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Update from Assistant Forest Manager Peter Borrowman

As Peter contemplates what the future holds he updates us on what he has learnt in forestry during his time as Assistant Forest Manager.

By Peter Borrowman · March 9, 2022

My first three months as the Patsy Wood Scholar have been a challenging, yet incredibly fulfilling experience. Having graduated from a Master of Arts Geography degree and subsequent Environmental Management MSc at Lancaster University, I was delighted to be offered the 2-year scholarship position of Assistant Forest Manager, working under experienced forestry consultant William Hamer. Having not had a direct forestry background as such, the role has been a somewhat novel experience for me, but one which I am thrilled to have undertaken. It has provided me with the ideal platform for learning about all aspects of woodland management in Southern England and beyond.

Learning the Nuts and Bolts

Given my greenness in relation to forestry, this role really has thrown me in at the deep end. The initial period of the scholarship has largely been focused upon learning the nuts and bolts of forestry – even tree identification I must add! My first day was a sign of things to come, being introduced straight away to the thought process and practical application of marking for a selective conifer thinning. This was something I took to instantly, enjoying the responsibility of assessing the stand and determining the right trees to take in order to enhance the woodland’s long-term sustainability as a multi-purpose and productive entity.

Another particularly enjoyable task for me has been conducting woodland surveys and site inspections, which are a pre-emptive to creating management plans. Following this process from start to finish has been highly satisfying and has given me an ideal insight into the thought process of creating and maintaining productive woodlands. Other things I have been learning about include timber mensuration, timber grading and valuation, and a range of silvicultural systems and their corresponding management. I must express my gratitude to William in his unwavering patience to answering my seemingly endless list of questions (to which he invariably produces a viable and informative answer).

It was also fantastic to be invited along to observe and understand the means behind the collection of graft wood from oak plus trees with Joe Beesley from the Future Trees Trust. It is a truly fascinating process, yet a vital one if we are to develop resilience and combat the ever-increasing threat of pests and pathogens currently facing UK forestry. I’m certainly excited to be working further with Joe and Dr Jo Clark from the Future Trees Trust in the coming months, given the importance of their work to the future of the UK forestry.

We’re currently dealing with the aftermath of three consecutive storms and the subsequent impacts of unexpected windblow as well as striving to complete several Countryside Stewardship applications before the deadline. This combination highlights the diversity of tasks which we’re involved with on a day-to-day basis. Indeed, I think it can be said that no one day is the same as the next when it comes to working in forestry!

So, what does the future hold?

For me, I’m just taking every day as it comes in learning what it takes to become successful forest manager. I would like to express my gratitude for having the opportunity of the Patsy Wood scholarship to nurture and develop my own skills. I’m inclined to use the words of my predecessor James Cryer in labelling it as a truly “golden opportunity” particularly for those with a background out-with forestry to gain a foothold in the sector. From my initial experience, I would certainly encourage others to consider joining the industry!

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