We have a small team of part time staff that manage the Forest Centre and run our events, volunteer days, and wellbeing projects.
Bec Cork, Founder and Director
Some time in June 2014, Bec was offered a unique opportunity – to take on the restoration of an old abandoned arboretum near her home. Not sure of the difference between an ash and an elm, she decided to take a leap, took on the lease and started talking to as many experts in woods and trees as possible. A few months later and the Tortworth Forest Centre was born.
Experiencing the many benefits of nature and woodlands for her own mental health, Bec now runs courses and events to enable others to support this process for other people. She runs The Hawthorn Project for women in recovery from addiction, using the arboretum as a safe and nurturing space. She is a Forest School Leader, aspiring ethnobotanist, woodland manager and smallholder with a deep respect for the power of nature to support mental health for everyone.
Jake Stow, Tree Officer
Jake has been involved in the project for a number of years, helping run the management days, leading our recent mapping project and working with volunteers to rediscover the arboretum’s lost secrets.
Our resident Tree Officer, Jake is always ready for a conversation about leaves, bark or bud shapes and is enthusiastic to pass on his knowledge and introduce others to our exciting tree collection.
He loves being outdoors and believes everyone should have the opportunity to work amongst the trees in this unique and beautiful woodland.
Gary Davis, Maintenance Officer
Our Maintenance Officer first visited the arboretum 25 years ago when he attended an event at the old nursery and decided to explore. He was pleased to return in 2015 after he saw an ad for volunteers at the Forest Centre.
Gary taught mechanics and engineering to young people for a long time, but is happier in the woods. After he left teaching he discovered that volunteering at Tortworth was ‘knackering but restful’ at the same time, and it made him feel good. Over the past 5 years he has become an invaluable part of the Tortworth team.
Gary is a restorer and recycler. When he’s not clearing paths or chainsawing a fallen tree, he’ll be tinkering with old tools or repurposing materials. He also drives our minibus from Bristol.
Amy Stone, Community Engagement Officer
Amy is new to the team, having started in Spring 2020 as Community Engagement Officer. She leads on our events and education work, and recruits new volunteers.
Amy has spent more than a decade working on outdoor engagement projects, ranging from formal outdoor education to informal family learning; from conservation volunteering to therapeutic gardening and community food-growing. She is passionate about getting people outside and firmly believes in the value – to people, communities and wildlife – of connecting with nature. Much of her work has been on wetland nature reserves and in urban parks and gardens – this is her first woodland-based role and she is loving getting to know the arboretum, and delighted to have the opportunity to share it with others.
Syreeta Muirhead, Forest School Practitioner
Syreeta has always had a passion for environmentally sensitive design and raising awareness of the impact of our daily lives on ecosystems and wildlife. Syreeta has used her work in education to try to revive people’s value of craft by embedding a sense of connection to the materials they are made from, where they came from, and the pride that comes from investing time and energy in honing a skill.
Described by many as a “Jackiline of all trades”, she has mostly worked with wood and textiles on projects such as furniture design, eco-architecture, water filtration, fashion design and lighting.
In recent years, she has truly understood her deep love of wilderness and forests and has sought to find ways to help people re-connect with wild places.
Syreeta is Level 3 Forest School trained and has used this educational philosophy to work with both adults and children in a number of settings. She helps run The Hawthorn Project for women in recovery.
Debbie Berriman, Finance Assistant
We first met Debbie on a Wild Women Retreat several years ago where she fell in love with the wild green woodland space. Since then she has been coming back to the arboretum on a regular basis for events, open days and woodland volunteering. She enthusiastically helps to maintain the flora and pathways within Tortworth Arboretum and likes to keep the fire burning to ensure there is always a kettle of hot water available for tea and coffee. Being a trained Surveyor she was particularly interested in the mapping project that was carried out in 2019 using some state of the art GPS equipment to catalogue every native and exotic specimen in the woodland.
Debbie says that the most amazing thing about coming to the woodlands on a regular basis is seeing it through the changing seasons. There is always something different to see, hear or smell, and you really get to appreciate the effect the turning of the year has on the trees, plants and wildlife. She took on the role of Finance Officer for the woodlands in Spring 2020.