Charity placement with Small Woods Association

Dr Louise Hardwick has recently completed a four-week placement with the Small Woods Association in Ironbridge.

Dr Louise Hardwick at the Green Wood Centre siteLouise at the Green Wood Centre site, part of SWA’s national headquarters

The charity is the national organisation for woodland owners, workers and supporters. Louise, an AHRC Early Career Leadership Fellow, undertook the placement as part of her EU-funded activities with Climate-KIC, the EU’s main climate innovation initiative. Through the award of a funded place on the Climate-KIC ‘Pioneers into Practice’ scheme, Louise has able to develop the practical applications of her research in Ecocriticism through a specific training programme (workshops, online exercises, and a dedicated coach). Most importantly, through Climate-KIC, Louise applied her knowledge in a real-world situation with Small Woods Association (SWA).

The placement was also part of Louise’s cross-College activities at BIFoR (Birmingham Institute of Forest Research), where she is the Interdisciplinary Leadership Fellow for Ecocriticism. Louise explored the connections between the important knowledge base at Small Woods Association and BIFoR’s ground-breaking FACE facility which uses state-of-the-art science to address the impact of climate and environmental change on woodlands.

At SWA’s working centre in Coalbrookdale, located in a stunning natural environment, Louise learned about ‘the story of wood’, from the local heritage of coracles to wood’s fascinating role in the construction of the Ironbridge itself. She also enjoyed a number of practical demonstrations of wood craft! During her placement, Louise met with SWA team members to discuss the connections between their work and her research on Caribbean authors whose literature raises urgent questions about human relationships with the land. She developed training and presentation materials to support the centre, and was profiled in the SWA members’ newsletter.

Louise’s placement has established a significant new working relationship between BIFoR and SWA with great future potential. Further collaborative activities such as internships and Scholars in Residence schemes can offer new ways to connect her research and the wider research conducted at BIFoR with important non-academic partners.