Special Forestry Award for School of Natural Sciences MSc student

Chris Rawlinson from South Shropshire, and based at the School of Natural Sciences (SNS), Bangor University, was presented with the Tilhill Phil Johnson Memorial Award for Best Silviculture Student 2020-21 on the MSc Silviculture module.  He was presented with a specially carved wooden trophy along with £250 prize money.

The presentation took place at a Tilhill managed woodland in mid Wales and was awarded by Tilhill’s Forestry Director David Edwards FICFor in the presence of Tilhill’s Area Manager Sam Brown MICFor and the University’s Dr James Walmsley MICFor.


Chris is studying on the MSc Environmental Forestry degree course. Despite the challenges presented by the global pandemic, Chris was able to fully engage remotely with his studies, which included live lectures, seminars, small group activities, online workshops and virtual field work. Within 8 months of registering on the programme, he was successful in gaining an industry role as an Assistant Ecologist, conducting survey work and assisting with the creation of forest management plans.

Upon receiving the Award, Chris said: “I would like to thank Tilhill for sponsoring this award and David for presenting me with the trophy. It’s a great honour to win this year’s award. I have very much enjoyed working with my course mates this year, bouncing ideas off each other and bringing different skills and ideas to the table: I’m sure the award could have gone to any number of us.

“I would also like to thank James Walmsley, Mark Rayment and all of the forestry related staff within the School of Natural Sciences. They have gone above and beyond this year to ensure that students have not missed out on opportunities, despite the changing Covid situation. I for one know that my forestry knowledge has developed greatly over the MSc programme, and it has been great to be within a department full of energy and a sense of community.

“This particular module culminated in an essay framed around ‘silviculture in a changing world’ in which we had to choose a silvicultural case study, envisage how a future ‘change’ may impact the current situation, and then develop a silvicultural strategy that could mitigate these issues or enhance the potential benefits. To me this exercise perfectly summed up why forestry is such a great discipline: the perfect balance of science, creativity and decision making.

“It really is a very exciting time to be joining the industry. I look forward to what will hopefully be a long and interesting career within the sector.”

David added: “I’m delighted to have had the honour of presenting Chris with this very special award. I’m sure it was a very difficult year for all students and to be so successful in the face of these challenges is really inspiring. I believe there has never been a better time to start a career in Forestry and I wish chris every success for the future. Well done!”

James Walmsley, Senior Lecturer in Forestry at Bangor University, was also fortunate to attend the prize giving event. He said: “Chris performed exceptionally well on the silviculture module, submitting an excellent critical essay on silvicultural options for the Afan Valley in South Wales in the face of a changing climate. We have also nominated him for this award because he was exemplary in his attitude and engagement. Despite the challenges of studying remotely due to the pandemic, he actively participated in all online events, asking questions, helping other students and helping to create and sustain a positive learning environment for all. He also took on the role of ‘student representative’, acting on behalf of his fellow students in the Student-Staff Liaison Committee. We’ve no doubt that Chris will make innovative and creative contributions to forestry and the wider community in his career, in a manner that the Award’s namesake, Phil Johnson, would greatly approve.”

Phil Johnson worked for Tilhill for many years and was Regional Manager for England and Wales when he passed away following a short but valiant battle against cancer eight years ago. During his career he made a huge contribution to the company and forestry alike, including setting up the UK’s largest privately owned mountain bike centre at Coed Llandegla, Wales.

As part of the company’s work to strengthen links with students, Tilhill offers awards to top performing forestry students at leading universities which offer degrees in Forestry. The company also runs a competitive graduate placement scheme to which several Bangor University graduates have recently been recruited.

Forestry has been taught at Bangor University for more than 117 years, and its forestry degrees are accredited by the Institute of Chartered Foresters.