IF you want to succeed in any enterprise, you have to have the right people. The mess in which we, as a nation, currently find ourselves is largely the result of mismanagement.

The result of putting the wrong, uninformed people in charge.

How can a rich country like ours, birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, run out of energy? What on earth has happened to the National Health Service, once our pride and joy? How can it be that strikes are once again the only method of negotiation between employees and their employers? And who is this withdrawing their labour? Barristers? You have to be joking!

READ MORE: Forester's Diary (October 2022): King Charles and shepherd's sticks

How can successive governments fudge, fumble and prevaricate on the way forward to such extent that this, the United Kingdom, can find itself a shambolic shadow of its former self? Well, as so graphically demonstrated over this summer, you have to have a sensible, flexible system and you have to have the right people.

Here’s a couple of examples. In South Korea, a country that 50 years ago was one of the poorest nations on earth, the best qualified and most able politicians are experts in their fields, and are rewarded by seriously high pay. Not bankers or politicians, but experts.

The result? Prosperity. Growth (if I might be allowed to use the word).

Closer to home, and at the other end of the spectrum, who do we put in charge of our own forestry industry? Name me two Ministers of the Environment from the past 10 years. Make that 20 years! Prime Ministers, yes, sure. But in my embarrassingly long career in forestry, we have never, never had a minister who knew or understood the least thing about forestry. Perhaps John Major was the exception that proves the rule. 

And we don’t help, do we? We seem content to accept all the problems in our own woods which arrive as a result of decades of cluelessness. We continue to trot out doomed government grant schemes, foredoomed to failure, and we can’t even train our own foresters to struggle with the resulting mess. The wonderful Forestry Commission thinks nothing of taking not weeks or even months, but years to deal with the slightest problems arising in the hills. What will it take to get us moving again? It’s a job to know, isn’t it? 

Let’s try to think positively. Having spent a good proportion of my working life north of the Border, I am raised out of my gloom, as there appears to be more than a glimmer of hope in the glens. Land availability helps. And the Welsh, after a few decades of surrender to environmentalists, are also showing stirrings of wanting to move forward. 

England, however, appears to be a lost cause. Who on earth can possibly support the crackpot rewilding schemes which seem to have no trouble getting nationwide publicity?

Let’s go back to the beginnings of this diatribe. Buffaloes? Beavers? Once again, you have to be joking. There are other obstacles. National parks? Peatlands? It’s people – experts, motivated foresters – who will, eventually have to speak up, to shout that we are the second-largest timber-importing nation in the world, second only to China! That we continue to support a branch of farming that destroys our environment, pollutes our rivers and can only continue with an ever-burgeoning contribution from the tax-payer.

We are doomed to produce grey squirrel fodder when we could be planting coniferous trees and producing timber! We need it now, and we are going to need it even more in the immediate future.

Look, I’ve almost finished moaning. I’m feeling just a bit grumpy as I am injured. We need, I repeat, to make a noise. We need PR big-time. Come on Confor! I won’t dwell on your past records, but now, please, come out and shout. The nation needs trees. The nation loves trees. Get some good people – they do exist – and make a noise.

And do it now, please!