In the second year of REALM there is an option whether to take a Woodland and Fieldsports module, or a Woodland Management module. All of the REALM (and countryside management) students study woodlands for the first term up until Christmas, and complete an assignment which is to plan a woodland somewhere on the university farm estate, and come up with an establishment plan, costings for the woodland, maps of where it will be etc. After Christmas you can either continue with woodland management or switch onto fieldsports.
I found this decision quite difficult. I found the woodland module really interesting, enjoyed writing the assignment and got on well with the lecturer. But I’m also very interested in fieldsports, taking part in a local shoot over the winter when I’m at home. I really wanted to do both modules, but that’s not possible!
In the end I chose the woodland management module. My reasoning for this is that I can learn fieldsports by taking part in those sports. There are people in the syndicate who know a great deal about gamekeeping (including the gamekeeper and one member who was a gamekeeper previously) and have experienced other types of shooting. A lot of people at Harper are into shooting and I can learn to some extent through conversations with them. My dad has also recently become a member of the committee for the syndicate, so while that is a learning curve for him, I can share his experience and use it to further my own knowledge of the area.
But woodlands are different. Felling trees or planting new woodland isn’t something that I go and do in my spare time. There is a lot to it, as there is with fieldsports also, but it would be difficult for me to learn about woodland management and forestry in other ways, without going to the lectures. And forestry is a common enterprise on estates and I’d like to know a lot more about it.
I think I made the right decision. I’m enjoying the lectures so far. We’ve covered silviculture, looking at different forestry systems such as coppice or high forest, learnt about the importance of thinning and how it can go wrong and today the lecture was about using the waste or co-products from saw logs to create other products such as chip-board or wood pellets for biomass boilers.
I think wood is an exciting product (now I really am starting to sound like my lecturer!) with loads of potential for different products, especially in a world with an ever increasing conscience about the environment and carbon footprints. I’m looking forward to learn more about it.