A Day in the Life of a Forestry Warden – 27 May 2009

Peter Knowles is the Island’s Forestry Warden, employed by DAFF to police 20 000 acres of wonderful forests, glens and gardens on all our behalves. Is this a dream job? When we saw what he is often up against, we gasped.

Following his training as a forester, Peter tried a variety of work until this post came up, eight years ago. He has made a point of always having a camera with him and shared some of these delightful scenes with us. They ranged from distant sea views to a close-up of a frozen waterfall with a mass of star-like spikes.

A surprise, for many, was the number of abandoned houses deep in the plantations, as well as the abandoned crofts and tholtans more visible on open hillsides. Some of these gave pause for thought, certainly in current planning philosophy.

The slide show, admirably presented, was based on the series of twelve pamphlets Peter has produced under the title, Warden’s Walks. They are cleverly graded in degrees of difficulty, with 1 being the most gentle in Ballaglass to the most demanding in distance and steepness, number 12, the Hiker’s Trail. The time and distance is on the outer cover, varying from 2 miles and 1 hour to 11miles and 6-7 hours. An easy to follow map is on the inside with way points clearly marked, accompanied by directions at each point. There’s even a page of what to look out for. The three grades of difficulty are rather amusing – Muscle Loosener, Muscle Stretcher and Muscle Builder! Don’t be put off – you can dip into a section, perhaps with transport at each end.

Most of the walks include refreshment points nearby. The vision of a suitable liquid for quaffing does much to encourage. Sensibly, the walks are arranged so that the uphill bits come first, leaving a pleasant amble down to the starting point. I’ve got all twelve in front of me and I’m determined to try any that have eluded me, so far. You can get the leaflets from the Forestry Board at St John’s or from tourist outlets. They are brilliant!

In the opening paragraph, I referred to ‘gasping’. No, this wasn’t because of the walks, it was because of the number of people in our midst who obviously loath the Island and are contemptuous of those trying to care for it. Interspersed with gorgeous views were pictures of mounds of dumped materials. These included the contents of a sitting room – 3-piece suite, tables and t.v. Other dumps included cars or abandoned litter from drinking sessions and barbecues. What is in the minds of these people? We also saw the damage wrought by vehicles on and off green roads. How can this conflict of interests be met?

However, our principle feeling was one of gratitude for the work that is being done to care for our lovely Island and our personal thanks to Peter.

John Slater