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Kate Hughes - Environmental Project Officer

Hi there! My name’s Kate Hughes and I’m the Environmental Project Officer here at Steel Valley Project. That means that I get to do the exciting work and carry out the outdoor practical projects with the volunteers and trainees. My role also involves linking with landowners, schools and community groups, developing and running the projects, supervising and supporting the volunteer/trainee team, managing the tools and equipment as well as working with the rest of the staff team to ensure the smooth operation of the Project. I started out as a volunteer here in 2006 and joined the staff team 2 ½ years later as the Assistant Project Officer in 2008.  

Our work involves supporting public landowners in the local area where regular maintenance or specialist projects are needed in order to improve peoples’ experiences visiting or living in the countryside or where we can enhance natural environments in order to benefit wildlife. In doing this, we are able to work with our regular volunteers and develop or improve on practical skills as well as remember traditional rural skills. Common tasks include trimming, fencing, dry stone walling, hedgelaying, tree work, installing countryside furniture and drainage work which all add value to the specific sites that we work on. They also enable volunteers to learn countryside management techniques in specific natural habitats such as woodlands & wetlands and in public greenspaces such as public footpaths and local walking routes. The best things about my job are witnessing the volunteers’ skills development over a relatively short period of time, enjoying quality time in a natural environment as well as that sense of satisfaction from achieving visual improvements on the sites.

I have lived and worked within the countryside for 30 years now and began my passion for the environment as a child regularly playing in the woods and helping my father extract timber for wood fuel as a teenager in the Lake District. I have also lived in Greece, France and Ireland where I worked on organic farms and orchards and got my first taste of coppice work and charcoal production through carrying out tree planting and woodland management schemes on private estate land in mid-Wales. My practical abilities were developed through my youthful enthusiasm for living an eco-friendly lifestyle, independently renovating a cottage and relying solely on renewable energy for electric power. After moving to Yorkshire in 1999, I carried out contract work with large scale tree planting programs as well as co-managing a 3 acre small holding and organic market garden. In 2008, I achieved a National Diploma in Countryside Management at Kirklees College in Huddersfield. I have extensive knowledge in woodland management procedures and as well as gaining an NVQ in ‘Forestry’ with BTCV in 2002, I also have an OCN level 3 in Sustainable Woodland Management. Since working at Steel Valley Project, I have gained many technical certificates for equipment such as power pole pruners, chainsaws, strimmers and wood-chippers and operations such as tree felling and branch pruning.

On my days off work, you will probably find me battling with slugs and snails in my garden or allotment, enjoying a local walk or helping out with various friends on their bee-keeping mission, self-build straw bale roundhouse or other DIY project. I look forward to managing my own woodland in the future.

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