forestry and arb student competition 1

Tree climbing triumph for students!

On 29th April, two teams of first and second year Forestry and Arboriculture students became the first Reaseheath College students to enter the annual 3ATC Arborist Tree Challenge held at Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

With this being the first time teams from the College have entered the competition, the students did not know exactly what to expect. The competition tested students’ ability and skills learnt on their course in a range of ways in keeping with industry best practice.

forestry & arb student competition


forestry and arb student competition 1

Competitors were required to climb to given targets located on the outer limbs of 60ft trees, and in the process had to demonstrate branch walking and a log toss to a given target area. Students were judged on three main criteria: time, safety and best practice.

At the end of a long day the first year students achieved second place, narrowly missing out on the top spot by just 3 seconds! The second year students finished fourth with only 4 minutes separating them from the top three teams.

forest and arb student competition - participants

Participants included:

First year students: Ben Worthington, Ben Lacey, James Fogg with Charlie Williams in reserve and acting as ‘motivational shouter.’

Second year students: Leigh Dewey, James Walsh, Sam Watkiss and Christian Roots in reserve and acting as ‘chief photographer’

This is a fantastic result for the students, they were a credit to the College and their course. They all received very positive feedback from the organisers and other colleges involved. Well done to all, we’ll be back next year…!

By Alan Mottram, Forestry and Arboriculture Course Manager


The importance of heathland and controlled burning

A recent visit to Bickerton Hill with Reaseheath College, introduced me to some of the management techniques associated with heathland habitats.

They are specialist habitats of huge importance that support a great diversity of wildlife. The purpose of our trip was to try to locate and identify male adder species, Vipera berus, who are emerging before the breeding season at this time of year. Unfortunately, no snakes were found, but examples of other species which depend on this habitat were.

butterfly and lizard

Peacock Butterfly (Inachis io) and the Common Lizard (Zootoca vivipara)

The two species found illustrates the biodiversity of the area, the peacock butterfly and the common lizard.

Heathland habitats also support a diverse number of plant species such as bilberry, heather and gorse. These plants are specifically adapted to survive low nutrient levels and periodic drought or prolonged water logging. This is of huge importance, because the range of plant species that grow in these areas support a large number of invertebrate, reptile and bird species.

Management of heath prevents the process of succession taking place. Silver Birch (Betula pendula) colonise these areas quickly. They are a fast growing pioneer species, and if left unmanaged, will eventually develop into woodland.

Management techniques include cutting, grazing and burning. All have their pros and cons, but burning of heath has the biggest impact on grouse.

Grouse depend on the new growth of heather as they feed on the new shoots, they also rely on the cover for protection from predators and for nesting sites.

It is important that the heather is burned to set regulations and on a cyclical system, usually between 8 – 25 year cycles. Drier ground is often burned more regularly than wet ground. If areas are left unburned for prolonged periods, succession will begin to take a hold, and mosses, lichens and even birch saplings will begin to colonise. This will prevent the new growth of heather, so it is important to manage the cycles accordingly.

One issue relating to this method of heathland control is having the numbers of people in place to carry out the work. It is generally accepted that there are only between fifteen to twenty five burning days each winter, and on average the fires must be completed within twenty days. That equates to eleven fires of an average of 0.4ha every day. Since it takes two able men with all the correct equipment, and ideal conditions, a single day to complete 6 fires, to complete the required area in the given time is a challenge to say the least!

Employing more people at very short notice is not easy, and this leads to a genuine issue. If the programme is not completed, large areas remain unburned, which leads to an increase in degenerate heather.

Burning of large areas of ground, visible from great distances may appear a drastic measure on the face of it to some, but providing the burn is controlled, is an excellent management tool to create greater biodiversity, and habitat for all types of flora and fauna. There is legislation in place to prevent burning at certain times of the year. It can only be carried out between October and April, with some exceptions depending on location.

A range of tools have been used and developed to complete the job. In years gone by keepers would use an instrument known as a ‘besom’. “These were brushes made from birch saplings and twigs with a covering of wire netting, the whole bound tightly with soft wire.” (Phillips, 2012.)

Today, the tools for the job need to be more efficient at completing the task. Anyone who is serious about burning heather will use light, strong and well designed kit, which do not break and will not melt or catch fire. This will not only ensure the job is completed to a high standard, but more importantly that it is done safely, and will result in the reduction of fires getting out of control.

Controlled burning

This technique is a skill, and should not be undertaken without relevant experience. Without this management technique, we wouldn’t have the numbers of grouse, or large areas of heathland that make up large parts of our country today. Careful consideration and planning must be undertaken before every burn. Weather, and special times of the year such as bird nesting, correct equipment, man power and fire breaks all need to be outlined prior to commencement of a job.

Heathland management by controlled burning has been practiced for many years, and providing it continues, will provide large areas of rich biodiversity, support large numbers of grouse and in turn allow large areas of game management to continue long into the future.


by Richard Laurence, Conservation and Wildlife Management student 

Deer teeth

Judging a deers age by its teeth

There are six species of wild deer in the UK and many students currently studying game and wildlife management or countryside management at Reaseheath College will be involved with the management of these deer in their future careers.

They may be required to accurately age a deer to ensure that they are conforming to the appropriate management or cull plan.

Deer teeth

This is part of the collection of lower jaw bones from, mostly from Chinese water deer (Hydropotes inermis) but the second from the top is from a year old roe (Capreolus capreolus) doe and the bottom fragment is from a muntjac (Muntiacus reevesi) buck. The way to estimate the age of a deer is to look at the eruption of the teeth, discounting the incisors at the front of the jaw, most of which are missing in these photos, each lower jaw in an adult deer should have six teeth.

The rule is simple; if all the molars (the three rearmost teeth) are not erupted and the third premolar (the third tooth from the front) has three cusps the deer is juvenile.

A three cusped juvenile pre-molar

A three cusped juvenile pre-molar

A partially erupted molar, is this deer an adult?

A partially erupted molar, is this deer an adult?

As a guide roe deer should have all their adult teeth, i.e six teeth on each side of the lower jaw and a two cusped pre-molar by 13 months of age, Chinese water deer and muntjac mature slightly faster and should have all these teeth shortly before they are 12 months of age.

A full set of adult teeth, notice the third premolar only has two cusps and all molars are fully erupted.

A full set of adult teeth, notice the third premolar only has two cusps and all molars are fully erupted.

Trying to judge the age of adult teeth is harder, the wear and tear on the teeth gives an indication of age but this depends on a deers diet and local conditions.

Lightly worn teeth, notice the molar to the extreme right is not fully erupted (this is a juvenile deer).

Lightly worn teeth, notice the molar to the extreme right is not fully erupted (this is a juvenile deer).

Heavy wear on a full set of adult teeth. notice how the cusps of the teeth are almost completely worn away, this indicates that this deer was much more mature.

Heavy wear on a full set of adult teeth. Notice how the cusps of the teeth are almost completely worn away, this indicates that this deer was much more mature.


© Geoffrey Guy 2013 originally published at

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Countryside Management students raise funds for Game Keepers Welfare Trust

Students on the Level 3 Diploma in Game and Wildlife Management as well as interested students from the Level 2 Countryside and Environment course attended a talk by Helen Benson of the Game Keepers Welfare Trust on the 22nd of January.

They heard about the work of the trust in supporting keepers, stalkers, ghillies and their families and are looking forward to taking part in a fundraiser in aid of the charity.

The students on the course have already discussed ideas for a clay pigeon shoot, a college game fair and many other ideas to raise money for the trust. They have high hopes of winning a trip abroad for a week’s work experience if they raise the most money of any group of gamekeeping students.

Red deer stag by student Dave Carr

An average day of a Level 3 Game Management student

Being a person with a very limited countryside background, both my friends and family believed it was an odd decision to choose this course. However, I believe it was the right thing to do.

From day one I have enjoyed each and every day of the course and it seems that everyone else has also done so. Each day (Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday) the group turn up at 9am. On most days we start off with a theory lesson and we are currently studying the various Game Species and their Ecology.

On Monday afternoons we take part in Practical Estate Skills. As part of this unite we have built a fence at the college orchard, done some hedge laying and are currently working on building pens for housing pheasants and partridges.

By Matthew Carter, Game Management student

Level 3 Game Management students