In our latest Meet the Team feature we introduce CLA East Regional Surveyor Tim Woodward.
Tell us more about what your role at the CLA involves.
I always liken my role to that of a GP in a doctors’ surgery – our members come to us with a very wide variety of problems and issues that are affecting them, and we provide professional rural land use advice and guidance. In most cases, my fellow advisers and I in the Regional Office can help to deal with the matter, but if we can’t, we can then involve our colleagues from the specialist teams based at CLA HQ , including lawyers, tax advisers, and land use experts, or refer them to external help. In the latter case, I try to get CLA members to help other CLA members, and we have a wide range of businesses and professionals in CLA membership we can involve.
I also represent the CLA and its members on external groups covering matters ranging from fly-tipping to coastal processes, and from deer management to public access. Along with my colleagues, I also give interviews to television and radio channels on all sorts of topics; in the past, these have ranged from the fortunes of the oxlip in Suffolk woodland to sheep worrying, fly tipping, hare coursing, and how best to avoid collisions with deer on country roads.
You have been with the CLA for many years – have the types of enquiries you support members with changed much over that time?
Not really – the sheer breadth of matters we are consulted on continues to keep us on our toes, and sadly, issues such as rural crime just don’t go away. Obviously, legislative changes affecting farms, estates, and rural businesses often result in members contacting us for specific advice. I’ve noticed that there is sometimes a recurring seasonal pattern to the queries we deal with, too.
It's very satisfying to be approached by a CLA member, perhaps at one of the agricultural shows we attend, and be heartily thanked for advice that may have been given months before, and which has helped to resolve a problem the member was facing.
Like many people, you have predominantly been working from home during Covid-19 – with restrictions now easing will you be getting out to see members more?
I think we’ve all been surprised with how we’ve adapted to being based at home. I suspect that our pattern of working will change, and since we’ve learned to deal with on-line ways of meeting – like Zoom and MS Teams –I’m sure that we’ll continue to use those in some instances, especially given the size of the East region, and the number of members we have. They can save considerable travelling time. Online meetings, however effective the technology, are not really a substitute for face-to-face contact, though, and before the pandemic, we were trying to get out of the office and meet members more, and where appropriate, to discuss problems on site. So I think we’ll continue to employ a mixture of ways to disseminate advice, including letters, emails, newsletters, and telephone calls!