Island Life Magazine Ltd December 2008/January 2009 - Page 72

Changing face of the countryside by Tony Ridd Finding someone who is dedicated to their job is rare these days, especially when that person has experienced almost every aspect of the job, starting at the bottom, and advising others on how to achieve their goals… enter Hugh Milner, a leading light in the management and development of Island woodlands. Without Hugh’s experience and gentle approach, I am sure the Island’s landscape would look very different. Having sat his ‘O’ levels and spent a year in the sixth form, he decided to look for a job that guaranteed he would never have to work in London! At 17 he successfully applied to the Forestry Commission. His first posting was at Bramfield in Hertfordshire, cutting and 72 felling ‘devastated hornbeam coppice’. This was coppice where the oak had been removed in the first World War and the hornbeam had been used for fuel wood in London, before becoming neglected. Sounds straight forward, but in those days, Hugh only had hand tools, coppicing with a bow saw and axe! A stint at ‘Tunstall’ Suffolk gave Hugh the experience he needed to enter the FC Training School at the Forest of Dean. This covered everything ; theory, practical, supervising and training staff, qualifying with the ‘Foresters Certificate’. He was sent to Scotland where he ‘had to prove himself’. Here he found the people to be ‘very wonderful, a pleasant cultural shock’ he explains. Over the years Hugh has relived many stories to me. I particularly like the one where, while on the Isle of Mull, to save him going on a 40 mile round trip, he would paddle across the loch to pay one of his workers. Taping the wage packet to his chest, just in case he fell in. The wage, a very respectable £12.00, and all this in his, own, home made canoe!!! 1972, brought him back to England. Kielder Forest, was and still is the largest man made forest in Europe, covering 50,000 hectares. The majority of the land having been purchased from the Duke of Northumberland, for 2s 6d an acre because of double death duties. Hugh imparts that the land was of such poor quality that it could only support one sheep per 4 acres. For six years they trialled nearly every The Island's new funky radio station