The woodlands of the eastern Isle of Wight are among the UK's richest areas for wildlife. Beneath their canopies you can find rare and vulnerable species like the red squirrel and the dormouse, as well as plants which need specialist conditions to thrive, like narrow-leaved lungwort and the native bluebell.
Unfortunately these habitats are at risk of decline, due in part to a lack of people with the skills to manage them for wildlife. From 2016-2020 our Woodland Apprentices scheme sought to change that by helping eight local young people to become the future of woodland conservation. In 2019, the scheme was a finalist in CPRE Hampshire's Countryside Awards.
The apprentices assisted with the management of our own nature reserves, and also woodland belonging to the National Trust, the Forestry Commission, the People’s Trust for Endangered Species, and private landowners. In total they helped to restore 10 woodlands across the eastern Isle of Wight which will contribute towards a network of habitats supporting at-risk species.
The Woodland Apprentices scheme was part of the Down to the Coast, a project which conserved nature and heritage across the eastern Isle of Wight. It was supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, and the apprenticeship scheme received additional support from the Isle of Wight Foundation. We would like to thanks all our partners for making this fantastic scheme possible.
Working for wildlife
Over the course of the scheme, eight young people undertook two-year apprenticeships with us. Working in a wide variety of habitats, they gained practical woodland management skills, including traditional conservation techniques like coppicing and hedge-laying. They also achieved qualifications skills such as tractor driving, first aid, and the use of equipment like brushcutters and chainsaws.
All of our Woodland Apprentices have now completed their training with us and set out on their career paths. As they prepared to move on, they shared their thoughts about the experience and their plans for the future.
Meet the Woodland Apprentices
During the scheme we were privileged to train eight amazing young people from our two counties. Hear a few of them share their thoughts from the first year of their apprenticeships.