A MODERN-DAY lumberjill from Stafford is helping to avert a future forestry skills shortage.
Kay Clark, 20, is one of 20 aspiring forest workers to be recruited by the Forestry Commission as part of a national apprenticeship scheme.
She is based in Cannock Chase as part of a team which will hand-plant more than 140,000 trees at the 3,480 site over the next few months.
Her new role will also include carrying out surveys, restoring wildlife habitats and maintaining recreational facilities and she will work across Staffordshire woods during her two years’ training.
Tree planting still has to be done by hand and a skilled operator can plant up to 1,000 trees per day. Saplings must be planted before the weather becomes too warm and roots become active, but it is impossible to plant in icy weather.
The Forestry Commission is currently diversifying forest habitats by planting species including Scots pine, Sitka spruce and Douglas fir.
A five hectare test area is also being planted with 10,000 trees including Coastal Redwood and Western Red Cedar to find out how they fare underthe shelter of taller pine trees on the site.
Carolyn Marshall from the Forestry Commission said: “The planting programme is vital so forests like Cannock continue to produce a sustainable supply of timber – a key renewable resource - well into the future. Apprentices will work with other contractors to get the job done in time and get hands-on experience of working in the forest.
“By diversifying species planted in Cannock the aim is to make the forest more resilient to climate change and the growing problem of tree diseases, like red band needle blight.
“Forestry is a long-term business so we need to develop new approaches and plan ahead so that trees thrive in the kind of climate we will have by the mid- point of the century.”