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Woodland Manager Caroline Riches considers herself to be among the luckiest people in the country.
With Welsh Government woodlands in the Tywi, Crychan and Irfon areas around Llandovery to look after, she has a job that she loves in a beautiful area of Wales.
Leading a team of three Forest Craftspersons and private contractors, she inspects the forest trails, ensures the facilities are in good order and meets neighbours and community groups to resolve any concerns.
“This part of Wales is wild and beautiful,” said Caroline. “Every day reveals a sight that takes my breath away.
“I can’t decide where my favorite place in the area is; Tywi with its vast mountain ranges and amazing views over Llyn Brianne, Crychan with its wonderful network of tracks, Cwm Rhaeadr with its mountain bike track and lovely walks, or the Irfon Valley where the river meanders through the countryside and opens up into bluebell-lined pools that are great for wild swimming!”
Caroline, mum to six year old Brannon, is part of a team responsible for managing around 13,000 hectares of woodland, where conservation needs have to be balanced with popular recreation facilities and the demands of a vibrant forest industry.
It’s all a far cry from when she joined Forestry Commission Wales through an apprenticeship scheme just three years ago.
Caroline was one of seven apprentices who were offered the opportunity to “earn as you learn” and soon obtained numerous qualifications, including Chainsaw and Pesticides certificates and also an NVQ level 2 in Trees and Timber.
“I worked day to day carrying out forest stewardship and maintaining facilities such as forest trails,” said Caroline.
“This allowed me to consolidate the skills that I had gained and also to develop a broad view of the forest industry.
“I spent time with staff at different stages in the forestry process, from planting through to harvesting, civil engineering to education. There really is such a variety of roles in forestry.”
Caroline’s hard work was rewarded with a permanent position as a Forest Craftsperson, and she also won Lantra’s Land-based Learner of the Year award in 2010.
“I began to feel ready to tackle the next stage, so I sought out experiences that involved shadowing other supervisors and also organising my own projects,” said Caroline.
“When I heard about the Woodland Manager opportunity in Llandovery, I knew it was for me.”
Taking on the role has given Caroline the chance to further develop her skills and knowledge, with a Foundation Degree in Forestry at Newton Rigg in Penrith, Cumbria in her sights – and she is also learning Welsh.
“I just can’t wait to start the course. I really enjoyed the NVQ 2 Trees and Timber, and this feels like the next stage of my journey.
“My manager recently said to me, ‘When you find a job that you love, you’ll never go to work again’. And he’s right!”
Caption: Caroline discusses woodland issues with a member of the public.
NOTES TO EDITORS
A total of 14.3 per cent of Wales is covered by woodlands. Of this, 38% (126,000 hectares/311,000 acres) is owned by the Welsh Government.
Forestry Commission Wales is the Welsh Government’s department of forestry and manages these woodlands on its behalf.
More information on the woodlands of Wales is available on www.forestry.gov.uk/wales
Press office contact: Clive Davies on 0300 068 0061, mobile 07788 190922, email email@example.com