Royal award for woodland officer

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Nina Williams, Forestry and Woodlands Development Officer for the South Downs National Park has been presented with The Prince of Wales Award for outstanding young person on the Woodland Heritage ‘Woodland to Workshop’ course by The Prince of Wales.

The Prince of Wales Award for outstanding young person on the Woodland Heritage ‘Woodland to Workshop’ course by The Prince of Wales. The presentation was part of an event at the Highgrove Estate on 14 February setting out the way forward for skills, learning and development in woodland management to ensure forestry skills remain a priority for the future.

Nina’s role includes helping people who own woods across the South Downs National Park find free advice on how to manage their land to support wildlife and the local economy. She leads the South Downs Forestry Partnership, a new project led by the South Downs National Park Authority in partnership with Forestry Commission, Woodland Trust and the Sussex Wildlife Trust, which also offers networking opportunities for woodland owners to learn from the experts.

With 38,000 hectares of woodland the South Downs National Park has a greater area of tree coverage than any other national park in England and Wales. This varies from ancient yew forests to modern plantations but nearly half of the woodland (45 per cent) is classed as ancient or semi-natural woods meaning that the land has been under constant tree cover for more than 400 years.

Nina said:“People might be surprised to hear that there is more woodland in the South Downs than in the New Forest and my role is to support both new and existing owners to manage their woods to so that wildlife thrives, woodland products reach local markets and the woodland economy becomes sustainable.

“I was very lucky to attend the Woodland to Workshop course which offered me the opportunity to learn from the practical experience of industry professionals. I loved the course and am now using the experience, knowledge and contacts I gained to map the forestry enterprises and timber supply chain within the National Park and hopefully, in turn, encourage more people to enter the industry.

“There has been a trend in recent years for people to invest in small parcels of woodland and many people who have bought them for personal enjoyment may not realise the other benefits that trees can bring.

“With more homes and businesses installing woodfuel boilers and a growing interest in locally sourced produce these woods have the potential to boost our timber industry, create local jobs and contribute an estimated £22.8m to the National Park’s economy.”

Ian Gambles, Director of Forestry Commission England, commented: “Everyone involved in forests and woodlands today has a duty to play their part in developing the next generation of foresters.

“The scientific and practical skills needed to manage our woodlands will be needed more and more as markets strengthen and woodland cover grows, and we must invest in them now.”

For more information on the South Downs Forestry Partnership or woodland management advice visit www.southdowns.gov.uk/looking-after/woodlands/woodland-management

Report contributed by the South Downs National Park.