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Meet Holly, the South Downs National Park’s Forestry Apprentice

Meet Holly, the South Downs National Park’s Forestry Apprentice

February 2, 2024

We’re celebrating National Apprenticeship week (5-11 February) this year by getting to know Holly Whitehouse, one of our forestry apprentices:

Can you tell us more about your apprentice role at the National Park?

I am a forestry crafts person apprentice. This involves working with the South Downs National Park, attending college at Plumpton (near Lewes in East Sussex) and also working closely with Powell Forestry.

At Powells I work with their management teams, hand cutters and machine operators, learning about the operations of the UK forestry industry.

This involves, woodland establishment and maintenance, invasive species, pest and disease management, building woodland infrastructure and felling. I also work with the South Downs ranger teams where tasks are orientated around conservation, public access, wildlife monitoring and volunteer engagement.

With both placements I have experienced a huge range of different tasks day to day.

Why did you choose an apprenticeship at the South Downs National Park?

I was considering doing an apprenticeship when I saw the South Downs advert out of the blue.  I hadn’t really thought about a career in forestry before, but reading the required qualities and interests needed, I thought “I could do that, why not?”

It included all the things I had small bits of experience in and enjoy doing, but all rolled into one. In addition the apprenticeship offered great qualifications and experience opportunities, as well as being in the South Downs, an area I’ve lived in and around for many years.  I wanted to learn more about the landscape around me.

 What do you think are the benefits of apprenticeships?

An apprenticeship is one of the few options available to me as someone who has already passed through the university system and couldn’t afford to retrain, but wanted a career change.

It meant I could learn and still have an income and although going back to the school environment was daunting at first, it really works to reinforce the practical knowledge learnt on the job and vice versa.

An apprenticeship is a great learning platform where you’re surrounded by a variety of very knowledgeable and passionate people, who in turn can be (and have been) incredibly supportive and encouraging.

What’s been the highlight of your time in the National Park as an apprentice?

There have been many great moments, and even on seemingly the worst days, working in pouring rain, being soaked to the bone on the side of a hill can still be laughed about later (tough lesson no.12 ALWAYS bring spare dry clothes!).

Driving a harvester and the college tractor and forestry trailer were brilliant, they are such incredible bits of machinery.

Working outside in the most beautiful and idyllic countryside and woodland,  entirely off the beaten track and where I would never normally have access to.

I’m also really proud of getting my 35 year old brain to engage back with college academia as well as passing my CS32 medium fell ticket.

What are your future aspirations for your apprenticeship?

To keep learning, keep being challenged, to keep gaining qualifications and experience.

What else would you like to mention?

To whoever’s thinking about an apprenticeship, just do it.

Take the time to apply. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know everything, just have enthusiasm, willingness and the drive to want to try and learn something new.