I’m now into my second month at Broadleaf Wales, where I’m doing my apprenticeship in Woodland Management with Ruth Pybus and David Brown. My placement is set to last for one year, funded through the Royal Forestry Society (RFS), Forestry Roots scheme, which aims to support young people to kick start their career in forestry.
My short time here has already been extremely valuable; I’ve greatly expanded my knowledge and understanding of Continuous Cover Forestry (CCF) management techniques, broadened my woodworking skills and gained certificates in (Forestry) First Aid, Chainsaw Cutting and Maintenance and Felling of small trees, up to 380mm.
The latter of which, is going to play an important part in my role here, at Broadleaf Wales, and which I’d like to speak a little more about…
The site for my chainsaw course was a steep slope of Sitka Spruce where our instructor, Alan Jones, did a great job teaching us the various techniques that can be used to fell a tree depending on its bearing; upright, forward leaning, backward leaning. After passing my assessment I was pleased to have the paperwork as evidence of my competence and understanding of how to safely fell trees. It’d be easy at this point to believe you’re qualified for any job and forget that the learning is yet to come: putting what you’ve learnt into practice in a work context. Bearing in mind that up to this point I’d only felled softwoods and my work site is all hardwoods!
Ruth and David quite evidently shared this understanding and so when it came to our first day of felling duties at Broadleaf Wales, Ruth coached me through my first few trees, allowing me to revisit the content of the course. She gave me the space to decide on all the actions I would take, whilst I verbally described the process before, and after, felling each tree. This helped to affirm the reasons for each decision and reflect on how it went and why.
Having this level of support has been imperative in building my skills and thus confidence. In the two weeks following my chainsaw course I’ve done four full days of chainsaw operating, working in different contexts. This has allowed me to implement almost all of the techniques covered in content the course. Being able to do this in close succession to getting my certificate has been essential to my learning process.
Now, as the tree canopy has begun to shed its colourful dance of leaves to the forest floor, the felling season is among us, and this will be an important task for the winter and early spring months to come at Broadleaf Wales. As part of the CCF management plan, we will be selectively thinning the woodland, leaving the future timber trees to grow on.
Substantial timbers are already being extracted from this young and productive woodland and thus next month I’ll be enrolling on my course for Felling medium trees (above 380mm) and Windblown. May the learning continue!