TRIBUTES have been paid to former head forester Harry Oram, a well-regarded woodland expert hailed for “unrivalled knowledge” of his industry.
Harry Oram (pictured), who has died aged 70 after battling lymphoma, was a member of Brockenhurst Parish Council and the New Forest National Park Authority. He worked for the Forestry Commission – now Forestry England – for more than four-and-a-half decades.
Bruce Rothnie, Forestry England’s deputy surveyor for the New Forest, paid tribute to Harry’s career, the care he gave local areas and his mentoring of youngsters starting out.
“He understood that forests are not just beautiful havens filled with wildlife, but they also support an industry and provide the raw materials that make your kitchen table, or even the newspaper you’re reading this in,” Mr Rothnie said.
“His knowledge of trees and the complex landscape of the New Forest was extraordinary and built from a real thirst for knowledge and understanding. He was a tremendous character, a great storyteller and will be sadly missed by many of us.”
Harry was the son of a railway worker and district nurse, and grew up in Eastleigh. He first experienced the New Forest on day trips in the 1950s, and joined the Forestry Commission aged 16 at Hursley Forest in 1965.
He later trained as a forester in the Forest of Dean.
He went on to hold posts at the Scottish borders, Cheshire, South Downs, Snowdonia and Norfolk before coming to the New Forest in 1988.
Harry spent 24 happy years in the district, retiring while he was chief forester and operations manager involved with the timber inclosures and the open Forest.
Harry moved to a smallholding in Brockenhurst in 1989, where he lived with his wife Karolina, their son Mieszko and their ponies, cattle, goats and dogs.
He first became a member of the parish council in 2003 and was still serving at the time of his passing, over the Easter weekend.
NPA chairman Oliver Crosthwaite-Eyre said the authority was “deeply shocked” by the news. Harry was a past deputy chair of the NPA’s planning committee and a member of the standards committee.
Mr Crosthwaite-Eyre added: “Harry was a highly respected, popular and much-valued member of the authority, and his lifetime’s experience of the importance of the role that forestry has played over the centuries was invaluable.
“He was always so generous to us all with his time and delighted in sharing his great personal knowledge of the Forest he loved so much – he leaves a huge gap in our ranks.”
Brockenhurst Parish Council chairman, Cllr Pete Wales, paid tribute: “Harry increased my love of the Forest by giving me a deeper understanding of its nature.
“His legacy will be to continue his ambition for it to remain a working forest.”
After his retirement from working life, Harry provided educational and sightseeing trips round the Forest with New Forest Minibus Tours.
Fellow NPA member Cllr David Harrison revealed he often rode in the minibus with Harry when the pair shared driving duties attending NPA conference and training events.
Cllr Harrison said: “Harry had unrivalled knowledge about Forestry, having spent a lifetime managing forests in different parts of the country but eventually settling here in the New Forest, where he was a pillar of the community and had an absolute heart of gold.”