Two female members of the forestry team tree planting in the Forest.

The Lumber Jills at the centre of the Heart of England Forest

7 March 2024
The Heart of England Forest

Lumber Jills was the name given to the Women’s Timber Corps, a specialist forestry branch of the Women’s Land Army, and we at the Heart of England Forest have our own Lumber Jills who make up 29% of the forestry team.

The Women’s Timber Corps were set up during 1942 due to the conscription of men who had entered the Forces. The women who answered the call to work in our nation’s forests came from all walks of life and from both town and country. The Lumber Jills undertook a wide range of arduous forestry tasks to maintain timber production to help with the war effort. The need for pit props to enable coalmining to continue was constant, other items which were in demand included timber for telegraph poles and railways sleepers.

The work that was required needed the members of the Timber Corps to learn a range of new skills quickly, so that they could effectively work in and manage forests within the United Kingdom. The training provided over a few short weeks included learning to wield 6lb-7lb axes, fell trees, strip timber, work with horses when dragging felled trees off hillsides, as well as loading and driving lorries to mover the timber. All these tasks required determination and resilience as the work was carried out in all weathers.

A female member of the forestry team chainsawing in the Forest.
Forestry Apprentice Lauren chainsawing at Gorcott Hill.

The Heart of England Forest Lumber Jills, although not having to wield an axe (neither do their male counterparts), are also trained in the safe and effective use of a range of machinery including chainsaws, brush-cutters, driving tractors and trailers, and also work out on the land in all weathers!

Just like their 1940’s counterparts it is not all about the physical management and extraction works within our woods, but how to estimate timber volumes and identify what trees should be selected for felling. 

Even though the work our forestry team undertakes is predominantly for the benefit of wildlife, on occassion, where it supports the woodland management plans, a small percentage is harvested for commercial use. Any income raised from this benefits the charity. The original Lumber Jills would recognise the work undertaken across the Forest by their female counterparts in 2024.  

A female member of the forestry team carrying cut timber in the Forest.
Assistant Forest Ranger Alice-Mary carrying cut timber through the Forest.

If this has sparked your desire to become a latter-day timber heroine and continue the legacy of the Lumber Jills of yesteryear but with a firm focus on conservation forestry, do look at the opportunities that the Heart of England Forest offers within forestry management, either as a career or on a voluntary basis. No axe required!

Visit our jobs and careers web page