About Trees Ltd – Kent Tree Surgeon


MEWP – IPAF Qualifications refreshed Copy

Investing in and developing the About Trees team

We are now IPAF qualified tree surgeons -again!

Quite often we have to use Mobile Elevated Work Platforms (MEWP’s) to work on dangerous and unsafe trees. These are very specialist pieces of equipment and are very productive. However if used by someone who isn’t qualified they can be incredibly dangerous. We take safety very seriously and as such have just sent 2 members of the team on a training course to re fresh and learn the usage of the two types of machines we are most likely to use – Mobile Boom and Static Boom. About Trees are IPAF qualified tree surgeons.

The course was run by OTS in Ashford, it was a fun day, very informative and full of useful lessons. It’s hard to really get across how dangerous these machines are if used by un-trained people. Most importantly a decent lunch was put on, the way to all tradespeople’s hearts!

This means we can legally and safely use these invaluable pieces of kit for you. At your house, property or premises and you can be safe in the knowledge we know what we are doing


If you have a dangerous unsafe tree, it may need a MEWP to carry out the works safely, we can help. Contact us today

What is Arboriculture?

Below are some definitions of what Arboriculture is:

Arboriculture .Noun: the cultivation of trees or shrubs [Latin arbor tree + culture]

Arboriculture is the cultivation and management of trees within the landscape. This includes the study of how trees grow and respond to cultural practices and the environment, as well as application of cultural techniques such as selection, planting, care, surgery and removal.

The main focus of arboriculture is amenity trees; such trees are maintained primarily for landscape purposes for the benefit of human beings. Amenity trees are usually in gardens, parks or urban settings, and arboriculture involves aspects of plant health, pest and pathogen control, risk management, and aesthetic considerations. Trees offer cultural and natural heritage benefits beyond production of wood products; for this reason, arboriculture needs to be distinguished from forestry, which is the commercial production and use of timber and other forest products from plantations and forests.

Practitioners of Arboriculture are called “Arborists” commonly known as Tree Surgeons.

Hedge Trimming 70m Hedge Made Easy with Cherry Picker

Hedge cutting using a Cherry picker



Quite possibly the only way to reduce the overall height of this hedge for our client in Kent was by using a MEWP as part of our hedge trimming service.

We hired a suitable 16 metre machine in from Nationwide Platforms. The functionality for this machine meant it could be driven whilst in the bucket itself and the reach enabled us to reach even the furthest points.

There are several members on the About Trees Ltd team that have the qualifications to use this type of machine. This enables us to carry out hedge cutting using a cherry picker


Following concerns raised by neighbours, our client accepted the report on the health of the trees that we provided along with the suggestion of remedial works.

They instructed us to carry out the works so we set to the task in hand.

The job was made even more challenging by the public footpath that ran underneath one side of the hedge. Naturally we signed this area, to make pedestrians aware of over head operations and made use of extra staff the patrol the footpath. SAFETY FIRST!

Thanks to our efforts, all went as planned and the hedge (even if I do say so) turned out fantastic. Safe and attractive.

To learn more about our hedge trimming services that cover all of Kent, please get in touch today.


Awarded Technician Member status. Certified.

Technician Member

It’s always nice to know that you’re recognised as an expert in your chosen field. That’s why it was a proud moment to have the certificate of membership awarded to me at Technician level with the Arboricultural association.  This is our trade body and they are tasked with progressing the industry as a whole. I think they do a great job. If their efforts help drive out unscrupulous tradesmen and cowboys then it can’t be all bad. All hail the Arb Association Technician.

Arboricultural association?

Is a charity that promotes professional tree care to the wider public, it’s a charity and essentially our governing body. They carry out regular training days, knowledge improving courses. We try to attend whenever possible, sometimes we just can’t due to our work load. Quite often we expand our professional publications library via their online book shop. It’s a great place to keep up to date on the most recent research.

Arb Association Technician?

Well, it means that during my time within the industry – 20 years and the qualifications held by me, that I am recognised as having a degree of knowledge of trees, their biology and appropriate actions to undertake to over come situations in all things related trees. Clearly I could just be saying this so maybe it’s worth checking out the Testimonials page to see what our clients both domestic and commercial think of  our services.

I like to think it sets About Trees apart from other companies. It shows a commitment to an industry that has treated me well over the last 20 years. My Technician member number is TE02523


British Standards 3998 2010

Now, my take on  decent Arboriculture (tree surgery) is to leave a tree looking as natural as possible and little signs of human interference noticeable. It’s British Standards 3998 2010 “Recommendations for Tree Work” and we try our hardest to prune to this at all time, as should all respectable companies.

The standard is now 7, nearly 8 years old and should be a staple of all of us [professional arboriculture] company’s armoury of knowledge and guidance. Moreover, maybe it should drive the entire way we tailor our [companies & individuals] approach to caring for and work on trees. This document is substantial, it has over 60 pages in A4 guise imparting knowledge on us ranging from what trees are to the Veteranization of trees when and how to prune, the list goes on. I will paraphrase some sections of the standard throughout this post to try to illustrate it’s importance.

It starts off by saying;

“Trees are dynamic, continually self-optimizing organisms, i.e. each year, by producing new shoots, roots and radial increments of wood and bark, they maintain both their physiological functions and their structural integrity. Thus, the often massive structure of a mature tree above ground, consisting of the stem, branches, twigs and the attached foliage, is highly efficient in intercepting, using and storing solar energy, while also bearing its own weight and dissipating the potentially damaging forces of the wind. Below ground, although far less obvious, the extensive root system is equally efficient both in providing anchorage and in pervading the soil in order to absorb the water and mineral nutrients that are essential for survival, growth, flowering and fruiting.”

As you can probably see, the tone is one of respect for the living organism and I feel it has a slightly holistic sentiment also. It sets the tone of the standard in my view.

BS 3998 (2010) is designed to make us all more respectful of the fact that trees are living and make us think whilst surveying, quoting and working on trees. It’s designed in my view to make us think of long term implications of our actions on the trees we are working on or specifying work for. It certainly has managed to do this for me over the years.

Such is the importance (in my view) of this document one would expect to find copies of it in all professional tree care outfits… true?


You can search high and low and I would say that most times you will not find BS3998 (2010) in either the office or yard of most companies. In 2o years in the industry I think I have seen 3 copies on separate occasions!

There must be a reason why this is the case?

What’s the issue?

I think there are several reasons why take up is so low;

  • Cost. Last time I checked BS3998 (2010) came in at £216. Small price to pay for such valuable resource I hear you say. True, but for your average small tree company employing 2 maybe 3 people this is an incredibly expensive outlay on what is essentially a small book. I do wonder how such  a crucial tool in our professionalism can be made at such a cost where even most conscientious business owners don’t bother with the expense.
  • Implementation of the standard can be tricky – I think it’s fair to say that the general aim of the standard is to treat trees with a little more respect, we should prune only if absolutely necessary and we should prune with the least intervention as possible. In short “less is more”
  • It’s a seed change in terms of approach for some companies, after all we can all become a little set in our ways can’t we?

You will find yourself, when quoting for work having to explain a lot more in depth on how your spec. is different than that of the other company’s quotes you potential client has.

For example;

How come competitors have suggested a 30% crown reduction when you have suggested a 20-25% leaf mass reduction?

The reason?

“For example on certain trees a 12% reduction of the lateral length of branches across the entire tree (length) can result in a 30% loss of leaf volume. British Standards 3998(2010) states: “The general principle [of Crown Reduction] is that, following reduction, there should still be a strong framework of healthy small-diameter branches and twigs (leaf-bearing structure), capable of producing dense leaf cover during the following growing season. “

That’s just 12%. imagine when you remove 30% of the length, you’ve pretty much removed 100% of leaf cover from the tree. This CANNOT ever be good for the tree. It results in rapid, vigorous re-growth and causes long term physiological issues.

This approach represents a huge change in the way that many people still perform crown reductions of trees. The following table if never seen before by an Arborist  is a game changer and takes some serious head scratching;

It’s easy to see how this can be incredibly difficult for an arborist to adopt. From our own experience, its very tricky in all stages, from quoting through to implementation  to the final follow up call to see if the client is happy. Being brutally honest, it’s an easier sell with commercial clients, most of the time all they want to know is they are managing their risk. They trust us to carry out the works to spec.


It becomes tricky when you are dealing with a client who has put their green house under a tree and now wants the tree reduced so they can get more light on their tomatoes. You will find upon implementing the standard that you are now no longer on an equal playing field when up against other companies. They have said that will reduce the tree by 50% and take they money all day long, whereas the Arb wanting to be as professional as possible in adopting BS3998 (2010) will from experience once again, loose the job. For the most part I’m kind of OK with this, the way we work is all about the quality and if I’m 100% honest in adopting this approach we now see a change in our client base. We have built relationships with clients that treasure their trees and appreciate the approach we take based on the perceived knowledge that we as a company have and the ethics we uphold with regards to pruning trees.

Walk away then?

Now, here’s a question – if a client vehemently insists to have their tree pruned in a way that is not conducive to BS3998 what do you do?

This is a moral and business issue. It’s great to have morals, but they do not pay the finance on the chipper, or truck, or insurance or wages do they? I can only talk form experience, About Trees is 10 years old, we have indeed walked away from jobs before, we’ve probably lost more on the basis of quoting to the standard (uneven playing field). If, a client is insistent on taking a course of action that we do not recommend I will let them know on the quote, and any further communications that this is not work that we should carry out if pruning to BS3998 (2010) – sort of like a disclaimer. My hope is we can steer them in the right direction and start that golden relationship with them where they end up trusting our expert judgement. Some people you just cannot win over though.

Is it worth it?

Yes, working towards the standard has been so rewarding for About Trees, (I do wish the purchase cost would come down so more companies would invest in it) we as an organisation feel professional and knowledgeable, such is our conviction that we do win most jobs based on the obvious desire to prune trees in the correct manner. We have tool box talks and focus on sections of the book. I’m confident also that the quality of the work that we turn out is right up there. It’s good to know that we can walk with our chests puffed out in the knowledge that we as a company are performing every day!

It’s a tough sell to a lot of clients and you will hear the immortal words “well, is that all you’ve done?” from time to time, but more often you’ll hear about what a great job you’ve done and how great the tree looks and experience with you company has been from start to finish.

Suck it up fellow Arbs – it’s worth it.


Mantra is LESS IS MORE people – less is more.

Stihl MS880 chainsaw

Huge Lime trees dismantled with Stihl MS880 chainsaw

This was really something for the crew to get stuck into. Two Huge Lime trees dismantled safely with Stihl MS880 chainsaw  (Tilia x europaea). What a job it turned out to be. It tested the skill, stamina and communication of the team to the maximum. A lot of the time, Team Leader – Joe found himself over 100ft away from his work colleagues. That’s 100ft vertically away. So yes, comms were used to make sure all members on site were fully aware of what’s going on and where they need to be. Large…very large chainsaws were used and modern, new rigging equipment used to lower safely to the ground at least 75% of the trees. Impact on the ground was minimal. In fact apart from the trees being no longer there is little signs of us having been there.

Why were the Lime trees dismantled?

The trees had been surveyed previously by an independent Arboriculturalist and been deemed physiologically unsound. Such was their size and location they had to be felled. Our client, whom we have worked for on several jobs such as this along with highways clearance works  asked us to carry out the work. First we liaised with the local authority – Tonbridge and Malling council to obtain correct permissions, then last week we made a start on the work itself. It was gruelling 10 days of hard graft, lumping wood, loading wood, un loading wood.

What’s a Stihl MS880 chainsaw?

A new Stihl MS880 chainsaw was purchased in order to make the final cuts on the tree stems. This saw is 125 cc and is a real beast, it weighs in at 20kg including a 48inch bar and saw chain. It’s pretty much the latest chainsaw available in Europe. It also is a real work out using it, you can only imagine how tough it is using it up the tree from a rope and harness. TOUGH

Sounds hard?

It was tough going, lots of rigging with ropes, heavy wood, heavy saws, heavy everything. The crew performed amazingly and were subject of lots of people watching their exploits.  All in all we removed approx. 40 tonnes of arisings from site and left sight very little signs of having been present. The stumps were then ground away to allow for the soil to be improved and re-turfed. Great effort lads, they earn a few easy days off that back of it.

So, don’t forget, we really can say to you… No job is too big – we mean it

IMG_0090IMG_0138IMG_0151 IMG_0150

Time for the BIG GUNS

These jobs are few and far between and for a tree surgery company everyone involved really enjoys them. It’s a Time for the BIG GUNS  when a crane used in tree surgery it usually signifies something out of the ordinary is going to happen. It’s a totally different experience for the team, communications have to be tip top as any mis understandings can be fatal, the crane operator and his banks-men need to understand what branch is coming off next and where its going to go, the Arborist (in the tree) needs to know where the crane is going to move the cut branches to and the ground team need to be on top of their game also. They have to process the branches lowered to the ground quickly and efficiently as to cause no hold ups. Communication is key here, so walkie talkies were order of the day.

Possibly the most crucial part of the entire undertaking is the knowledge of the Arborist –  in the case Joe. He has to be able to estimate the weights of the branches before he cuts them as to not over load the crane. There”s a lot of pressure on the Arborist shoulders with a crane job!


Quite simply, the tree had become too large. It was causing issues for neighbours and was deemed a headache for both the owners and neighbours it’s structural stability was questionable also. We had to use the crane here as the tree was simply too far from the access point into the garden, luckily we could use a nearby car park and lift the branches over the wall of the owner’s garden, several other gardens and down into our processing area – the car park. We had liaised with the car park owners and shut it down for the duration of the contract. Naturally we had made the local council aware of our intentions as it was a tree within a Conservation area.

How did it go?

In short, very well indeed despite the horrendous weather. Each lift that the crane made came in at around the 1tonne mark and we had 20 or so lifts. Its was a BIG tree! Despite this the tree was down safely within the day. The following 2 days were spent clearing the site, removing the wood and all evidence of us having been on site.

So, don’t forget, we really can say to you… No job is too big – we mean it.

Are your trees Autumn fit?

Are your trees Autumn fit ?

Ok, so we in the south seem to have been lucky and escaped Ex-Ophelia – phew!! But are your trees Autumn fit ?
Autumn gales are a particularly treacherous time for trees, this is because they are still in full leaf when the high winds pick up. Combine this with high rainfall and saturated soils (quite often the case this time of year) and you have a perfect recipe for the unthinkable happening. Especially if there are hidden undiscovered issues with the tree to start with.

Trust us, we know this to be the case. Armed with over 20 years industry and tree knowledge there’s not a lot that can get past us. We have your best interests at heart.
Why not ask us to come and take a look and offer you good old fashioned honest advice. Quite often a decent visual check of a are can be done without even needing to climb the tree.

Autumn colours of a Liquidambar styraciflua – sweet gum


What would are you looking for?

A decent Arborist will be able to inspect a tree from round level, using the knowledge he or she has built up over the years. This will be fed back with a balanced approach to risk, this is based on many factors. Risk to buildings, possessions and most importantly life. Inspecting trees needs a level head, the desire to make “knee-jerk” reactions has to be controlled. We must remember trees were designed to stand up, they do this incredibly well.

Structural defects.

Structural defects, such as tears in branches, bark peeling off, compromised root systems, abnormal bulges and lumps in the actual structure of the tree. All of these can point toward a point of failure in the future. Unusual bulges can be areas that are weak and have been reinforced by the tree. The tree will put down very strong wood to try to re-inforce structural weaknesses. This is called “Reactive Wood” and it it is very strong.

A windblown Cupressos macrocarpa – Monterey cypress flattens a car and side of house Christmas eve 2013.


Fungi & trees.

This is the time of year that we can start to look for fungi on our trees. The presence of fungi either around the roots or maybe on the tree itself is not always a sign of impending demise, quite often fungi and tree lie in a mutually beneficial relationship. This is called a Symbiotic relationship.
However, sometimes the presence of fungi is not such great thing to spot, they can drastically reduce a trees ability to function on a vascular levels and also cause catastrophic structural weakness.

Meripilus giganteus –  giant polypore; often found on Beech and is SERIOUS!

Laetiporus sulphureus – chicken of the woods; often found on the main stems of Poplar trees.

Armillaria mellea – honey fungus; beneficial in woodlands, not so great in your pride and joy garden.


These fungi affect their host trees in different ways, it takes an expert to be able to I.D. them and offer relevant advice.

There’s so much more that an Arborist can see, especially obsessed ones like us at About Trees. Allow us to make your trees Autumn fit this year Contact us

Aerial rescue techniques

Here’s the thing…. the temptation to squeeze in money paying work in is great, but sometimes there are more valuable and important things that can be done. None more so than the regular practice of Aerial Rescue techniques.

In case you aren’t aware – tree surgery is inherently dangerous, at best our Arborists are working with sharp handsaws and ropes, at worst it’s chainsaws! Pieces of wood weighing in excess of 250kg can be cut and lowered to the ground, or swung around (in a controlled manner). You don’t need to be a genius to realise the risks involved and the potential for very nasty outcomes. On a fairy regular basis Arborists are injured up trees, sometimes, in very tragic cases these injuries can be fatal. A young tree surgeon bled out in a tree in Clapham, London last year leaving a wife and two children. It’s the stuff of nightmares.

We need to do all we can to reduce these accidents happening in the first place, this is essentially an eduction process. We have ethos of safety first at About Trees, this seems to have installed good working practice amongst the team. Risk Assessments, whilst somewhat tedious are an invaluable tool to start conversations with regarding the site, the hazards and measures to be put in place. However, accidents do happen, how can we be sure we are well placed to deal with them?

Quick question…. who’s the best person to rescue an Arborist in trouble up a tree? Firefighter? Paramedic? Police? Coastguard? Spiderman?

The answer……

Another Arborist!

Yes that’s right, your colleagues on the ground, second climber, grounds person are the people who are going to save your life. They have to be competent, and calm in such a situation. They have to weigh up the scenario, act appropriately and SAVE a life. After all by the time the emergency services have found you on site it could be too late!

How can you be sure that all of these abilities will fall into place if the unimaginable happens?


Joe “rescuing” Nathan
When & Where?

So when we (About Trees) have a spare half day the urge to squeeze another little job in is resisted – instead, it’s Aerial Rescue techniques time. We find a large tree and essentially have a little play around with different scenarios. It may seem a little OTT but this is important and can save lives. Regular drills are imperative and increase the chance of a favourable outcome if the worst should ever occur. It’s about being confident.

Whenever we climb large trees we always install a rescue line up the tree so a rescuer can get to the victim quick sharp – it sets everyone’s mind at ease. Part of the risk assessment contains postcode/grid reference for emergency services, a mobile is kept with the team on the ground. These are all parts of the Aerial rescue tools we use.

A rescue plan is spoken over prior to all tree climbing commencing. A rescue kit, compromising of a full climbing kit and spikes (climbing irons) is laid out ready to go if needed as close to the tree as possible. Trauma first aid kits with Haemostats (blood clotting) products are always nearby. All of these measures, we hope add to a sense of being well looked after. The idea is to reduce stress on everyone. After all, if you feel as if you are being looked after, you feel safer.

Helping hand

Rescuers should be equipped with Emergency First aid training, they will have to use the techniques learned in the classroom on their colleague at height, regularly Arborists are working 25metres+ above ground level. So many companies will put their climbers at huge risk by not having a competent climber on the ground who can act as a rescuer. One word – IRRESPONSIBLE! We are talking about lives being at risk here.

No body within the industry will argue that aerial rescue techniques are not important to our industry. We are trained in Aerial rescue techniques at college before being allowed to climb trees using chainsaws, it’s the bare minimum a tree surgeon needs. So many of us get the ticket and then never re-visit of refresh our knowledge.

So it begs the question…

If it’s so important why are they so seldom practiced regularly?

As an industry we have access to the trees (clearly), the equipment (obviously) the people (um yeah). I can only draw one conclusion in answering the question. To me it all seems down to money! I understand, we are all in business to earn money, but this cannot be at any cost. Once a month, for less than half a day.  I’d wager that a huge proportion of tree companies do not practice Aerial Rescue on an annual basis.

We need to view this practice as “golden”.



Paul & Nathan making their way back to ground.

So, fellow “Arbs” resist that urge to earn a few quid more. Half a day once a month……. it could be the best half days work you’ve ever missed out on!

One last word


OK that was 3

Trust your tree surgeon


I find it hard sometimes when looking at work to point out problems that could arise in the future for my clients, I’m aware it may be taken as me trying to “up-sell” a client so they increase their spend with us. It’s never the case, we’ve built our relationships on trust and honest advice. It needs to be time to trust your tree surgeon.

This advice was made crystal clear this week when I visited a windblown 80ft tree at a local golf course this week.
I’d looked at the tree 18 months ago. I thought I recognised it and remembered that i’d spotted an issue with it back then. I checked back when in the office on the recommendation/quote for works.

Trust your tree surgeon

Here’s a snippet of the recommendations from Sept. 2016
“Fagus sylvatica – common beech: Located near the 16th hole; this tree appears to have numerous brackets of the fungus Ganoderma applanatum present at a wound @ 6m high, there appears from ground to be a hollow, maybe from a historic limb failure at this point also…………. given the high footfall in this area I recommend that the tree be felled to ground level”


Sure enough, it was the very same tree, the client had decided not to go ahead with the works in 2016, as a result this tree became more unstable and finally snapped @ the 6m point. It has damaged another two trees but fortunately no damage people occurred. Please bear in mind this is on a golf course! It could have been a tragedy.
It was a lucky escape, it doesn’t take a huge imagination to see what could have happened here.

How is this done?

I guess its a tough balance to get when giving people honest advice and not coming across as trying to “Up-sell” Ultimately it’s the goal of getting your client to trust your tree surgeon. How is this done?

That’s the magic question

Our clients understand from the start that we are in it long term with them, after all, a good relationship could bring return visits as much as once every year. Time to play the long game – look after your clients and they will look after you. Pretty simple really.

Good honest advice

This travels both ways, sometime it will mean letting the client know that there may be the need to spend more money (or maybe prioritise). The other direction, could be that the client need not spend so much money, there’s a better option (maybe cheaper). You can rest assured we will happily take that journey in both directions.