You may have noticed from…

Royal Forestry Society Excellence in Forestry Gold 2022 The Best of the Best

…plastered all over our website, that we’ve won the Royal Forestry Society’s 2022 Excellence in Forestry competition for the Small and Farm Woodland category. This year’s Best of the Best bout followed five years of regional competitions across Wales, Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man and England and we are delighted to be, along with Glynllifon College, one of the two gold award winning establishments in North Wales. Gogledd Cymru am Byth!

Tree planting volunteers 2014

A huge thank you to 30 years of Bron Haul Woodland Workers and Volunteers

Dylan Hardy, Seren Hughes, Mike Jones, Pauline Pybus, Roger Pybus, Sara Brown, Jon Brown, Rosie Farey, Michael Hobday, Kath Hobday, Ian Swan, Nick Perrin, Catherine Hollis, Andy Profit, Hamish Profit, Tom Wigmore, Colin Griffin, Chris Fox, Jo Fox, James Price, Bettina Issacs, Jeff Hughes, Dylan Swan, Matthew Wood, Graham Wood, Mary Ratcliffe, Bangor University Volunteers, Ruthie Rowlands and her home-schooler friends, Gill Wallington, Mandy Coates, Richard Pope, Alex Tipi, Ken, Maurice, Simon, Chris and Olivia Haughton, Ian, Tan and Sandy Roberts. If we have forgotten you please tell us off and we’ll add you to the list!


But what’s it all about? Beyond an ego massaging prize-giving day and some shameless self-promotion, why enter a woodland competition?

We have been entering our woodland into both the Royal Forestry Society (RFS) and Royal Welsh Agricultural Show (RWAS) competitions for ten years now, and it all happened kind of by accident. A farming neighbour turned up for coffee with a scrap out of the local paper advertising that year’s RWAS Forestry competition, which was inviting entries from North Wales. We entered as much as anything out of respect for our neighbour thinking of us, without any consideration for what it might involve or where it might lead.

Preparing to plant a gorse bank


Making Connections with The World Beyond Your Boundary Fence

Managing a small patch of land, delightful a privilege as it is, can sometimes feel quite isolated. Entering the RWAS show triggered a visit by a couple of Forestry Section judges. We had two hours of their time to communicate the quality of our management as we walked through the woods. We didn’t really know what we were doing and were content to amble about enjoying having some strangers who had long-time standing in Wales’s forestry community taking an interest in what we were doing.

To our surprise, we won a silver in the Farm Woodland and Shelter class which led to us competing in the all-Wales competition in 2014 at which we held our silver place. We were hooked!

Best ever tree planters (my mum and dad!)

Woodland Management Advice

We came across the Royal Forestry Society Excellence in Forestry competition in 2015 and by now entering had become a bit of a habit! Having planted a further 4ha of woodland the year before, we were eligible for two categories which to our delight, involved two separate woodland visits.

Neither of us had any formal training or previous work history in forestry and our management decisions had been driven by Forestry Commission advice, the ideas shared by woodland-geek friends and neighbours and the operations that the Better Woodlands for Wales woodland management scheme had supported. We had heard of Bangor University’s Christine Cahalan, one of the judges that year, and it felt like a great honour to meet her on our own patch and absorb her suggestions for our woodland. We also met Phil Morgan and became aware of the existence of continuous cover expertise in Wales. Like rabbits in headlights, we attended the prize giving at Leighton Redwoods that year, receiving the Small Woodland category gold medal for the established woodland and sharing silver for our very new plantation. This felt like an extraordinary accolade from such a well-respected forestry education charity.

RWAS 2016 Most points in show…Tim Kirk would say having diverse, multi-functional woodland is just cheating!


Not so small and lonely anymore

When you win a woodland management competition, you are no longer a lone landowner trying to believe in the importance of your small project. You now have national backing of your assertions regarding your land management and its achievements.  This has given us confidence when faced with bullying from large organisations with other priorities for the land. One example is our interaction with the National Grid. Part of the land is spanned by a high-voltage transmission line and the trees are periodically surveyed to identify trees in danger of growing too close. These are felled at the National Grid’s expense. So far so good. What is less impressive is finding a team of subcontractor chainsaw operators in full swing taking out trees that have been marked for removal by a surveyor and the first thing you know about it is hearing the trees coming down.

We have since found that secret surveys condemning far more trees than is necessary and then sending in chainsaw teams with paperwork erroneously claiming that verbal permission has been granted by the landowner is pretty standard practice. The ‘Foresters’ employed by the organisations involved routinely fail on basic tree identification in our woodland let alone on having the skills to recognise the quality it displays. So, arm yourselves! At some point you may well have your own Big-Corp. stamping on the jewel you have tended, and your woodland award (along with a good land agent – get Big-Corp to pay) will help you even-up the fight.

Best stand in show 2021


Meeting forestry’s other small woodland heros


On a more cheerful note, what an event the award presentation day is for connecting with other fabulous woodland owners! I must admit, we’ve been a bit slow on the uptake with this. Talking to other landowners about their woodland management journeys, their current projects, their future dreams, their successes and failures is like a balm. We look forward to visiting more of you in the future and welcome you, our small woodland management kin to call on us.

One life – live it in a canopy of opportunity

Being self-employed and mostly working on your own land can take its toll on your CV and narrow prospects for other work opportunities. Our woodland awards have been David’s ticket to completing his Forestry MSc as a distance learner with Bangor University, have given us credibility to our desire to deliver woodland management training courses and have given us presence within the RFS that most recently has led to us being a host on their Forestry Roots program for young foresters. How wonderful to get to influence a new generation forester and hopefully help him gain the experience to confidently promote a new tradition in forestry that our climate change, biodiversity crisis and economic collapse demands.

RFS Small and Farm Woodland


Personally, I will be eternally grateful to RFS judge (amongst many other roles!) Malcolm Beatty for suggesting I join the Institute of Chartered Foresters and for supporting my Associate Member application.

So, whether you like the idea of having a chance to share your story, to be reassured and inspired by some expert feedback, to meet other woodland owners, to hold a ticket to branch out in your forestry journey or to fight off organisations that fail to respect your objectives, woodland competitions are definitely worth the ‘bother’.

I hope to see you at the next award ceremony!