Since the last blog update, the craftsperson role has been in ‘full throttle’ where myself and my colleague have been busy with the seasonal habitat management work around the Thames Chase beat and other FE sites. Our main focus has been at Jeskyns community woodland, where we spent most of the chainsaw season (October – February) managing a block of Walnut timber trees. The goal was to clear the majority of Italian Alder ‘nurse’ trees, which are planted alongside the Walnut, and used to encourage the crop trees to grow straight. After about 10 years, the nurse trees are removed, at which point the Walnut trees are well established, with them now gaining more light and nutrients helping to increase their height and girth further.
Another task that we were involved in, was tree safety work at another FE site, Friston forest, on the south coast, in Eastbourne. As part of a small team, consisting of 4 craftspeople and 1 forester, we felled dead Ash trees that were along the roadside. For this, we co-ordinated with the highways agency to close a section of the road for 2 minute intervals whilst we felled the trees, along with the assistance of winching, which brought the trees down in a controlled manner, and ensured they came down in the forest, away from the road.
Throughout the winter months, we battled through the cold and wet weather, and finally got to try out the heated handles on the chainsaws!
In June, for the final part of my training on the apprenticeship program, I went to Thetford forest for a 4-day course on felling large trees, which are above 380mm in diameter. On the harvesting sites, there can be a number of trees which are too large for the harvester to fell, and there is a need for a chainsaw operator to bring the trees down and process the timber. This course built upon my already existing chainsaw experience, with being taught some new techniques, involving different cuts and the use of a hammer and wedges, whilst also processing the timber by snedding and cross-cutting logs to size, ready for the saw mills. All of this together, along with doing the course during the recent heat wave, certainly made it tiring, but a nice pub dinner in the evenings helped to regain some much needed energy!
Now coming to the end of the apprenticeship, it was time for me to think about the next steps, and I have now secured a new role with Forest Research, another part of the Forestry England. In the role, I will be working on behalf of scientists and external clients, to set up, run and gather data from field experiments across the country, with a main part of the work focusing on pest and disease (fungal, bacterial) outbreaks, effective habitat management work (tree safety, thinning), and survey and mapping different woodland based landscapes. From the apprentice program, I was able to gain all of the necessary skills and experience needed for the new role, which has now helped secure my future career prospects, within the environmental sector.
Mitchell Jacobs, Forest Craftsperson Apprentice, Forestry England