Scalpel to Spade

26th October 2018

How this surgeon ended up planting trees


I always wanted to be a surgeon! After a long training, I was appointed Consultant ENT Surgeon at a large teaching hospital. Alongside my work with patients, I was actively involved in teaching. I studied education, too, and was awarded a Masters’ Degree in Clinical Education. This led to a role in medical training, alongside my consultant job.
The first major ‘turning point’ in my career came when I was offered a senior role managing healthcare training, for three days each week. At the same time, the Royal College of Surgeons of England also offered me a job, one day per week, teaching surgeons how to train their ‘juniors’. These roles were very close to my heart, as I realised that healthcare education was one of the most important factors in improving the quality and safety of patient-care. So, in 2010, having been a Consultant Surgeon for 8 years, I made the unexpected (but never regretted!) decision to move from that role into educational leadership.

The call of the wild!

At around that time, my husband and I bought 26 acres of rough farm land at Kirk Hammerton, near York. We planted 18,000 trees, and so created Sylvan Nature Reserve. We enjoyed developing it, with our children, purely for nature, and seeing the insects, birds and mammals arrive. The explosion in biodiversity was amazing!
In my professional life, repeated re-structures made my working conditions very challenging. Eventually the working environment meant that I could no longer do my job to the standard I wanted to, and I left. I was very quickly appointed to two national roles in health education, and a university lectureship which made a very interesting and fulfilling ‘portfolio’. Meanwhile, my husband and I were becoming ever more passionate about nature and the environment. During 2017 we bought 111 acres of land at Bank Woods in Nidderdale. We fell in love with the ancient woodland, the babbling brooks, and especially the wide variety of habitats there. This presented a wonderful opportunity to make a difference – we decided to manage our nature reserves with a view to educating people about nature, sustainability and the environment. Make it Wild was born!

Lets do business!

We set up our website in early 2018, offering online sales of eco-friendly goods, and tree dedications and in Summer 2018 started taking our products to farmers’ markets. We have continued to be ‘hands on’ in the management of our nature reserves, getting our hands dirty with tree planting, and all kinds of land management work. I use some of my ‘surgical’ skills in my new world of conservation and business – most notably my communication skills, and my ability to make and act on a decision. Our retail activities are growing, and we will soon host events at Bank Woods. All our proceeds go to supporting nature. We hope to enthuse others with our love and respect for nature and the environment. As our mission statement says – “It’s not our aim to protect nature, it’s our purpose”.
Looking back at the three stages of my career, I seem to be always driven by the need to ‘help’ and ‘make a difference’ – it’s just that my sphere of activity has grown and grown.