TODAY marks International Women’s Day 2021 (8 March). To mark the occasion, we talk to Judith Peachey, forestry and arboriculture manager at Landmarc Support Services (Landmarc), who oversees all forestry and arboriculture activity on behalf of Landmarc across the UK Defence Training Estate and has worked in forestry for over 25 years. Here Judith discusses the last 12 months’ activity across the training estate, future plans, and her thoughts on being a woman in the industry.

As with everything, 2020 was a very different year in the world of forestry. On the one hand, we were still able to conduct socially distanced site visits and spend time working in the woods overseeing our timber felling and site reinstatement contracts, whilst meetings and industry seminars went online.

OVERVIEW OF THE LAST 12 MONTHS

As we went into lockdown in March 2020, we were completing a very busy few months felling trees infected with ash dieback on Salisbury Plain – an operation that saw us fell over 100 ha of ash, at Ashdown Copse near to Tidworth, in extremely challenging weather conditions. At the same time, we were felling ash at Stanford Training Area in Norfolk and Sennybridge in Wales, as well as completing our standard harvesting works at Barossa near to Sandhurst.

READ MORE: 14,000 trees infected with ash dieback to be felled on Salisbury Plain

March is always a busy month, not only are we trying to get all harvesting completed before the weather warms up and birds begin to start nesting, but we are also completing all our reinvestment tasks – our site preparation and planting and other projects that are funded from the income generated from harvesting.

Forestry Journal: Infected ash.Infected ash.

In the year up to 31 March 2020, we completed 60 separate tasks, reinvesting over £1 million back into the training area. Most of the projects were site works, tree planting and establishment, but we also cleared areas of scrub and rhododendron for future forest management, carried out track repairs and planted up a number of new hedgerows at Cinque Points Training Area in the South East.

Moving into April, May and June, surveys were underway assessing tree hazard zones and woodlands where infected ash had been identified to inform our ash works for this winter. Felling licences were applied for, specifications and tenders written, and contractors engaged. By September, we were ready to begin harvesting again. A large programme of works on Salisbury Plain Training Area in Wiltshire has been undertaken again, including the completion of works at Ashdown Copse, Erlestoke, Warminster ranges and Heytesbury. Harvesting has also been carried out at Sennybridge, Bovington and Lulworth and at Stanford, near to Thetford.

READ MORE: Clearing ash with military precision

Perhaps the most ambitious project we have delivered this year was the felling of more than 800 infected ash trees along the A345 in Wiltshire. Months of planning, booking road space and traffic management culminated with works beginning in November 2020 and finishing at the end of January 2021. We have worked closely with Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) teams from the South West on this, as well as Wiltshire County Council and our contractor, KWR, to deliver works safely and on time.

Forestry Journal: Clearing hedgerows on back lanes.Clearing hedgerows on back lanes.

On the reinvestment side, this financial year we will deliver 65 separate tasks, reinvesting over £1 million again back into the DIO estate. In recent weeks, we have faced challenges with the winter weather as planting sites have either been under snow, completely frozen or had tracks turning into rivers, but we are on track to deliver.

We are now nearly 12 months on from the first lockdown and forestry works are continuing. These months seem to have been much busier than usual or perhaps we were just better prepared and were able to deliver more tasks.

REMOTE WORKING

I must admit that being in the woods is where I like to be and I am probably at my happiest out in the fresh air, but this year has seen me spend more time sat at my desk, navigating Skype, Zoom and Microsoft Teams calls. This has not only been with my Landmarc colleagues but also with the wider forestry world.

As a professional member of the Institute of Chartered Foresters, I have taken part in a number of seminars on topics from wildfires and contingency planning, to deer control, plant passports and timber regulation, tree planting and establishment challenges, continuous cover to promote forest resilience and the DEFRA tree-planting strategy. In recent weeks, I have joined the Forestry Commission on its annual plant health updates, which are always a good way of catching up and learning more about my profession.

Time in my home office has also meant that I have spent time sorting out some of the estates’ long-term forestry plans, as well as getting to grips with some of the other tree pests and diseases – aside from ash dieback and Phytophthora in larch which we are already well acquainted with. This includes Ips, an eight-toothed spruce bark beetle, which appeared in woodlands in Kent, and Oak Processionary Moth, which has a particularly nasty and hairy caterpillar, and was found for the first time in woodlands last summer.

Forestry Journal: Leaving mature trees where possible.Leaving mature trees where possible.

WOMEN IN FORESTRY

I think it would be fantastic for more women to come into forestry. It is challenging, fulfilling and interesting being a forester and there are so many different disciplines that you can go into – it is not just about felling trees and big machines. When you are at school, you just don’t hear of jobs like this, but I am sure that if known, we would get more women into the profession.

I have always said you need to be a juggler if you are a forester. You constantly have different balls up in the air all the time based on the locations where you work and who you are working for – your commercial aspirations, conservation constraints, military training requirements (especially for me on the MoD estate), public access, landscaping and environment, and whether your newly planted trees are actually growing – drop one ball and it normally ends in chaos!

READ MORE: TG Norman's Laura Jermy on why women shouldn't be put off forestry careers

It is a male-dominated profession and, when I started out 25 years ago, you really had to prove yourself before people took you seriously. I was often measured harder than my male colleagues, just because my manager knew how hard I worked and knew with a little nudging, the results would be even better. But this did not deter me and possibly made my character stronger to achieve everything I wanted to do.

As a woman in this profession, I am always keen to look for ways to encourage more women into forestry. In September I joined a call with the Institute of Chartered Foresters (ICF) and a Canadian forester about 'Women in Wood' to look at the role of women in the industry. The debate was lively, and we shared experiences of what we all do and how our roles and involvement has changed since we started in forestry.

I also sit on the South East Confederation of Forest Industries committee (CONFOR) and we had a ‘Women in Wood’ meeting recently, to see what else we can do to encourage young women (and indeed young men) to join our profession. It is hard work, which I think sometimes deters youngsters, but the possibilities are many – and if you can get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life and just spend time out in the woods, enjoying the natural environment around you, then the rewards are endless.

Landmarc provides the support services that enable our armed forces to live, work and train on the UK Defence Training Estate, including environmental and conservation support. For more information, please visit www.landmarcsolutions.com.