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Two friends who helped to plant and care for the woodlands of Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire have finally called it a day - after clocking up an astonishing 100 years in the forest.
When Steve Williams and Graham West began work in Pembrey forest as raw 15-year-olds back in 1960, Ben Hur swept the Oscars, Princess Margaret married Antony Armstrong-Jones (Lord Snowdon) and a little-known guitarist named Jimi Hendrix played his first gig.
Since then, the two men who became friends as ten-year-olds in Burry Port Secondary Modern school racked up a century of service between them, helping to plant and then watching as the trees that have shaped the landscape of west Wales grew to maturity.
Graham, who lives in Burry Port, was first to sign up, on Tuesday, April 4, 1960 – he remembers the day and the date – closely followed by Steve in August.
They began their careers in south Carmarthenshire, initially planting trees in Pembrey forest before moving to the west Wales forest, where they were involved in landscaping along the newly built M4 and A48 trunk road between Swansea and Carmarthen.
In those days, forestry was rather different from the modern, efficient industry it is today.
Steve, 65, of Pwll, Llanelli, recalls, “I’ve seen many changes – for the better and the worse.
“You have big machines to cut down the trees these days. In my day, you had to use a handsaw. Forestry is a bit easier now!”
It’s a sentiment echoed by Graham, also 65, who notched up 51 years with the Commission.
“Forestry today is a world away from when we started. It was hard work but I enjoyed every minute of it.”
Towards the end of their careers the pair worked in the 10,000ha of Assembly Government woodland in Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire, looking after the miles of footpaths, bridleways, fences and, more recently, the bike trails in Brechfa.
Graham now plans to devote more time to his voluntary work with Breakthrough, a local charity which helps handicapped children. He also expects to be kept busy by his five daughters and nine grandchildren.
Steve also intends to stay active after finishing just two weeks short of 50 years with the Commission – not bad for someone whose only previous job lasted a fortnight!
Steve and Graham stepped into retirement together and received letters from Tim Rollinson, the Director General of the Forestry Commission, along with Long Service Certificates in recognition of their contribution.
In addition to these accolades they have been recommended for a prestigious Civil Service Imperial Service Medal (ISM), which is awarded shortly after retirement to recognise meritorious service.
They also had words of praise from their manager for their lifetime of work in the forest.
Dominic O’Connor Robinson, FC Wales Local Area Manager for Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire, said, “These two chaps have been integral to keeping the forests here in such wonderful condition.
"Over the years, Steve and Graham adapted well to the changing nature of the work and always showed a genuine commitment which has been inspirational for others in the team.
"It’s incredible to see the trees that they’ve planted at the start of their careers coming into maturity - there are not many folk who can say that they’ve been a part of shaping the landscape for such a long period of time."
NOTES TO EDITORS
About 14 per cent 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.
More information on the woodlands of Wales is available on www.forestry.gov.uk/wales
Press office contact: Clive Davies, Forestry Commission Wales Information Officer, on 0300 068 0061, mobile 07788 190922, email firstname.lastname@example.org