Julian's mother Jayne recalled, “As soon as he could hold an axe he was splitting wood and carrying his plastic Stihl chainsaw. All he had to do was pull a cord and off it went at full volume.”

At school, said Jayne, “He wasn’t interested in story books, only the Forestry Journal. After a while the school gave in to this and allowed him to take it in if only to get him to read.”

And that passion for all things forestry has never changed. Now aged 21, having spent three years earning forestry qualifications at the renowned Sparsholt College in Hampshire, he’s working full time with his father Graham, a forestry contractor in the New Forest.

And it still excites him. He explained, “It’s being part of everything there – every log has a story and when we get our job right then everybody gets the benefit.”

The firm’s clients include a whole range of organisations dealing with forest issues. Primarily it’s the Forestry Commission but there’s also a number of local conservation groups and local estates. In fact, almost all their work comes from repeat customers.

Jobs range from ride widening, clearfelling, thinning to planting. But what gives Julian satisfaction is seeing how a block can change. He explained, “We can go into clearfelled blocks and re-establish a plantation by deer fencing and planting while following up with the appropriate maintenance. Then the whole cycle is completed and you get the feeling of being part of it all. Very satisfying.”

The firm boasts a variety of equipment including tractors, fowarding trailers, diggers and three firewood processors and log splitters which helps his parents with their firewood business.

Said Julian, “They can deal with timber up to 380 mm which makes the process less labour-intensive and more cost-effective for a higher output, it’s really something to see them splitting up to eight logs at a time. There’s no way you could ever keep up with them using just a chainsaw and axe but that is where we all started.”

But life’s not all good news when it comes to dealing with Forestry Commission bureaucracy. Said Julian, “I’d much rather that there was more consideration taken when selecting contractors based on their quality of work as well as what looks good on paper.”

The firm’s paperwork is masterminded by Jayne Pothecary, who’s continually amazed at the amount of work Julian wants to tackle each day. She explained, “They’re always working. Both of them are at it seven days a week and if they’ve got a day with nothing on for a customer then they’ll just start splitting logs. They both take so much pride in their work but Julian in particular just lives and breathes the forest, he loves it so much. For him, it’s all about being around to preserve it, to make sure it continues as it is.”

Living and working in the forest has other advantages. Jayne added, “They’re almost always working within 6 or 8 miles of home so that’s fantastic. And they don’t have to go out chasing for work because they always have people asking them to come back and how soon can it be. Julian didn’t have to stay in our business but he chose to do that and it just works brilliantly. Mind you, we are a family, so we’re not totally without arguments but then again we’re all agreed that we want to make things better all round, not just for us but for future generations.”

Apart from doing all the paperwork, fixing up appointments and sending out the bills Jayne also looks after her own herd of prize-winning Hereford cattle. She’s what’s known as a commoner in the Forest which entitles her to graze her herd on the forest while sticking by the local rules.

And, as always, there’s competition round the corner – there’s always someone willing to cut corners, but Graham and Julian would rather maintain their quality of work, high standards and reputation.

Said Julian, “They can undercut us but our attitude is to get things right the first time and then nobody’s got any excuses to hire someone else. Seems to have worked so far.”

Meanwhile, during bird nesting season his father, as you might guess, has an extra job as head groundsman for the massive annual New Forest show. Together with other crews he has to spend months preparing the site for the three day show that regularly attracts around 100,000 visitors. In 2016 there was a special presentation from the Countess of Wessex to reward an up and coming young commoner – one Julian Pothecary…

The judges commented on the skills he’d built up and the courses he’d achieved and his love for stock. They also commented on how he embodied the new generation of hard working and selfless commoner.

For Graham the target now is to end up with a second yard and a horizontal bandsaw to establish a small sawmill. In the meantime he worries at the way the Forestry Commission is increasingly focussing towards recreation and away from forestry. He said, “Nowadays it’s all about tourists –I feel the forest is losing its true values. With Brexit coming and EU money going we really ought to be focussing on growing more of our own timber to be more self sufficient. There has to be a place for both forestry and recreation and that’s why we need to plant more because people want to walk in woodlands rather than on open heathlands.”

He added “I enjoy planting and there’s some Corsican and Douglas I planted 30 years ago which is now due for its first and second thinnings. It would be nice to think I would be here to see it through its full cycle – that’s something I really treasure.”