Print page print this page


Bede joins foresters’ Hall of Fame
 Share this article on


RFS President Nick Halsey, left, presents the Gold Medal for distinguished services to forestry to Bede Howell

Date Issued: 15 November 2012


Former RFS President and tireless campaigner for excellence in UK forestry, Bede Howell has joined the foresters’ ‘hall of fame’ after receiving a Royal Forestry Society (RFS) Gold Medal for his distinguished services to the profession. Bede Howell’s energy and commitment to all aspects of forestry and woodland management, but in particular his quest to find effective solutions to grey squirrel damage, are legendary.

He has spent more than 50 years in forestry and woodland management consultancy. After studying at Aberdeen University, Bede went to work with another of forestry’s ‘greats’, Major Pilling, and together they founded West Midlands Woodlands which later became Abbey Forestry.

Bede, who lives in Great Witley, Worcestershire, retired from Abbey Forestry in 2000, but continues as an independent woodland management consultant.

He was President of the RFS from 1997–1999, and remains a leading light in the organisation. His is also a member of the Institute of Chartered Foresters, Future Trees Trust and the European Squirrel Initiative.

His Gold Medal was presented by the RFS President Nick Halsey, who said: “Bede Howell has been a towering figure in the forestry world for many decades. For those of us new to the industry in the 1960s and 1970s Bede’s name was synonymous with encouragement and sound advice on how to manage woods sustainably and profitably. This has continued throughout the careers of many foresters. At any meeting one attends, to see Bede’s cheerful countenance is a sure sign not only that common sense will prevail, but so will controversy and good debate!”

The Gold Medal was also acknowledged at a meeting of the RFS Worcestershire Division when chairman James Tibbetts said: “Bede has been worth his weight in gold for the way in which he has enlightened and nurtured this Division.”

Andrew Woods, RFS Management Committee chairman, said: “Monuments to his activity, advice and contributions are everywhere you look.”

For Bede, one of the biggest challenges facing today’s woodland managers and planners remains the devastation caused by grey squirrel. He says: “I continue to be astonished by the money being spent planting trees and woodlands which, because of the grey squirrel, will never be able to reach timber quality. The grey squirrel is worse than the politicians, because there is no way at the moment of eliminating them. Politicians at least can be voted out of office!”

The RFS Gold Medal is awarded only rarely to recognise those people who have made an outstanding contribution to forestry in all its aspects, from theoretical research and practical silviculture to the production and use of wood and timber related products.

Just 17 other Gold Medals have been awarded in the past 26 years – most recently to researcher and author Dr Keith Kirby; to author Dr Peter Savill (2006); to Major David Davenport (2009),a central figure in many rural and forestry initiatives, and to Peter Goodwin, one of the UK’s leading hardwood furniture makers.