time. I have been energised by seeing Graduate Assistant Managers, who are just starting out on their forestry journeys getting managers with decades of forestry experience to change the way they approach or undertake day to day tasks. I am equally as impressed by the experienced (tactically avoiding the words older or senior) managers accepting this guidance and being willing to change.  

The last few weeks have been eye opening in so many ways and I continue to be impressed by the levels of resilience being shown by all our staff and contractors in continuing to keep the industry moving whilst following the essential Covid 19 guidance. We have had to adapt our work practices massively and quickly, both office-based tasks and in the field, and it has been done with very little complaint or disruption to our business.  

Covid 19 has affected all parts of the business. Admin teams and Head Office staff who are working remotely and yet still managing to keep the business running, the money coming in, contractors and suppliers paid; and managers in line; IT department, working under huge pressure and expectation, but have delivered time after time to ensure we can all work remotely with very little issueOur Assurance team who have and are helping to support staff in these challenging times whilst developing new ways to ensure we remain compliant and continually improving what we do; the Investment and Property team still trying to find us new properties and land to fill future order books; Managers, Wildlife staff and Supervisors keeping the wheels turning and getting trees planted; and also, our contractors and suppliers who have done an amazing job of keeping the operational work moving and delivering to the standard we have come to expect.  

I’d better not forget the Senior Management Team and Directors who have had as equally tough few weeks but have maintained a good sense of humour although may be getting dangerously close to breaking open that bottle of Limoncello that has been lying at the back of the cupboard since that holiday to Greece ten years ago!  

So, I suppose I just really want to thank everyone for their robustness, hard work, tolerance, flexibility and most of all for helping keep everyone’s morale up and sense of humour flowing. I feel very proud to work with such a great team of people and the levels of resilience being shown by all would impress even the most diverse forest!  

Thanks, and stay safe!