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Forestry Roots: “a brilliant experience”

As Hannah approached the end of her MSc in Environmental Forestry at Bangor University, she was keen to develop her ability in silviculture and forest management. Landing a Forestry Roots graduate post has opened new experiences and opportunities.

By Hannah Whyatt · June 14, 2021

As I approached the end of my MSc in Environmental Forestry at Bangor University, I was unsure about the next step in my career. While passionate about forestry, I had no experience of forest related work before my degree. What did it really mean to manage and care for forests? Gaining practical experience was important to me, and at the same time I was keen to develop my ability in silviculture and forest management. The “Forestry Roots” Graduate Forester role at Norbury Park Estate was the perfect next step.

My job has so far been incredibly diverse. The estate is a busy place with numerous silvicultural trials and experiments underway, and in the past ten years 180 hectares of new woodland has been planted. Outdoors, I have undertaken simple but important work such as removing weeds from tree tubes and pruning trees, as well as learning how to carry out beat up counts and identify trees for thinning. In the office, much of my time has been spent collating and analysing data on the estate’s squirrel control records and procedures – a practice I have learnt is imperative to protect young broadleaf woodland – culminating in a feature article for the Quarterly Journal of Forestry.

Marking for thinning

Forest mensuration and data collection

These have been principal aspects of the job. No less than 115 different tree species have been planted in intimate mixtures around the estate with the aim to improve the forests’ resilience to pests and pathogens, boosting health and vigour and enhancing growth through a more efficient use of resources. As the Norbury plantations reach canopy closure, a “halo-pollarding” thinning approach is used to provide final crop trees with optimal light while retaining high species diversity and suppressing epicormic growth. Once summer had drawn to a close, it was time to record the growth of a selection of important species within the plantations, and for myself this meant fashioning dendrometers to attach to trees and collecting and processing many samples of tree diameters and heights. The results so far are promising, with all species measured tracking at the high end of or above typical yield class ranges.

Silviculture trials

However, the highlight of my role so far has been in planting. This winter I was closely involved in establishing this year’s new silvicultural trial, which aims to investigate the effect of adding nitrogen-fixing trees such as alder, elaeagnus and false acacia to intimate species mixtures of broadleaves and conifers. As nitrogen is often a limiting factor in growth, the trial will be an important contribution to our understanding of how nitrogen-fixers can play a part in improving forest productivity into the future.

The first task was to design and map the layout: first digitally, using GIS, and next on the ground using ranging poles. Planting had to be unusually precise to enable useful and accurate observations of the growth of the trees in years to come, meaning the next step was to mark 7000 tree-planting points on the ground. I then had to organise the 36 different species of saplings into their correct locations for the forestry team to plant. While the tasks could be slow and somewhat painstaking, it is incredibly rewarding to see the newly planted site and I have come away with the ability to identify saplings of tree species I had never heard of before!

In the months ahead, I am looking forward to participating in training courses in oak silviculture and soil identification, supported by the Forestry Roots training bursary, which I hope will contribute to my ability as a forester in the years to come. I would encourage anyone with an interest in nature, shaping the environment, or the desire for a varied and rewarding career to consider working in forestry.

Find out about Foresty Roots opportunities for 2021-2022 here. 

New plantings - just one of the many projects Hannah has been involved in

Hannah Whyatt

Forestry Roots 2020 Graduate Forester, Norbury Park, Staffordshire

Hannah has an MSc Environmental Forestry, Bangor University.
Describing her Forestry Roots experience she says: “To be working on such unusual forestry projects was unexpected, but it has been a brilliant experience and I feel fortunate to be able to be a part of such exciting and fascinating research. At the same time, Forestry Roots has helped me to gain hands-on experience that will aid my understanding of forest management in my career and solidified the broader knowledge that I gained in university.”