Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Arboricultural Association.

Share this story

Topics

#ARBatwork #ArbMatters #PledgeLessPlastic & 12 Faces of Arb 1987 storm 2 Rope 2018 3ATC 3ATC UK Open 50th annual AA AA award AA Awards Aboricultural Association Accident accreditation advice AFL aftercare AGM Agrilus Biguttatus aid air quality Alert Alex Kirkley All Party Parliamentary Group on Horticulture amenity Amenity Conference Anatomy Ancient Tree Forum Annual Awards APF APF 2020 app APPGHG apprentice apprenticeship Apprenticeships Approved Approved Contractor Approved Contractors ARB ARB Approved Contractor ARB Approved Contractors ARB at work ARB Magazine ARB Show arb training ArbAC ARBatwork ArbCamp Arbor Day Arboricultural Association Arboriculture arborists Arbsafe Ash Ash Archive ash dieback Asian Hornet Assessments atf ATO Australia Autumn Review award Awards Barcham Trees Bark Beetle Bartlett Bartlett Tree Experts bats beetle beyond ism Bill Matthews biochar biodiversity biomechanical biosecurity branch Branches brand Brexit bs5837 bursary business Call for Abrstacts Call for papers Campout Canker stain of plane carbon career Cavanagh CCS Cellular Confinement Systems CEnv Ceratocystis Ceratocystis platani chainsaw chalara charity Charles charter Charter for Trees Chartered Environmentalist chelsea Chelsea Flower Show Claus Mattheck climate climate change climber climbing Cofor Colleges committees competition competiton conference Confor conifers conservation Consultant consultation Contractor Contractors Cornwall Cornwall Branch Coronavirus Coroner Council Countryside Stewardship Course for beginners COVID-19 CPD cross industry news Crown & Canopy Cryphonectria parasitica Cumbria DART Date for your diary deadwood death debate defra Design Devon disease document donate dothistroma downloads draft EAC East Anglia ecology Economic Report economy Ecotricity education EFUF Election elections Electricity Elm yellows England English Elm environment environmental EPF equipment Europe European Arboricultural Council European Forum on Urban Forestry European Wood Pastures Event exeter Exhibitors Fall from Height Fatal Fatality felling Fellow Fellow Members Fera Field Trip Finance Fine firewood First Aid flood flooding Forest Research forestry Forestry Commission forests freelancers FSC Fund4Trees funding fundraiser fungal fungi Future Flora Futurebuild gardening GDPR Geocells Gold Medal Gov.uk government grant grants Green Brexit Green Infrastructure Green Infratructure Guarantee guidance Guidance Note 2 guide guides Hazard Tree Health heart-rot Helliwell Help Henry Kuppen History HMRC HOMED Homeworking Honey Brothers honours Horse Chestnut HortAid horticulture horticulturists HortWeek housing HRH HRH Prince Charles HS2 HSE HTA ICF ICoP identification Immigration import industry Industry Code of Practice industry skills Infographic InfraGreen Inspiration Insurance Intermediate Tree Inspection International Urban Forestry Congress International Year of Plant Health Investigating Tree Archaeology Conference Ips typographus Irma irrigation ISA iso i-Tree IUFC Job job opportunity judgement JustGiving Karabiner Kew land-based Landsaping Landscape Institute Landscape Show landscaping Lantra law Leaf Minor Lectures legal legislation Letters Liability licence London longevity LTOA Magazine manifesto maple Mayor of London MBE Melbourne Member Benefit Membership mentor Midlands moth' motion Myerscough NASA National Geographic National Tree Safety Group National Tree Week NATO Netherlands New Year’s Honours News NHS nominations Northern Northumberland Notice notification NTIS NTOA NTOC NTSG Nurseries oak 'oak Oak Processionary Moth Oak-boring Beetle obituary Observatree occupation opm Padua Papua parks parliament Perennial Pests & Diseases Pests and Diseases petition photo Phytophthora planning Planning Law Plant Health planting Pledge Plumpton College policy poll Poster Power PPE Preston Twins Prince Charles Prince of Wales processionary Product Recall Professional Members prosecution Protect and Survive protected tree protection Qualifications Quotatis ramorum RC Reg Harris Registered Registered Consultant Registered Consultants Rememberance Day renewal Report Rescue research Research grant Resilience response results retrenchment review RFS rhs RHS Chelsea Flower Show Ride for Research Ride4Research rigging Rodney Helliwell rogue tree surgeons Royal Forestry Society RSFS Safe Working Practice Safety Safety Bulletin Saftey Scotland Scotland Branch Scottish Branch SDG Accord security seminars Share Sheffield Show Sierra Leone Site Guidance skills skills survey SocEnv soil soils South East South West SRWP staff Standards statement Stationary Rope statutory STIHL strategy student Student Conference Study Trip Sub-contractors survey Sustainable Soils Alliance Sweet Chestnut sweet chestnut blight T Level T Levels Tatarian maple TDAG technical guide Technical Guides Technical Officers Technical Team Technician Members Technology Ted Green tender Thames & Chiltern The Arboricultural Association The Woodland Trust Thinking Arbs Thinking Arbs Day Timbersports Tony Kirkham Tools top-handled chainsaws,Elcoat, TPBE4 TPO Trading Standards trailblazer training transport Tree Tree Champion Tree Council Tree Fayre Tree Health Tree Inspection tree loss tree management Tree of the year Tree Officer Tree officers Tree Planting Tree Protection tree register tree species Tree Supply Tree Surgeon Tree Surgeons Tree Week Tree Work at Height Tree Workers Zone Treeconomics tree-felling TreeRadar trees trees' Trees & Society Trees, People and the Built Environment trust' trustee Trustees TrustMark Two Rope two-rope UAG Uitlity UK favourite ukas UKWAS urban urban forest Urban Forestry Urban Tree Challenge Fund Urban Tree Cover Urban Tree World Cup urban trees Utility Arboriculture Group UTWC vacancy VETcert veteran trees video Videos volunteer VTA WAC Wales Warning Watering watering solutions Webinar webinars website Western Westonbirt Wharton WIA Witley Women Women in Arb women in arboriculture woodland Woodland Carbon Code Woodland Carbon Guarantee woodland trust woods Workshops World Environment Day Xylella young young arborists Young People’s Breakfast Event zoo

Rodney Helliwell 1940–2018

Author:  Steve Coombes
  26/06/2018
Last Updated:  26/06/2018

Pioneering silviculturist, arboriculturist, ecologist

Rodney Helliwell at the Continuous Cover Forestry Group’s workshop on daylight in the forest, September 2009, Westonbirt Arboretum. (Courtesy of Edward Wilson)

Rodney Helliwell at the Continuous Cover Forestry Group’s workshop on daylight in the forest, September 2009, Westonbirt Arboretum. (Courtesy of Edward Wilson)

Rodney Helliwell died on 23 February 2018 after a typically determined fight with cancer. He was 77 years old. The tree world has lost a leading light, someone unafraid to challenge orthodoxy who promoted innovations rooted in a deep understanding of trees and of woodland ecosystems. His sharp intellect and dedication made Rodney who he was. He was a much sought-after tree and woodland expert and a valued colleague to many. To many who worked with him he became a good friend. Rodney was a quiet, brilliant but modest man. He leaves Carole, his wife of 47 years, two sons and two grandchildren.

Rodney was born in Halifax on 2 April 1940, the third of four children. During his childhood the family moved around quite a lot due to his father’s job, finally moving to Hoylake on the Wirral from where he left to do his degree at the University College of North Wales (now Bangor University).

He obtained a BSc honours degree in forestry in 1961, with forest soils as his optional subject. After two years in private forestry he returned to the university where he undertook research into factors affecting the natural regeneration of sycamore and was awarded an MSc in forestry in 1965. He continued his formal education at Birmingham Institute of Art and Design (now Birmingham City University) where he gained a Diploma in Landscape Architecture (1968).

He worked for Staffordshire County Planning Department for three years (1964–67) before joining a new section of the Nature Conservancy (1967–73). When the Nature Conservancy was reorganised in 1973, Rodney transferred to the Institute of Terrestrial Ecology (ITE) and continued his research into the growth of trees and herbs on different soils, in addition to surveys of woodland and montane vegetation.

In 1978 he established his own consultancy practice. This gave him the freedom to pursue a diverse range of projects throughout Britain and in Europe including woodland management, ecological surveys, the establishment and re-establishment of semi-natural vegetation, tree surveys and related matters. Among several high-profile consultancies, he was engaged as terrestrial ecologist to the Channel Tunnel Project (1985–96). This resulted in important examples of habitat translocation and new woodland creation (e.g. the design and establishment of vegetation at Samphire Hoe, Dover, on spoil from the Channel Tunnel).

From the mid-1960s Rodney was a prolific author and contributor to scientific journals in the fields of arboriculture, forestry, ecology and landscape, producing over 60 authoritative and influential publications. In the field of arboriculture alone, Rodney has contributed immensely to our knowledge of tree root morphology, water tables and trees, tree surveys and inspections, risk associated with trees, daylight relating to trees and buildings and the amenity valuation of trees and woodlands. He was also an expert editor, and served for many years on the Editorial Board of the Arboricultural Journal.

For several years he was involved with setting and marking papers for the Royal Forestry Society (RFS) Professional Diploma in Arboriculture. He served as a judge for the RFS Excellence in Forestry Awards and gave lectures at several universities. Rodney was a stalwart of many forestry and arboriculture organisations. At the time of his death he was still an active member in eight learned and professional societies, including the Small Woods Association, the British Ecological Society and the Royal Society of Biology; and a Fellow of both the Arboricultural Association and Institute of Chartered Foresters.

It is probably for the ‘Helliwell System’, his method for the Visual Amenity Valuation of Trees and Woodlands, that Rodney is best known among arboriculturists. First published in 1967, it remains the most widely recognised tool for evaluating the visual amenity provided by individual trees and/or woodland in Britain. Endorsed by the Tree Council and the Arboricultural Association, the Helliwell System has been used extensively in court cases, insurance claims and public inquiries. From 2001–10 he delivered annual training workshops on the use of the system.

To foresters Rodney is probably best known for his advocacy of Continuous Cover Forestry. He was a signatory to the declaration which set up the union of European foresters known as Pro Silva in 1989. He was also instrumental in the formation of a comparable body in Britain, the Continuous Cover Forestry Group (CCFG), in 1991. The objective of this group, now affiliated to Pro Silva, is to encourage structural and biological diversity of forests and woods by the use of silvicultural systems which avoid clear-felling and which work with natural processes as far as possible. His short book on Continuous Cover Forestry (2002) was a sell-out and a revised, updated edition was brought out in 2013.

Understanding how trees respond to light was one of Rodney’s main interests in later years. Rodney wanted to communicate a better understanding of the fundamental elements of how trees interact with light. Many of his most recent publications deal with this, and for anyone visiting his home in Wirksworth in later years there would invariably be a tour of the garden to see his latest seedling shade experiments and a walk through his recently purchased native woodland across the road from his house, where he was studying seedling growth under various conditions.

Rodney Helliwell was one of the great thinkers and doers in British arboriculture and forestry. He will be sorely missed.


Article taken from Issue 181 of the ARB Magazine.