Published onJanuary 16 2020
Welcome to 12 Faces of Arb where in the tenth edition we hear from Women in Arb member Catherine Nuttgens. Catherine gives us an insight on her route into the industry and her career so far as Community Forestry Manager.
I started out in voluntary sector building dens and lighting fires with children and young people through Forest School projects. I moved to the public sector and led on a number of Woodland Heritage projects and then trained as a Tree Officer – a post that I have had for 5 years. Very recently I took up the post of Community Forestry Manager, which involves coordinating the planting of a lot of trees in Sheffield.
There aren’t many places on earth more joyous than a British bluebell woodland on a sunny morning in early May. Trees are so many things to people. They are a fixed point in the landscape, our history, a playground, a source of food, an educational tool, a place of calm, a home for nature, a provider of shade, a cause to rally round, and the answer to the Climate Crisis according to the zeitgeist. Through the years I have been lucky to be able to witness some of the positive effects that trees have on people, and I am now in a position to enable people to have a positive effect on trees.
I have never worked with a friendlier and more welcoming bunch of people than the arb community. I was worried that when I moved across from Woodland Heritage it would be all banter and blokeishness. It isn’t, it’s more like boffins and bakers (there are often some very fine apple pies in our office). Also, where else will six people jostle round a phone showing a photo of some fungus?
The range of knowledge and skills that the industry requires really makes it special. What other industry can ask for a knowledge of Tort Law, good upper body strength, and the ability to decipher the acoustics when wood is hit with a nylon hammer? Whatever you are good at, there is probably a niche in Arb for you.
What is one of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in arboriculture and how/what helped you overcome it?
Starting as Community Forestry Manager in the middle of planting season is a challenge. I have a lot of trees to get in the ground, and so much more to do! Trees are big on on the agenda nationally at the moment, and even more so in Sheffield, so I need to work hard to get things right. I’ll tell you whether I overcome the challenge or not in May! I think we are getting there though. I am very glad I have great colleagues to support me.
I am motivated by a passion for trees and working with people to make things better understood and enjoyed. II think it would be interesting to be involved in strategy around managing the Urban Forest for nature, climate and people. The public and politicians are focused on trees more now than ever before, and this provides us with an opportunity to educate, so that decisions made are well informed.
As a Tree Officer I used to say to my friends “I look at trees all day and then I write about them. Sometimes I listen to the birds. What’s not to like?” Perhaps a bit of an over simplification. I’ve have also neglected to mention the General Public, who, even in Sheffield (would you believe it!), almost always want trees cut down and I have to tell them no. But out of jobs that a person can have, Arboriculture is definitely one of the better ones for job satisfaction and wellbeing.
It won’t be a man’s industry if lots of women come and work in it, so come and join us! Initiatives like Women in Arb mean that there are enough women to provide support and advice if there are difficulties, but I have found Arb to be surprisingly more welcoming than other traditionally gender diverse jobs. There are lots of opportunities to volunteer with a local authority, contractor or consultant, so try it out and see what you think!