Meet the Team – Clive & Geoff, Forestry

Meet the Team – Clive & Geoff, Forestry Department

When did you start working at Cowdray?

Clive: In October 45 years ago.

Geoff:  I started in 2008, but I have been working in the woods all my life, before joining Cowdray, I worked for English Woodlands and Tillington Forestry.

Tell me about your role at the Estate.

Clive: We work within the Forestry team, our role is planting the trees, maintaining them, clearing and weeding by hand and brush cutting.  We work and look after the trees from the planting stage until we get to the first thinning stage which is around fifteen years into a plantation, then the production team take over.

Geoff: Clive and I work together as a team and we always have done.  Most of the jobs that we carry out we do by hand.

How has the Estate changed over the Years?

Clive: There were 33 men in the forestry team when I started at Cowdray, I went into what was then called ‘a gang’, which was made up of six men and we worked one area of the Estate, each gang worked across a different wood on the Estate and stayed within that wood.  We did carry out other jobs for the Estate, not only working in the woods. If a job came up elsewhere which needed manpower, we would have gone and helped, so we were regarded as an estate worker, not solely focused as a forestry worker.

Obviously, the machinery has changed our working practices over the years in the Forestry team.  When I first started, we used axes, we had chain saws but not used as much as they are now, forestry has got easier with the machinery that we use now.  We used to load the felled timber on to the lorries by hand, that was hard work and took a lot of time.

Measurements have also changed and in the years gone by everything was grown to be as big as possible, bigger trees were better it was thought, so our trees were huge. We high pruned the trees to get them really big.  Now the mills will only take up to 50cm diameter, so we are harvesting trees that are not as mature. The growth rates at Cowdray are very different to the rest of the country, a 50 year stand anywhere else in the country would be small, here at Cowdray it would be fully mature. We are at the top end of the yield class,  our trees are very well looked after.

How has Estate changed over the years?

Clive: What really did change the Estate was the storm of 1987. It wrecked future plantations, plantations that would not have been cut down for years. It left a real gap.  It took us four years to clear and re-plant after the storm.

Geoff: The one good thing to come out of the storm were the views, especially when you come down from the heath on the left-hand side where they called it the ‘Gold Medal Piece’, it was all big high trees, really high and then all of a sudden, they were gone, and you could see right out across the downs. The views were amazing, no one ever imagined that such a stunning view was hidden behind those trees.

Tell me about the ‘Gold medal piece’.

Geoff: It was a stand of Corsican pine, that won a gold medal for the quality of the timber.  They were all blown down in the storm apart from two pines which were left standing, one of those was then felled soon after the storm; no one on the Estate knows how it happened which then left one tree, which is referred to as ‘Lonesome Pine.’

What is your favourite season on the Estate?

Clive: All year around really, but spring and summer are probably the best time for me, best time for our work.

Geoff: There is more going on in the summertime, so that is my favourite time of the year, we do the summer weeding and clearing around the trees.  We are out in the open air and have the sun on our backs, what could be better.

What is special about Cowdray?

Geoff: I have lived here all my life and its really is so much a part of my life, even for the social part of life, walking around the polo grounds and up through the woods.

Clive: I am the fourth generation of my family working on the Estate, my father, grandfather and great grandfather worked on the Estate in the works department. Cowdray is a big part of my life and Lord Cowdray and the previous Lord Cowdray have always looked after my family and I.  I am very grateful and proud to work for Lord and Lady Cowdray and the Estate.

Do you have any hobbies?

Clive: I used to play a lot of football and snooker.

Geoff: I love walking and enjoying the outdoor lifestyle that we have here at Cowdray.

How many trees have you planted so far this year? 

Clive: We have only just really started really with the planting, so I would say roughly a thousand trees.

Geoff: A couple of weeks ago we did something called ‘beating up’ which means that we go and replace any of the dead trees which were planted last year, so in total so far, including these we have probably planted two thousand trees.

Clive: This is the first week we have had straight planting which is planting on a clear fell site and we are doing this over in Cocking forest.  We are going to be planting fifty thousand trees up there, Norway spruce, beech, and Hazel.

How many trees have you planted since being at Cowdray?

Clive: We have not kept count.  After the 1987 storms where the Estate lost a huge number of trees, we had a huge planting schedule.   A lot of areas on the Estate went totally flat and we lost a lot of hardwood, a lot of oak.  We then had a second blow which came in the 90’s so again we had to plant a lot of trees to replace what had fallen, we even planted throughout the winter.

Where do you go on holiday?

Geoff: I love Somerset and Cornwall.  Over the years I have stayed at different places from Durdle Door in Dorset, all the way down to Land’s End. I like the coastal side of the country.

Clive: I have been all over the world, New Zealand, Australia, Argentina, Brazil, America, Canada and Thailand, which I have been to probably around twenty times.  My sister lives in Spain, so I also go and visit her there.  I love to travel.

What is your favourite view on the Estate?

Clive: The view from Cocking forest down towards the coast but also the view from the golf course down towards the ruins, that is a great view.

Geoff: All around the polo fields too is so beautiful, I enjoy all the views across the Estate.

Clive has worked on the Estate 45 years, based on planting 50,000 trees a year, he has planted 2.25million trees by hand so far in his time at Cowdray.

Interview by Sarah Emburey, Marketing Director

Back to News

Join our Newsletter