THERE was no shortage of commentary and debate on the Forest Machine Operators Blog this month, but that’ll come as a shock to absolutely no one. From offering advice to lending a sympathetic ear and letting off steam, the Blog’s hardy band of men and women didn’t hold back.

A member based in the Borders turned to the Blog for advice as he’s looking to embark on a new career as a forwarder driver. He explained: “I’m looking for a career change. I have been a joiner since leaving school; I’m used to staying away and doing long days but have no previous experience in forestry, unfortunately. I am willing to learn though.”

The response was split, with some encouraging him to stick with his current job. “You have a trade as a joiner, stay at it,” replied one member. Another chimed in: “If you’re a joiner now, you’ll never make the same money in the woods.”

Forestry Journal: Gav Rice.Gav Rice.

A Scottish contractor said that he’d been working in the woods since 1980 and while it might look great, it’s not: “We stick it because we know nowt else; I am used to pain. More than three decades on saws, trying to get a decent wage after buying all the gear, working in all weathers … then getting hammered by the taxman.” He did add to just ignore him and that it was fun really.

The author replied: “Everyone I know who does it loves it, but they do all say it’s not for everyone. On paper, it does tick all the boxes for me but only time will tell. There are negatives to every job sector. I don’t even hate my current job really. I just want to experience something totally different.”

Forestry Journal: Jack Osborne.Jack Osborne.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom though. One member suggested that the author get himself on an appropriate health and safety/first-aid course and to look for a training course for a harvester or skidder. “It will help show prospective employers you’re keen, and you would be at an advantage if you had a chainsaw ticket.”

Another added: “It’s a great job, don’t be put off by the naysayers!”

READ MORE: Bites from the Blog: Recruitment drive

Elsewhere on the Blog, it was a shame to see that an operator had his machine vandalised in an apparent protest against tree felling.

“Nothing touched, just a broken window in each machine. Someone’s little protest,” said the operator, accompanied by pictures of the damage caused. This, quite rightly, had the Blog’s collective blood boiling. Many expressed their frustration with the common misunderstanding that cutting down a tree – any tree – is a bad thing, and it is difficult enough to make a living these days without vandals making it that much harder by destroying your equipment.

Forestry Journal:

“If that’s an ‘activist’, I wonder if they have any wood in their furniture? What do they wipe their arse with? How exactly was their house built?” asked one member, adding: “To many, there’s no difference between this and hacking down a virgin rainforest. Absolutely zero time spent learning even the most basic understanding of plantation-style forestry.”

Another said: “What pisses me off is that in most cases these idiots don’t even know the difference between massive/harmful deforestation and keeping a forest healthy.”

A New Zealand-based contractor added: “Growing forests for harvest still makes oxygen. If the industry died and nobody planted any more trees the land would be put to other use, and I’d bet we would be worse off. Wood and paper are far better products than plastic.”

Forestry Journal: Kevin Kenna.Kevin Kenna.

One member suggested putting a trail camera in each machine: “When they walk up the steps, you’ll get a nice close face picture of them. Print it off and put it up in the woods for everyone to see. You won’t get any more trouble.”

Another member came to the Blog to vent his anger at people sauntering onto work-sites where forwarders and harvesters are operating, with no regard for their own or others’ safety. People don’t like being told what to do, it seems. This led to a bit of a heated debate between members.

READ MORE: Buyer's Guide: Timber trailers and cranes

“You cannot by law shut down the forest unless it is 100 per cent privately owned land and if it’s got a public right of way then you can only get it closed temporarily. That and not once have I come across any site that’s 100 per cent fenced off like a proper building site, so a few posters dotted around isn’t going to stop anyone. Along with working next to any footpaths or roads you should have a banks person, so I really can’t see why you want to moan about others unless you have control issues.”

Forestry Journal: Thijs Hillebrand.Thijs Hillebrand.

This didn’t go down well. “It’s people like you that think it’s alright to do what they want and not respect others. If there’s a machine working, you don’t need fences or signs to know there is a machine right there and it’s dangerous. That’s why we have accidents,” said one reply.

Another: “I would like to see what happened to the price of timber if we had to use a banksman every time we turned the harvester or forwarder on. I don’t have a problem with people accessing sites, aside from the inevitable vandalism it brings. It’s not a big deal to rope off paths when they are within a risk zone, but you can’t do a thing about people who ignore it.”

Forestry Journal: Ross Lamb.Ross Lamb.

We thought we’d wrap up this month with a joke shared on the Blog, which got a chuckle from the members and us here at Forestry Journal.

Paddy buys a chainsaw which guarantees to cut down 40 trees in an hour.

Paddy sets to work but only cuts 10 in the hour. So, he takes it back to the shop.

He says to the shop owner: “This doesn’t cut 40 trees an hour, I’ve only done 10!”

With that, the shop owner starts up the chainsaw.

Paddy looks at him and says: “Bloody hell, what’s that noise?”

To weigh in with your thoughts, some sage advice or even a joke, seek out the Forest Machine Operators Blog on Facebook.

Forestry Journal remains dedicated to bringing you all the latest news and views from across our industry, plus up-to-date information on the impacts of COVID-19.

Please support us by subscribing to our print edition, delivered direct to your door, from as little at £75 for 1 year – or consider a digital subscription from just £1 for 3 months.

To arrange, follow this link:

Thanks – and stay safe.