Nathalie Petronelli-Stone, a former catwalk model, loves nothing more than being in nature. As one half of Northumbria Forestry, she now spends most of her days with a chainsaw. But things haven’t always been plain sailing.

THERE are ‘traditional’ ways to get into forestry and then there are the roads far less travelled. Nathalie Petronelli-Stone’s very much falls into the latter camp, so let’s begin at the start. 

It was the time of messy international conflicts, recession and question marks over the prime minister’s future (so maybe not so different from today). In 2008, Nathalie, born and raised in Northumberland, appeared to be living the dream. A catwalk model, she had featured in magazines, catalogues, and even music videos; but something was missing. 

Step forward her then boyfriend (now husband) Kezz who had an idea to start selling firewood – the rest, as they say, is history. 

“We wanted to set up something together and were thinking of ideas for a summer business,” Nathalie said. “Charcoal came to mind and luckily we were able to find someone local who was producing and willing to teach us his knowledge. Colin Beswick soon became our charcoal guru and good friend. After a hard year of graft in the hot summer of 2009 and buying timber in for our product, we quickly realised we needed to be sourcing it ourselves to make it financially viable.

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“We approached the woodland manager David Robson (then at Tilhill) who guided us, starting with felling roadside beach in one of our local woodlands, and later working up in the likes of Kidlandlee, Whiteburn and parts of Kielder. 

“Using a chainsaw wasn’t something that I had ever imagined doing but with my husband having to do all the cutting it became necessary for me to do so. We learned about woodland management, thinning, tree maintenance, disease and were encouraged to buy machinery to save our backs as we were moving and stacking felled timber by hand, and to stop being so tidy.

“The businesses grew and the need for us to live on site was by this point imperative for our charcoal operation.” 

To get round this problem, Nathalie and Kezz began building their current home, made almost entirely from 450 straw bales, wood from the forest, and repurposed material – and so Northumbria Forestry was born. 

“When we first started, we worked anywhere from Kielder to Hexham up to the borders and gradually over the years found more and more work closer to home, making our radius and travel time pretty small. As with everything in our business, we keep things as local as possible and have built good relationships with all our clients (mostly established estate and larger farm owners), and buyers. Everyone from local firewood merchants to A&J Scott, who buy much of our saw logs and high-quality hardwoods, and Kris Grey at Woodyfuels, who buys our chipwood. It’s important to us to work with the right people and also to keep the movement of timber to a minimum where possible.” 

Even although Nathalie continues to prove a hit across social media, with her Dirtiest Girl in the World profile raking in thousands of follows on Instagram and, in recent times, OnlyFans, it’s the forests where she’s at her happiest. 

“Living and working in the woods is a way of life that I love. I’ve always liked physical work and being outside. If you haven’t finished the day stinking of sweat or two stroke and covered in mud and sawdust – ready for a pint – it never feels like a satisfying day. 

“Our main interest in forestry was to create woodlands out of undermanaged shelter belts and plantations. Working together with landowners, farmers and gamekeepers to give the best to all involved, but to do the best for the wood. Multistorey canopy, continuous cover and wildlife habitat encouraging natural regeneration – that’s what we’re into.” 

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What, then, does an a typical day look like at Northumbria Forestry? 

“My day-to-day work is massively varied. With the charcoal it could be anything from filling, lighting, monitoring, emptying the kiln, or grading, bagging and delivering charcoal. In the woods, felling, logging, winching. It is just myself and my husband but these days we have some machines. 

“I’m normally the handcutter while he is in the digger (our best buy yet!), pulling trees out and stacking or extracting the timber.” 

The digger – a 3.6-tonne Kubota – isn’t the only machine you’ll find on their 20 acres of land. Nathalie and Kezz, a former professional musician, also have a Valmet 6600, towing a Botex 5050 timber trailer, and an old Valmet 505. Although, she says, Storm Arwen has reduced the latter’s role to sports tractor, with a Uniforest winch. In terms of saws, which is very much Nathalie’s magnum opus, they use Husqvarnas, jumping between a 346, 550, 372, and 3120. They are all supplied by local dealer, Robson & Cowan. 

While much of her time is taken up getting her hands dirty, she also spends a lot of it in the woodland management side of things, looking after the couple’s own land and helping clients across north Northumberland with site visits, felling licences, hauliers and plant passports.

“I’m pretty anal about who I work with as the most important thing to me – as well as doing the best for my clients – is doing the best job for the woodlands,” she said.

“Hunter Harvesting showed me just what was possible when you have a talented, sensitive operator and fantastic team. Even a big machine can do an awesome job thinning in the right conditions and place.”

Whatever way you look at it, Nathalie is a long way away from the catwalk but, describing herself as “essentially retired” from that, she seems happier than ever before.

In the past, she has spoken about her mental health struggles – including to Ben Fogle during Channel 5’s New Lives In The Wild documentary – and has previously been diagnosed with bipolar 1 disorder; but forestry has done wonders for her.


That’s not to say there haven’t been struggles, and Storm Arwen, which “battered” her little world, was chief among them. 

“There is sadness for all the woodlands and forests that everyone’s put so much hard work into and the long-term effect and damage to the environment and industry. Nature has its way and will recover in time, so long as we make the right choices. Let’s hope it’s the same for the industry.” 

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Despite this, she wouldn’t have had it any other way. 

“When your work is your life, it must be enjoyed. So, having the right people around you helps and I feel incredibly lucky to have met those I have in the industry. Everyone has always been so kind, from other cutters, managers, climbers, hauliers, timber merchants and contractors to those working on the land and those fixing or replacing our gear, Robson & Cowan, Forestry Machine Services, Jas P Wilson and, of course, my husband Kezz.

“Living and working with your partner comes with its own challenges but having his help and support has got me where I am today.”