Who are you? I am Rob Stockley, Forestry Consultant in the Forestry & Woodland Management team.
What do you do? I advise landowners on what to do with their woods – so many of the traditional factors are changing at present that each job requires balancing current objectives (timber, sporting, landscape) with the likelihood of being derailed at some point by a new pest or disease!
For example, until recently ash timber was a reliable source of firewood and joinery timber. Chalara ash dieback is now present in nearly 70% of England, and we expect 95% mortality from the disease: I help to identify areas of estate woodlands with high proportions of ash – these are at high risk of mortality. Here in the Midlands, with ash as one of our semi-natural woodland species, some woodlands can be up to 80% ash! The good news is that the risk from infection is reduced by thinning ash and removing the weaker trees. Once an estate is assessed for risk of Chalara ash dieback, I find markets for timber from the highest-risk areas, work with suitable contractors to fell and extract the timber, and administer the sales.
As Chalara ash dieback physiologically weakens the tree, its physical condition also deteriorates. Fungal decay can lead to brittle, fragile timber and felling this becomes difficult without endangering lives and machinery of felling workers, and the timber is worth less as well. This also illustrates why we need to constantly reassess tactics in light of new evidence and think proactively about our woods.
When I’m not working on client projects, I hugely enjoy my role as Honorary Secretary & Treasurer of the RFS Midlands division (https://www.rfs.org.uk/). With the help of an excellent Committee and Chair, I get to organise visits to our region’s most outstanding woods, as well as meeting an interested and engaged group of members at events throughout the year. Do get in touch if this sounds like your cup of tea!
What projects do you find it particularly interesting to be involved with? Picture a wood which is difficult to access with wet overgrown access rides, poor in wildlife except deer and squirrels (which are only damaging the wood) and with dense tree canopy which doesn’t admit much light or wind. I’d say this is typical of most unmanaged woodlands in our region. After I’ve organised thinning the wood, opening up the rides, setting up deer and squirrel control and ride mowing, it is always rewarding to walk through the same wood year after year and watch a new bird or butterfly species, or to see the next generation of young trees growing up into the canopy gaps. Subsequently, when I admire the creativity of architects and furniture makers who contribute to wider society in using timber, such as in the Wood Awards (https://woodawards.com/), there’s a symmetry to understanding where that timber has come from, and the environmental benefits it’s brought along the way.
What are your interests and hobbies? Raising a young family demands its own considerable share of time, but I’m lucky to be able to combine this with most of my other pursuits – I enjoy growing and cooking food, as well as learning more about the UK’s huge variety of food producers (brewers included!). When work and family allow, I enjoy exploring new areas of our country and further afield in Europe.