As the glories of Autumn descend and the leaves start to turn beautiful shades of orange it becomes time to bundle up ready for the cold, and venture into the woods once more. Every season has its highlights but surely there are few sights more beautiful than an autumnal wood: leaves floating down from the trees all around you, and the heavenly squelch of the mud underfoot. Things are still rather green here in Bristol but I cannot wait for the orange tinges to start bursting through. In fact I discovered that the FC even has an interactive feature on its website where you can rate the changing warm autumnal colours wood by wood: http://www.forestry.gov.uk/autumn-colour-map. It is strange to think I have now been with the FC for well over a year, I still remember so vividly starting last summer in the New Forest. But this will actually be my second Autumn working in forestry. It isn’t until I make myself stop and think about it that I realise how quickly the time is passing, and that by next summer I will have finished the grad scheme and (hopefully) be in a real job position!
With that new horizon approaching in less than a year I am now asked fairly often where I want to be next summer, which role/department/district etc. The honest answer is that I am still enjoying the grad scheme so much, especially now I am leading on the new guidance framework (naming it Onodrim, as mentioned in my last post, has so far not gained much traction!), that I find it rather tough to think about. The grad scheme offers so many opportunities to gain access and exposure to such varied and interesting aspects of the organisation that I am in no rush to leave it, and am focused on gaining as much information from it as I can. However, naturally it will end next summer and so what will I do next? It will be up to me to apply for positions within the FC, just like any other member of staff, but gosh what would I like to do next, whereabouts in the country will it be and what sort of team will I become a part of? I myself have no firm ideas yet, but what I can say for sure is that whatever post I am successful in gaining by next summer it will definitely be interesting, worthwhile and challenging. As to where it will be or what sort of work it will involve – that is up to Silvanus, god of forests.
At this stage of my grad scheme journey, as I start to contemplate the road ahead post scheme, it was especially helpful to get the chance to meet up with some of my fellow grads recently. I was in Edinburgh in Silvan House for a meeting last month and it was wonderful to get the chance to see three of the grads again. I met with Angelika and Beth who were previously on the grad scheme, and with Naomi who started at the same time as me. It was so helpful to share experiences and particularly to hear how happy the former grad schemers are in the FC having found exciting positions after the scheme. We are all doing such varied things it was fascinating to hear more about their job roles. Naomi and I may have started at the same time, but with her posted to Scottish Districts we have been involved in very different projects. She is currently working alongside the private and public sectors delivering the Forestry Grant Scheme. The scheme is concerned with woodland improvement and creation in and around towns, and also ensures regulations like felling licences are being adhered to UK Forestry Standards. Meanwhile Angelika and Beth were the intake before us and so have already finished the grad scheme. Angelika is a Visitor Services Manager in Glentress in Scotland and developing forest based tourism to ensure visitors are provided with an excellent and inspiring experience. Beth is now Project Officer in Delamere where she manages Forest Nursery treatments for hylobius abietis, is involved with Forest Research trials and other Nursery projects. So three very different roles and experiences to complement my own as I think about my future journey in the FC. In fact it is incredible when one thinks about the sheer diversity of roles former grads have gone on to fill, so who knows what I will end up doing!
Mid-September saw me leave the office for a day to attend APF 2016, the UK’s largest forestry, woodland and arboricultural show. It was absolutely huge! So many stalls, participants (it was estimated around 18,000 people attended over the three days), exhibitors, machinery, and of course the attendance of many from the Forestry Commission. Members of staff ran our tent, exhibitions, arranged presentations and discussions and provided a wonderful promotion of the FC to other forestry industry professionals and the public. The FC had its own large tent where different departments ran exhibitions on particular aspects of forestry such as the Keep it Clean campaign which promotes the cleaning of footwear, tyres and clothing between forestry sites to help stop the spread of pests and diseases. There was also a super display in the centre of the tent around the Grown in Britain campaign. The overarching theme for the FC tent was the Making Woodlands Work campaign, which is all about long-term woodland management and highlights the many benefits of appropriately managed woodland : http://www.forestry.gov.uk/forestry/beeh-9zkhb7. We also had demonstrations of an exciting new piece of software being used by the FC and developed by Forest Research called ESC 4 (Ecological Site Classification) which helps users to better plan what tree species is most ecologically viable to plant in different locations, taking into account projected climate change factors. It was great to see this software being promoted to such a large potential audience as it promises to be a great aid to foresters. I got the opportunity to try out the software myself recently and found it comprehensive and full of valuable information.
I got a great deal out of my day at the show – learning all sorts of technicalities about various new pieces of forestry equipment and talking to forestry experts at their various stalls about superbly esoteric aspects of forestry. I particularly enjoyed discussing carbon offsetting, hearing more about the logistics of transporting timber, learning all about truffle trees and attending a Forestry Commission talk on squirrels. There were lots of things to watch and learn about – the show even had timber carving competitions happening on the day as well as brave people dashing up very high timber poles as they raced each other! I also came away with some lovely freebies – a Scots Pine sapling, wooden pens, pencils made out of Scots Pine and lots of leaflets. Naturally not the most important aspect of the day but always jolly nice to leave with a momento!