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Woodlands: Best of the Best in England, Wales and Northern Ireland

Four special woods and two educational programmes have been named by the Royal Forestry Society (RFS) as the Best of the Best in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

By Wendy Necar · July 15, 2022

Following five years of regional Excellence in Forestry Award competitions the winners in five different categories went head-to-head this year.

Winners include: Shere Manor Estate in Surrey, England, an extensive area of pine plantation being converted to continuous cover forestry alongside management for biodiversity; Bramshill Plantation – a restored quarry in Hampshire; the remarkable Slieve Gullion Forest Park now one of the premier countryside attractions in Northern Ireland and a small farm woodland in Wales doing big things to promote timber culture.

Tying for Best of the Best education projects were Hill Holt Wood in Lincolnshire and Coleg Glynlifon in North Wales. Hill Holt Wood is an Environmental Social Enterprise providing education, training and employment for young people, many of whom have special needs. Coleg Glynlifon offers hands-on practical experiences within their Level 2 & 3 BTECs Countryside and Forestry courses.

RFS Chief Executive Christopher Williams said: “All these woodlands are beacons of excellence. They are examples of how different types of woodland needs to be managed and developed in the future. Woodlands like these help tackle the challenges of climate change. They provide benefit to communities and help our environment and local economies.  By shining a spotlight on what they are doing we can help others adapt their woodlands.

“ Educational programmes like those at Hill Holt Wood and Coleg Glynlifon are leading the way. They are inspiring people to develop the skills we will increasingly rely on as we plant more woodland into the future.

“Congratulations to all our winners.”

The awards were presented at the National Memorial Arboretum.

Full results are:

Duke of Cornwall’s Award for Resilient Multipurpose Forestry

1 Bramshill, Hampshire. Managed by Forestry England’s South Forest District.

2 Aconbury and Wallbrooks Wood, Herefordshire. Owned and managed by The Duchy of Cornwall.

Excellence in Silviculture Award (the art and science of growing and cultivating trees)

1 Shere Manor Estate, Surrey. Owned by the Bray family, managed by English Woodlands Forestry.

2 Llangoed Estate, Powys. Owned by the Chichester family, managed by Bronwin & Abbey Ltd.

Small and Farm Woodland Award

1 Bron Haul, Abergele, Conwy. Owned and managed by Ruth Pybus and David Brown

2 Broomhill Wood, Gloucestershire. Owned and managed by Will Wilkinson

Community Woodland Award

1 Slieve Gullion, Meigh, Co. Armagh, Northern Ireland. Owned and managed by DAERA, Forest Service.

2 Warley Woods, Smethwick, West Midlands. Managed by Warley Woods Community Trust.

Education and Learning Award

1=  Coleg Glynllifon, Ffordd Clynnog, Caernarfon, Gwynedd

1= Hill Holt Wood, Norton Disney, Lincoln

What the winners say

Duke of Cornwall Award: For Bramshill, Michael Ullman, Forestry England’s Operations Manager for the South District, said:

“This award is a fantastic accolade for our team who are out every day helping to care for forests. They are looking after the trees planted by those who came before them. In turn they are planting today for the next generation who will need to be the champions of nature and our woodlands.

“By carefully restocking areas and maintaining habitats we are ensuring they provide the right habitats for wildlife and a sustainable source of timber. We are also supporting work looking at how different types of trees respond to threats like disease and climate change. This will help us understand how best to ensure our woodlands can adapt and remain resilient in the future. I hope Bramshill Plantation will continue to be enjoyed by many generations to come.”

Silviculture Award: Tom Compton, Director at English Woodlands Forestry Ltd said:

“Shere Manor Estate, and their land agents Batcheller Monkhouse, have provided us with a fantastic opportunity.

“We have evolved our management processes with the estate for over 15 years. That has meant responding to site conditions and to developments in resilience and sustainable management.

“The estate offers a mosaic of habitats. It supports some rare protected species. It also provides fantastic recreation opportunities for the local community.  Moving to continuous cover forestry whilst respecting these features is a very rewarding journey. It has been dependent on a fantastic team of skilled contractors from Powell Forestry.”

Farm and Small Woodland Award: Bron Haul owners Ruth and David said:

“We are delighted to have won this award, which recognises what we have achieved in our young woodland so far. Key to our success has been timely woodland management and rigorous grey squirrel control.

“We are keen to support other farmers and landowners. We do this through our small woodland management and grey squirrel control courses and through our roles as Welsh Government woodland creation management planners and Woodland Trust agents.”

Community Woodland Award: For Slieve Gullion, Forest Service CEO John Joe O’Boyle said:

“This prestigious award is the result of positive and effective partnership. Forest Service, Newry and Mourne and Down District Council have worked and invested together alongside the Clanrye Group Services.

“The award recognises the importance of the woodland and the site. It shows how we can meet the award criteria: place, people, community and environment. Our partnership has developed a strong sense of engagement with the natural environment. This includes promoting health, wellbeing and wider community benefits.

“We are fortunate to have such a wonderful woodland resource to build on.”

Education and Learning Award:

Jeff Jones from Coleg Glynllifon said:

“The Forestry Department at Coleg Glynllifon is extremely proud and honoured to receive this award.

“Coleg Glynllifon has a fantastic estate with a working farm and over 110ha of mixed woodland, students take part in managing the woodland and gain valuable experience on a day-to-day basis.

“Students are given as wide a range of practical activities as possible from using our static Mebor sawmill to process timber on the estate to using new technology such as Haglof mensuration equipment.

“Working with industry is an important part of the student experience, we appreciate the support we receive from local companies for providing valuable work experience placements and allowing student visits to learn about the forestry and countryside sector.”

For Hill Holt Wood, CEO Steve Donagain said:

“We recently celebrated 20 years as a woodland social enterprise so to be recognised in winning this award is fantastic for everyone involved.”

The RFS would like to thank all category sponsors: