Our Board of Trustees


Portrait of John Blessington

John Blessington 

John was first elected as Chair of Trustees for Small Woods in 2005, and was re-elected 2008. John used to be Shropshire Woodland Officer with Shropshire County Council and is now an Arboricultural Officer with the unitary Shropshire Council. He is a former board member of the Heartwoods subsidiary company.


 Portrait of Beverly Tyley

Beverly Tyley

Beverly has worked for thirty years in the public sector, most recently as a senior manager in three further education colleges based in Shropshire and the West Midlands. As a qualified accountant, Beverly has wide experience of financial and human resource management, information services, IT, quality systems, estates and health and safety.

She became the Treasurer for Small Woods in 2016 and is also the Finance Director (Trustee) for a Multi Academy Trust and Co-Director of a company specialising in management consultancy.

Board members

 Portrait of Gary Battell

Gary Battell

Gary has 45 years of experience working in the woodland sector, including working for the Forestry Commission, National Trust and Suffolk County Council. He is an advisor to the Suffolk Tree Warden Network, sits on regional committees for the Royal Geographical Society and the Royal Forestry Society, and was a trustee of the Ancient Tree Forum.

In 2017 Gary received the Peter Savill award for services to British forestry. We welcome Gary back Small Woods board member after a break, having previously served for 12 years. 

Portrait of Chris Duncan
Chris Duncan

Based in Bristol with a small woodland in the Brecon Beacons, Chris has had a varied career in engineering and manufacturing including with Rolls Royce and Hewlett Packard.

More recently, he started a company making school furniture and has run high end joinery company that was a member of the British Woodworking Federation as well as being a founder member of the Wood Window Alliance.

Portrait of Aly May

Aly May

Aly is the co-owner of the Herefordshire based company ‘Say It With Wood’. She is a qualified and experienced forester as well as managing a team at their timber yard, producing multiple fencing and garden products.

Aly also plays an active role in managing an ancient woodland near Hereford which she co-owns.

Phil Tidey

Phil completed a Masters in forestry at Bangor University following a period of volunteering and project work with the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers. He started working at Small Woods in 2000 in the West Midlands and then in Wales, managing projects aiming to educate people about the benefits of well managed woodlands.

In 2005, he left his role at Small Woods to work with Groundwork as a community projects manager, then as technical manager for the Community Spaces grant scheme. In 2008 he rejoined Small Woods as Membership Services Manager until retiring in late 2016.

“SWA members are a diverse, interesting and knowledgeable bunch, and it has been a privilege to meet or otherwise communicate with probably half of the membership over the years. I was delighted to be invited to become a Trustee, and I will use my experience and knowledge to help steer SWA in its aim to promote the sustainable management of our smaller woodlands.”

Liz Newton

With a long and varied career in the environmental sector Liz has held senior operational and strategy positions, most recently with Natural England, of which she was one of the founding Directors. She retired from Natural England in 2023, but remains connected to the sector and is currently chair of the Mersey Gateway Environmental Trust.

While with Natural England she led Natural England’s input to the Defra 25 Year Environment plan and the renewal of NE’s own conservation strategy, C21 and then went on to lead NE’s operational teams as a Director and a period as Chief Operations Officer.

With strong roots in the North of England she has experience of working across a broad range of issues within the environmental sector, from strengthening rural economies, working with landowners on agri-environment schemes and bringing about nature recovery across the North. She was a key player in establishing Nature North, a partnership initiative, now working across the north of England to bring about nature recovery and gain investment in the natural environment for nature and people.

Trees and woods have been a constant presence throughout her career, from surveying ancient woodlands, driving the implementation of the Community Forests in the North West, or seeking an increase in woodland management, working with Small Woods, whilst with the Countryside Commission.

Always happier in the great outdoors, she also coaches rowing at Warrington Rowing Club and keeps fit by cycling and walking.

Ben Howard

Ben is an environmental scientist specialising in nature-based solutions. He has a degree in conservation biology, a masters in forest management, and a PhD in ecohydrology which he conducted in partnership with the Birmingham Institute of Forest Management and Small Woods Association. He has worked and volunteered as a coppicer and researched the use of coppice products (e.g. fascines) in river restoration. Now at Imperial College London, his current work is based mostly in sub-Saharan Africa and investigates climate change impacts and adaptation solutions. He works with international charities and public organisations, such as Save the Children and UNESCO.


Michael Innes

Michael was born and brought up in Kent, where he spent his childhood playing in local woods.  He recently retired from his work as a General Practitioner in Telford.  During his career, he and his patients experienced at first hand the excellent wellbeing work of Small Woods.  He has served both on a corporate (NHS) board, and as a trustee of a number of charities.  He and his wife own a small wood in North Pembrokeshire near the coast, which they manage mostly for nature.


Adam Gillingham

Adam is a retired property lawyer. During his 34 years in the law he specialised, latterly as a partner of the Edinburgh based law firm, Turcan Connell, in Scottish rural property law, having a particular interest in the environmental impact of ownership and management of Scotland’s most valuable natural asset, its land. Clients included an eclectic mix of landowners and managers including the conservation charity, The John Muir Trust. Through this work, he also became far more conversant with Scotland’s extraordinarily diverse landscape and also of the significant challenges facing those tasked with managing and working the land for the benefit of future generations.

Adam now splits his time between the City of Edinburgh and the southwest of Scotland where, along with his wife, he owns and manages 30 acres of mixed ancient wood and wetland and on part of which they have overseen the building of an off grid eco-hut. Adam is Chairman of his local park in north Edinburgh, a Trustee of the Institute of European Policy UK, a member of the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland, Forth & Borders Committee and a member of the United Kingdom Environmental Association and its Wild Law Group.