Mitchell Jacobs, Forest Craftsperson Apprentice with Forestry England, gives us an update on his apprenticeship to date…
It has been five months since starting my apprenticeship, and the training I have received has been put into good use. The most recent project was in habitat improvement along the Ingrebourne River at Pages Wood (within the Thames Chase beat). This is part of the Land of the Fanns projects at Pages Wood which includes: River Catchments, Woodland, Grassland and Hedgerows and Interpreting the Fanns. Along the banks of the river there was a 300 metre long block of dense vegetation and trees, which unfortunately included a large number of Ash trees infected with Chalara (Ash dieback). The aim of the work was to remove the infected Ash to prevent further spreading and to thin out the remaining Oak and Blackthorn, allowing more light to the surface and encouraging other species to seed and grow. The second aim was to open up this section to allow the general public to see the river, and enjoy this feature of Pages Wood. After a number of weeks of using the brush-cutter and clearance saw, the site looks considerably better having reduced the vegetation (and trees). Whilst doing this work, a secondary project was underway – a new trail was cut through some of the woodland blocks, along with the installation of wooden sculptures, creating a story trail for the public to enjoy. It was great to be a part of the combined habitat and recreational improvements which really emphasised the dual purpose of community woodlands, creating and maintaining a place for the environment and wildlife to flourish and for people to enjoy.
After the work at Pages Wood, I returned to Thetford Forest for two weeks for my chainsaw training course with the other national apprentices. There was a huge amount to learn! The first day focused on going through health and safety followed by time in the workshop looking at how a chainsaw works, including dismantling and re-assembling as well as effective maintenance to ensure the saw is fit for purpose. On day two it was straight out to the forest for practical work, which was quite daunting initially having never picked up a chainsaw. We started off with the basics of cross-cutting timber, allowing us to get used to holding and using a chainsaw effectively and being able to bore into and cut straight. We were then shown how to assess a tree for particular hazards to look out for, to be able to fell effectively and safely. Afterwards, we were given demonstrations on felling trees of various sizes and the different techniques used to ensure trees land in the correct place and how to deal with hung-up trees. Then it was our turn, putting into practice what we had been shown previously, and learning very quickly how the slight differences of how you hold the saw, your stance and cutting angles combined, can alter the way the tree falls. Once felled, we processed the timber to different sizes to make logs to be sold to saw mills which would be processed into fence posts, fire wood and timber for construction. This overall process of assessing, felling and processing gave me a real feel of what forestry work is like, and I look forward to honing my skills with a chainsaw in the future.
As part of the Land of the Fanns Landscape Partenership Scheme, Forestry England are hosting apprentices on the National Apprenticeship Scheme.