Forestry Commission logo
NEWS RELEASE No: 1445715 MARCH 2011

North woodsman hangs up his axe

This news story is now over a year old and information may no longer be accurate or up-to-date. It might also contain obsolete links.
Please use our search link on the left to look for more recent information.
Forester Colin Grayson, set to retire after 35 years, admires some of his handy work in Coatham Wood

A forester who helped pave the way for major new public woods to take root in the Tees Valley is hanging up his axe after a career spanning 35 years.

Colin Grayson, 54, who lives in Barton, North Yorkshire, joined the Forestry Commission soon after leaving school, becoming a wildlife ranger in beautiful Dalby Forest, near Pickering.

Since then he has carved a career becoming one of the Commission’s senior manages in the North East overseeing woodland grants and regulations.

But his fondest memories are helping to create new beauty spots like Coatham Wood, near Long Newton, and South Burdon, near Darlington. Colin was on secondment to the Tees Forest at the time and was the driving force behind the woods’ creation on former agricultural and industrial land in the late 1990s.

At South Burdon 140,000 trees were planted on a 80 hectare (200 acre) site in partnership with Darlington Borough Council. The scheme aimed at tackling a shortfall in tree cover in the area, which is well below the national average.  Coatham Wood covering 200 hectares (500 acres) was bought by the Forestry Commission in 1998. 

Today the once bare fields are flourishing with oaks, pines, rowan and birch trees and wildlife has been quick to take advantage. 

All five British owl species have been recorded at Coatham - Barn owl, Tawny, Long-eared, Short-eared and Little owl, whilst thousands of people enjoy walks and activities, one the key objectives in planting the woods near population centres.

Colin said:

“The nice thing about working in forestry is that when you retire you leave something tangible behind in the landscape.  I’m very pleased to have played a part in the creation of many new woodlands, especially those in the Tees Valley.  Wildlife has benefited and local people have embraced them.  That gives me a lot of satisfaction.”

In his later career Colin has been deeply involved in promoting the restoration of ancient woodland through grant schemes, getting more woods into active management and improving public access.  As befits a life-long lumberjack he plans to spend his retirement enjoying the great outdoors, walking and biking, and also pursuing his passion for wood crafts.

Note to Editor

The Forestry Commission is the government department responsible in England for protecting, expanding and promoting the sustainable management of woods and forests and increasing their value to society and the environment. Forestry makes a real contribution to sustainable development, providing social and environmental benefits arising from planting and managing attractive, as well as productive, woodlands. To find out more visit

Media calls to Richard Darn on 0775 367 0038.