Final-year University of Cumbria Forest and Woodland Management student Richard Daniels was preparing his dissertation, the major piece of work for his degree with the University of Cumbria, when Storm Desmond hit last December.
Richard’s house in Grace Street, Carlisle, was waist high in water and his study notes, which were on the coffee table, were destroyed.
Richard lost all his belongings, including his car, and although his employer at the time, Whitbarrow holiday village, generously provided him with temporary housing, without transport he couldn’t physically get to university.
He phoned tutor Andrew Weatherall for advice, and Andrew reassured Richard that arrangements could be made and deadlines extended to accommodate these extraordinary circumstances.
“I probably lost around two months’ worth of work for my dissertation, which, with everything else that was going on, was devastating”, says Richard.
“However, Andrew and the university were really fantastic and made sure I was able to eventually submit my work and that it would be counted towards my final degree mark”.
So that Richard could graduate with his friends from the course, in July 2016, the university awarded a ‘temporary ordinary degree’, as it was clear he had easily reached this minimum standard. However, until all marks had been calculated, the class of degree could not be ascertained.
When everything was added up, Richard had achieved a first class honours degree, an incredible accomplishment for someone who had been through the physically and emotionally draining experience of last December’s floods and their consequences.
In addition, he won the Institute of Chartered Foresters (ICF) Student Award for the National School of Forestry – a double success and fitting reward for his considerable determination against the odds.
Andrew is a senior lecturer with the National School of Forestry, based at the University of Cumbria’s Lake District campus in Ambleside. He explains:
“Richard’s position was made extremely difficult by the floods. He was the only forestry student who was flooded so the university made sure he wasn’t disadvantaged in any way by this situation that was totally beyond his control.
“He was already doing very well in his degree, and I am really pleased that he has managed to maintain his grades despite the flooding disruption and graduated with the best overall average of any National School of Forestry student in 2016, thus getting the ICF award.
“The staff and students had a quick collection for Richard in December 2015 to try to help with any immediate financial difficulties and I think this reflects really well on our close knit student community, who form friendships at university that will last support them throughout their future forestry careers.”
One year on from Storm Desmond, Richard was presented with the award at Carlisle Cathedral by Shireen Chambers FICFor, Executive Director of the ICF. Shireen said:
“I’m delighted that Richard has won the ICF Student Award 2016, especially given the difficult circumstances in which he completed his degree.
“As the professional body for foresters and arboriculturists in the UK, ICF works with young professionals to ensure that the sector continues to benefit from new talent. The ICF Student Award is just one of these important initiatives.
“I am really pleased to welcome Richard as an Associate member of the Institute and hope that he will make the most of the new connections, events, news and resources that are on offer as part of his prize.”
Richard, originally from Peterborough, now works for DGA Forestry in Dumfries. Aged 31, he had spent a year at university on leaving school, studying sports science, but decided it wasn’t for him and he has worked for the last seven years as a hospital porter.
However, he found he became desperate to work outdoors rather than in, so he signed up for the BSc (Hons) Forest and Woodland Management at the University of Cumbria, one of the few forestry schools in the UK.
When asked if his new career is everything he hoped it would be, his answer is unequivocal: “Yes it is – and more!”
(For information on the National School of Forestry and available courses, click here).