Planting new trees on steep ground can be a tricky task but Forestry Commission Wales’s Machine Operator Joe Mahoney is up to the challenge.
Nicknamed Spyderman by his colleagues, Joe has passed his competency test on the Kaiser Spyder 2 walking excavator, a specialist forestry machine that can "walk" across slopes with a gradient of up to 65% as it prepares the ground for planting new trees.
Woodlands containing trees of different ages and species are less at risk from damage by pests and disease and from the effects of climate change. And so, after Spyderman has done his work, Forestry Commission Wales plants a variety of different trees in the woodlands it manages on behalf of the Welsh Assembly Government.
Although the walking excavator has enough power to push 10 family cars, it is so lightweight that it has little impact on the steep ground it walks over. As a result, it increases the survival rate of pockets of young trees that have naturally regenerated at a site since it was last felled for timber.
Joe Mahoney said, "With so many controls to think about, using the walking excavator is a bit like rubbing your tummy, patting your head, tying your shoe laces and playing the piano at the same time, while seeing the ground disappear before you!
"I enjoy the challenge of using this machine, and it is great to see that I am making a direct contribution to the landscape of Wales by helping to increase the range of different trees that grow in our forests."
Kaiser walking excavators were originally manufactured to construct and maintain ski slopes. They are designed and built in Liechtenstein, and are used throughout the world.
Joe is one of only a handful of operators in the UK who are qualified to use the walking excavator and he had over six months of training from David Farmer, Forestry Commission Wales’s expert operator.
Fleet Manager for Forestry Commission Wales StJohn Ashworth said, "It takes nerves of steel and a cool head to operate the walking excavator and working on the steep slopes is certainly not a job for those with vertigo!
"Now, thanks to Joe’s specialist skills, we will be able to work this machine harder to prepare the ground at more sites across Wales each year ready to plant a wider range of tree species."
Joe is on Forestry Commission Wales’s Foundation Modern Apprentice scheme and, as well as passing his competency test on the walking excavator, he has gained experience using scarifiers, chainsaws and clearing saws.
Photo caption: The Kaiser Sypder 2 walking excavator in action
NOTES TO EDITORS
Foundation Modern Apprentice scheme
The Foundation Modern Apprentice scheme was set up by Forestry Commission Wales in 2009. Apprentices are employed on a fixed term appointment working to complete a Foundation Modern Apprenticeship Trees and Timber course, which offers work-based learning to achieve the National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) level 2 in Forestry.
Forestry Commission Wales
About 14% of Wales is covered by woodlands. Of this, 38% (126,000 hectares/311,000 acres) is owned by the Welsh Assembly Government.
Forestry Commission Wales is the Welsh Assembly Government’s department of forestry and manages these woodlands on its behalf.
Forestry Commission Wales provides advice on forestry policy to the Minister responsible for forestry. It provides grant aid to the private sector and regulates forestry by issuing felling licences.
Forestry Commission Wales is also part of Forestry Commission GB and contributes to the international forestry agenda.
More information on the woodlands of Wales is available on www.forestry.gov.uk/wales
Press office contact: Mary Galliers, firstname.lastname@example.org, 0300 068 0057.