My Story

3 August 2022

I have always had a passion for the great outdoors, and trees in particular have always inspired and fascinated me.  I have worked and learned in the outdoors for over 20 years now, much of which has been spent on the beautiful Isle of Wight.  Much like the fractal shapes in trees, my career path has happily not been a straight line – so if you’re considering this type of work as a career, there is more than one way to get there.

After a “false start” embarking on a very short-lived (2 ½ year) career in engineering, at the age of 19 I saw the light and realising that lifestyle was not for me, I looked for opportunities to work in the great outdoors.

After completing a three year Higher National Diploma in Countryside Management, I gained some work experience on the Island, the mainland and in Portugal before returning home and setting up my business ‘Living Landscapes’ with the help of the Princes Trust in 2000.

Initially much of my work was in domestic gardens, designing, creating and maintaining wildlife friendly gardens.  Trees formed the backbone of these gardens and went on to be the backbone of my business as I gained the Royal Forestry Society Certificate in Arboriculture in 2006.

As the business developed, I became a tree and conservation contractor for a number of Parish Councils, The National Trust and Forestry Commission, among others.

In 2006 I began managing the woodlands at Great Park Farm and through this developed the woodfuel side of the business, going on to process and supply around 200 tonnes of firewood per year as a byproduct of woodland restoration projects.

During this time I also became a keen, self taught hedge layer, competing in the annual Isle of Wight hedgelaying competition and going on to be Isle of Wight champion three times.

In 2014 a change in life circumstances caused me to bring Living Landscapes to an end.

I took a nine month sabbatical in New Zealand and whilst there, discovered the concept and practice of permaculture, a life-changing discovery.  While there I completed a Permaculture Design Certificate, the principles of which I bring into all elements of my life and work today.

On my return to the UK I took on a part-time role running a Woodland Restoration Project for the new Forest National Park whilst reestablishing connections with a number of key clients on the Isle of Wight from my previous business.  When the New Forest contract came to an end I returned full-time to the Island, providing more farm and woodland focused contracting and consultancy services.

My permaculture training taught me how community is a vital part of making positive changes in our world.  In 2016 I set up the Coppins Community Food Forest in conjunction with the Isle of Wight Food bank and the Church on the Roundabout in Newport – the concept being supplementing packaged food bank donations with fresh fruit and vegetables grown on adjacent public land with the help of volunteers.  The group established a Food Forest on Barton Green with over 20 fruit trees and a variety of other fruits and vegetables which still operates today. 

I was also Founder Member of the Isle of Wight Coppice Group which I helped to set up with the assistance of the Down to the Coast Landscape Partnership.[1]   The successful group promotes woodland regeneration through the traditional practice of coppicing.

These traditional practices directly benefit flagship woodland species such as dormice and the Red Squirrel while benefiting the local economy through the production of sustainable traditional craft items.

Since 2017 myself and two colleagues have had a contract with Forestry England coppicing Chestnut in Brighstone Forest for fencing material. Each year we cut a small area, regenerating the neglected coppice and producing a variety products from agricultural stakes to ornamental garden and rustic post and rail fencing.

Since 2019 my involvement with the Great Park Farm estate has increased as the way the two farms are managed has changed significantly. Working with the managing agents (Knight Frank LLP) Natural England and the Forestry Commission, I have been fully involved with the design and implementation of a large Higher Tier Countryside Stewardship Scheme and EWCO woodland planting Scheme. These schemes include a large scale wood-pasture restoration, extensive new woodland establishment, arable in-field and margin options and hedgerow planting and restoration. This project will lead to this 750 hectare estate being managed in a much more sustainable manner, benefitting many plant and animal species and aligning with the Island’s Biosphere Reserve[U2]  objectives

I really enjoy the diversity of my work; one day I can be advising a landowner on long term management of their woodland, the next I can be hedgelaying, felling diseased Ash trees or making rustic fencing.

Working with the seasons is an important element of my work ethos; everything has a season and I like to adhere to that, it gives me a deeper sense of connection to the land.

Autumn and Winter is the time for felling, coppicing, hedgelaying and planting while Spring and Summer is the time for creating products from felled timber, management planning and consultancy work.

Share this post


Latest Posts

Can we help?

We are always happy to have a chat and discuss and questions or requiremetns you might have.