The people and woods programmes aims to address the lack of skilled labour in the forestry sector. These valuable skills are needed to address the huge objectives to increase tree cover, as these new woodlands need planting and managing by trained individuals, in order to meet climate targets and improve biodiversity.

The programme aims to provide practical training and offer experience for people from a diverse range of backgrounds, without the necessary skill set, qualifications or funds required to achieve career transition. The programme will also aim to provide management and restoration of 5 woodlands with the focus on bringing these back into sustainable production. This means the restoration management we deliver will become self- funding, by providing bespoke sustainable products that can be used in other environmental projects within the county (for example, hedge laying, river restoration, horticulture, fencing)

                                                 Newly coppiced stool with circa 40 year old Hazel growth in background                                                    

 (Guiting Manor Farm, Gloucestershire)

Running from 2022 to 2024, our project is in the process of restoring over 50 ha of neglected woodland throughout Gloucestershire. In order to turn this objective into reality, our People and Woods Programme has 5 main components:

1)    Recruitment of 14 new entrants 
2)    Providing career development throughout the project, in partnership with RuRALink Ruralink and FarmED 
3)    Practical woodland restoration with landowners and neglected woodlands
4)    Purchase of 3 additional charcoal kilns
5)    Purchase of wood-chipper

Current progress

Seven trainees have already completed their accredited chainsaw and wood chipper training. Our trainers include Ruralink, Greenway training, West country coppice/forestry England, Slim woodlands community interest company and Westonbirt. 
Ongoing phone/ email advice is being given trainees, as well as in person. In person rural enterprise events have taken place including Sustainable Leadership courses at FarmED, a woodland focussed mentoring session with RuRALink and a rural enterprise training day at FarmED. 

Stakes and heatherings in newly laid hedgerow (Guiting Manor Farm, Gloucestershire)

Three charcoal kilns have been installed in privately owned woodlands and confirmed access arrangements for our current cohort of participants. Through doing this, connections have been made between woodlands and farm businesses, enabling training for agricultural operatives, and exploring options in regular farm visits for diversification, particularly in regards to Agroforestry. 

We have engaged a network of educational establishments, which include the Royal Agricultural University (Cirencester), Hartpury University and Hartpury College (Gloucester), and local schools / centres of higher education throughout Gloucestershire.
We are connected to the lead organisers for the Forestry Commission’s Forestry Training Fund Fund in our People and Woodlands Training, via a knowledge sharing event scheduled for May 2023. 

The Forestry Commission team are particularly interested in i) our holistic, partnership approach, ii) engagement with farm businesses, and iii) the integration of rural enterprise training and mentoring in our project delivery.
There has been an initial expression of interest by the Forestry Commission in exploring options for further supporting our project and identifying options for developing their own training provision, based on our achievements to-date.

Charcoal kiln

Early stage charcoal burning in ring kiln (Ullen Wood, Gloucestershire)