24 July 2012
He may be just 29 years old, but Paul Allen is already a veteran woodsman.
Now he has been given the job of showing people behind the scenes in England’s biggest woodland – Kielder Water & Forest Park.
The Forestry Commission is staging ‘working forest’ tours in the 62,000 hectare (155,000-acre) Northumbrian wilderness each Tuesday from 31 July to 28 August offering a grandstand view of a hi-tech timber harvester in action.
Paul, who lives in Greenhaugh, has spent the past eight years driving one of these £250,000 leviathans which can fell up to 200 trees a day.
Originally a tree surgeon in his native city of Coventry, he opted for a move north before landing the role operating the biggest beast in the forest. It takes intensive training to learn the ropes, aided by use of computer simulators and a stint on a specialist machine operators course in Dumfries.
Recently promoted to works supervisor, Paul said:
“I’ve worked in every part of Kielder and mechanical harvesters are the backbone of the operation. It’s not so many years ago that every tree had to be felled by hand, which would have been a daunting challenge. I always wanted an outdoor job it doesn’t get much more spectacular than Kielder."
Using a mechanical claw linked to an on-board computer harvesters can cut trees to customer requirements and strip branches in double quick time. But there’s a lot more to forestry than just felling trees. Paul will also explain how timber production is being balanced with recreation and conservation.
Kielder Forest produces over 440,000 metric tonnes of timber annually, making it the UK’s most productive woodland. To replace those felled 2.5 million trees are hand planted each year. Meanwhile the forest harbours nine Sites of Special Scientific Interest and is haven for red squirrels, wild goats and birds of prey like ospreys.
Last year’s tours proved a big hit with the public so booking is essential on 01434 250209. Meet at 2pm at Kielder Castle Visitor Centre. A mini-bus will be used to ferry people to harvesting sites and the cost is £10 adults. Bring stout footwear and please note that dogs are not permitted.
1. 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. Further information can be found at www.forestry.gov.uk
2. Media calls to Richard Darn on 0775 367 0038.