Why Ruth would be an effective mentor

  • Ruth, whose academic background focused on environmental impact assessment and has taught secondary school science, has for the last 15 years been establishing and managing 20-hectares of sustainable, productive woodland at Bron Haul Farm with her partner.
  • At Bron Haul Farm, regular forestry operations converting young plantation into continuous cover woodland are aimed at growing quality timber. Although the greatest value timber will be for future generations, the woodland is already playing a role in supporting the local timber economy and provisioning the farm in a setting that improves biodiversity, water quality and control, and builds healthy soils. The woodland also provides shelter to the grazing for their small suckler herd. 
  • Her experience includes planting and establishing mixed broadleaf woodland on grassland, bracken land and gorse land. Her work includes dealing with pest control (including grey squirrels and fallow deer), thinning, formative and high pruning, coppicing and extraction. 
  • Early management at Bron Haul yielded low value thinnings used for firewood and charcoal. As the first 10 years of woodland operations have improved the quality of stems, the third thinning cycle is now also producing sweet chestnut and larch fencing materials and larch gates to meet all the farm’s needs. They have also started supplying neighbours.
  • In 2020, they had about 3 tonnes of their best ash and wild cherry thinnings planked, which has given them experience of drying and grading hardwood boards. They have recently set up a website and are using social media to help develop a market for their products.
  • Ruth believes that her hands-on experience of managing her own woodland and seeing how it responds to management means that she understands the pitfalls but also the rewards for the hard work. She also understands how woodland grants fit into the agricultural support schemes and the historic barriers to farmers taking more interest in their woodland. She is keen to pass on her experience and help farmers transition to the new approaches that will see the agricultural sector contribute positively to the challenges of climate crisis and biodiversity loss. She believes that her background in teaching has made her a good listener and she would welcome the opportunity to share knowledge in a constructive way. 

Current farm business 

  • 26 hectare (ha) owned farm
  • 20ha planted with mainly mixed broadleaf, includes small component of larch
  • 16ha of the woodland is approaching 25 years old; 4ha were planted in 2014
  • 6ha provide grazing for small suckler herd of store cattle
  • Glastir Advanced with prescriptions for hayfield management, grassland with minimal inputs and hedgerow maintenance. 

Qualifications/achievements/experience 

  • 2008 – present: Self-employed farmer and forester 
  • 2005-2006: MSc Environmental Impact Assessment, Aberystwyth University
  • 2007-2008: SAC Monitoring Ecologist, Countryside Council for Wales
  • 2015: Gold Medal for Small Woodland, Royal Forestry Society
  • 2015: Silver Medal for Woodland Creation, Royal Forestry Society
  • 2019: Milford Silver Medal for Best Broadleaf Entry, Royal Welsh Agricultural Show
  • Member of The Royal Forestry Society, Woodland Heritage and the Nature Friendly Farming Network

Tips for business success 

1) Save money by building a circular economy. Make the most of your woodland resource to provide your farm with fencing and other timber products.  You may be surprised how well your skills and equipment transfer to forestry!

2) The UK is the world’s second largest timber importer. Getting 75% of Welsh farm woodland into management could produce 140,000 tonnes of timber and generate over £1.25 million (Royal Forestry Society, 2019). Getting more of our woodland into management will create a quality resource for future generations and help to build a more prosperous and globally responsible Wales. There’s a market out there waiting for us!

3) Prepare your farm for the future. Our changing government support systems will value the environmental services our land can provide. The permission these changes will give us to balance our priorities will let us build more climate resilient landscapes where the mental wellbeing of our communities is enhanced by vibrant ecosystems.