Spring.

I used to dread this time of year – I would start to feel the tendrils of stress as winter left and we were launched into spring as for many years it meant exams and essay deadlines were upon me. Whereas, back home on the farm April ushers in the joyous day when the cows officially go outside to the fields again after the winter months. It was always such a lovely spectacle as they frolicked about and relished the clean country air. But I must now decide what this time of year means for me in my new career. The days of exams and essays have passed, my life on the farm has been left behind and now I find myself in a whole new industry, and way of life. It’s time to reinvent the spring and find out how my life in forestry symbolises this vibrant time of the year. Perhaps the arrival of the bluebells could be the symbolic herald of spring for my new life among the trees? I must plan a jaunt into the woods and find out what spring means in the New Forest, but first I must wait for a weekend when the rain doesn’t pour!

In my last post I mentioned the wonderful feeling of being part of a bigger team that I feel working in the South District, but despite that very real feeling I must admit there are still times when being the only one on the graduate scheme in England can feel just a little isolating. The Forestry Commission once operated in both Scotland and England as one overall organisation, but forestry is now devolved and Scottish Ministers have responsibility for forestry in Scotland. As part of the ongoing process to establish new service arrangements in England and Scotland the two grads in Scotland and I have few opportunities to see each other and compare notes. Therefore the visit from Matty, he is on the graduate scheme in Scotland, in March was a great chance to catch up and compare notes. He had arranged a visit to Forest Research’s station at Alice Holt in the South District for the two of us and three of the trainee foresters in England too. Our day at Alice Holt was highly informative and it was eye opening to find out more about the wide-range of different research functions they perform. I found the talk on tree pests and diseases especially interesting, we were shown some absolutely disgusting bugs preserved in bottles and some rather horrifying chunks of trees where insects had chewed alarmingly large tunnels through them. Identifying pests and diseases from samples on infected sites is a very important aspect of work at Forest Research, but they also cover a wide-range of other fields, such as urban forestry and brownfield regeneration, forestry as used to combat flooding and the use of social sciences to calculate the many benefits of forestry to the public. But my favourite place at Alice Holt remains the lovely little library tucked away near reception; it is all wood, comfy chairs and that blissful smell of books and atmosphere of learning!

Just before Easter I helped at a really interesting public event. During my time with the FC I hadn’t attended a public forum style meeting before, nor had I had a great deal of interaction with groups of the public, other than a nice chat with the occasional dog walker in the woods. But the New Forest Inclosure Forest Design Plan consultation event a few weeks ago was a whole new experience. It involved over 50 representatives of different organisations such as wildlife associations, parish councils, New Forest Verderers etc, all of whom were being consulted regarding the new FDP for the New Forest Inclosures. FDPs show the direction of the journey to come for each woodland area and look far ahead to show what the plan is for the forest long into the future. Each one is rewritten every ten years and essentially uses the long-term view as the future aim, and the ten year view to work towards it in the near-future. Since the FDPs are only produced once every ten years and the New Forest as a whole is such a highly regarded, historic and protected forest it is of interest and importance to many in the wider community and the consultation period with the public forms a significant and crucial aspect of the FDP process. Being brand new to planning issues myself I was naturally not involved in putting the FDP or the consultation day together, but I pitched in where I could by helping to set up the venue and by taking copious notes throughout as a record of questions posed by our expert representatives. It was fascinating to hear the wide range of opinion and expertise as people flit effortlessly between tree species, climate change and wildlife interests. The day went very well and it was super to hear the passion the local community feels for the New Forest Inclosures.

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