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Site clearance in Kent


Site clearance in Kent

We tend to stick to the high end domestic and commercial work normally, but just before Christmas we were asked to tender for some site clearance in Kent. If, I’m honest it was not my area of expertise but the job was interesting and I had a bit of a hunger to take it on board. Previously I had made a decent contact on a job that I had priced for Cambridge University for some other site clearance in Kent that they needed doing. I gave my man a call.

All the gear and lots of ideas

It was a good call to make, we tendered for the job and I planned to contract it out to a company with the workforce and machinery to undertake this contract. Guess what? We won the tender, I think we were up against 4 other firms. Clearly my client liked what they saw on the site meeting an subsequent emails and communications.

National Grid’s site clearance in Kent

We were working ultimately for National Grid, clearing an area of ground that measured approx. 0.66 Hectare in area. It was a slightly sloping site, mainly covered in low level scrub – hawthorn, blackthorn, willow and some taller ash trees. A full wildlife report was carried out by a Ecologist and an approach was adopted and Ok’d by the LA.


NG were clearing this area of rather unremarkable land to put in battery storage for peak demand times of electric consumption. These were batteries on an industrial scale. Think shipping containers and you’re nearly there. The tech was incredible.

The approach

After weeks of planning, H&S talks, paperwork, phone calls, email etc. we were good to go. A falling machine was sent in to clear low level scrub in order for groundhogs and security to be installed as well as welfare units. The the work proper could start. Excavators with timber grabs, chainsaw operators and stump grinding machines cleared the area within 2 weeks. Oh yeah the chipper was a tree surgeons’s dream. It was loaded by the exactors and filled an artic lorry in under 1 hour. That’s over 20tonne in one hour. What a beast.


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Are we really raking it in?


It’s that time of year when all reputable tree companies should be fully booked and working hard – we are now booking into the new year. But are we really raking it in?

It’s true that having Arborists at your property is an expensive undertaking. You’re paying for experience, professionalism and trustworthy people on site.

What you are also playing for is;

Chipper £20k, Stump grinder £10k, Chainsaws x4 £3k, Climbing Kits £2k, associated tools £1k, Ladders £500 not to mention the truck itself 2 or 3 qualified and ticketed men on site, PPE for those men £1k, £10millon insurance, not forgetting trade accreditation’s.

This is pretty much the standard kit on most jobs, there’s no expensive rigging or really specialist equipment included in the above list.

These costs are substantial (there’s always on going repair costs also) and make up a great deal of the daily rate that you may be charged.

You can rest assured that your average tree company is not making the money you think they are.

What’s more crucial is that when you find quotes that are significantly cheaper than others they are cutting corners. Something is not right – maybe no insurance? Maybe not paying their workers a decent wage? Maybe using unsafe tools and machinery? Who knows.

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Book now for Summer



Our reputation precedes us.
It’s a good idea to book now folks, the diary is bursting. Providing the spec. is decent and relevant you CAN prune trees during the summer months. Of course, not everybody will know to what extent is acceptable or safe for the tree, but luckily for you WE DO. We can visit you and provide FREE advice and quote for any work that you may need doing.

WHY Choose About Trees ltd?

You know you can trust About Trees Ltd, we are Checkatrade members, Kent Trading Standards approved and CHAS accredited. We have great feedback scores across many separate sites such as Checkatrade, Facebook and Google

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Plan ahead people. It’s not too late to get you trees looking beautiful for summer.



Pro Arb magazine article


Pro Arb magazine article

I quite regularly contribute to an industry magazine. Here is most most recent Pro Arb magazine article about managing people. I’m no expert and have had to learn on the hoof as it were.


Us Arborists are a special bunch, we are in the game because we love it, it becomes a way of life. Seldom do you stumble across forums or Facebook pages where other tradespeople are so sharing with techniques, critical of new kit and indeed other fellow professionals approaches and interpretations of spec than in the world of Arb.I’ve been in the game for over 20 years now and in my view there seems to be a well-trodden labour progression to the industry and the trouble is with Arboriculture is that it isn’t a one-man job. At some point you’ll have to pay someone to work with/for you. This is my take;

All tree surgeons NEED a second person. Those who work alone are taking horrendous personal risks in what is already an incredibly dangerous profession. So that’s what you do, you start off as main climber and get a groundsperson in to help you out, sometimes two. Business goes well and you cannot dedicate that time anymore to swinging around on the latest SRT rigs – people need to be visited, quotes need to be typed up, posted or emailed. You start to rely more on other people to do the job you used to.

Perhaps like me you’ll pick up an injury (let’s face it chances are high, it’s not the softest job on the old bones is it?) and your climbing career will be ended. At 40 I stopped climbing altogether, I’d picked up one too many injuries and if I’m honest was a little exhausted with the sheer intensity of the hard work – yep that’s right I’m a soft Southerner!


My focus changed; suddenly I become a manger of people and a builder of business. This was never taught to me 23 years ago at Sparsholt. So now like thousands of small businesses, along with payroll, accountancy, purchasing, surveying, secretarial, logistics and face-to-face meetings I became a HR operative too. How hard can that be I thought to myself?I like to think I’m a pretty decent boss, My mantra has been to treat people as I’d like to be treated, I think I’m laid back and realistic in expectations. I lack the drive to build a large company, as long as I’m providing for the family financially and am sound of mind to be a decent husband and father that suits me. I’m not pushy and most definitely not into stress.

I’ve built a small family owned company, we have fulltime staff and subbies come in when needed. I guess a large job could see me have 5-6 people including myself on site. I’m no Richard Branson!



But I do manage people, and it’s tricky. I think the very nature of the game tends to attract a high proportion of transient type folk. They tend to be young, capable and can work anywhere, why would you not? One of our lads for has ended up living and working in Finland, another buying a beaten up LDV and travelling around the UK and so on. It’s full of opportunity and learning experiences. I know if things were different for me back in the day I’d do exactly the same. It does however have huge implications when a valued team member leaves you.We’ve had it several times over the past 10 years. Whist for me these departures have always been well natured and not personal there’s always been a small part of me that took it so. The upheaval is great and the feeling of being unsettled is unpleasant to say the least.

Bad news

Last year was tricky for us, my Team Leader of 5 years got an amazing opportunity thrust at him, he grasped it with both hands and left the fold, I was shocked and spent the next 4 months bumbling around trying to find a replacement. Why he went and could I have done something to keep him is probably a different discussion, but it was essentially down to the desire to try an area in the industry that we are neither set up for or have interest in doing. I do believe that if someone wants to leave it is not my job to convince them to stay if we cannot satisfy their needs, someone on the firm that does not want to be with you is pretty acidic I think. I took this approach in this case, as I always have done, and I fear I did come across non-plussed about the news. Truth is I was gutted. To my surprise it was really difficult to find a full time team leader, I tried my hardest publicising us as company showing all the decent work we carry out, pointing out what a great guy I am, putting jobs ads up on Facebook of us working with cranes, doing big takedowns, heavy rigging – yawn but still it took time. Fortunately we are back on track now, I now have a capable team, decent lads, who get on well with each other, so normal service seems to have resumed.

Lessons learnt

It also has taught me some really valuable lessons.

What I’ve learnt is that there are plenty of good people out there. What they often aren’t, are people that do it the way you want it done. You have to build on a firm foundation, work ethic is important as it technique, the rest I think is doable. It’s really hard to relinquish that finished article to someone else, there’s no doubt they will do it different and often better than you would have done. This is where I find BS 3998 (2010) useful, if your new subbie/team member can prune to this you can relax a little. You know the knowledge, skill and good practice is there.

No team wants to feel at fault, it’s deeply de-motivating. I think clear concise job sheets can avoid some errors. Sometimes I fear mine are too prescriptive and may come across like I’m patronising the lads or treating them like children- not the case. I do this to protect them on site, mistakes due to misunderstanding of spec. or client’s wishes are down to me. I’d like to think that this makes me part of the team. Don’t get me wrong it’s not a regular occurrence but let’s all be honest mistakes do happen.


I’ve also found the new cohort of arborists to be conscientious, hard working and really willing to learn. Some of the contractors we’ve used over the past 4-5 months have been well turned out and very professional in both their approach and finished article. There have been no snowflakes walking through our door. But face it, if you were such a person as described in the 1999 film Fight Club

“You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake. You are the same decaying organic matter as everyone, and we are all part of the same compost pile,”

I don’t think you’d be undertaking this career in the first place. So far so good – there is good people out there, that knock out great work that are hardy and not snowflake(like)The tricky part is managing these people, I was never taught HR. I was trained to be an Arborist, of which I do very little now. How to get the best out of people is hard, what motivates them, what do they love. The answer to the latter I have to say is – not your business as much as you do!

This is a harsh realisation but very true, I’m ok with that after all I haven’t loved my ex bosses companies in the past.


I find myself feeling a little bit paternal to the team, I want them to know I have their back, just as I’m exposed letting them be the face of the company, I’m also there for them. I’ve had people before with personal problems at home, difficult family life, tricky ex girlfriends and I’ve tried hard to support and understand. In the past I’ve enjoyed the fact that I’m a Boss and have lads on site to do the hard work. I’ve rocked up in the morning issued the job sheets and left the them to it, truth is whilst trying not to interfere with their way of running the job it just comes across as me not being interested which is far from the truth. My desire to not micro-manage, constantly be calling for progress reports or be Alpha male had been conceived as me just not giving a damn. This is easily changed; I started to go out on site with the team more often. Yes I got under their feet and tried to impart knowledge (that they already know) but at least on those days we are all in it together. I also realised how much of the banter I’d been missing. We also try to have regular tool-box talks. Whilst a bit American and touchy feelythey are really beneficial – team members feel valued and able to raise concerns regarding kit, jobs, timescales etc.

Sub Contractors

Getting subbies in brings a whole new ball game. In truth I feel for sub contractors, these people work HARD! Face it, you’re paying your subbie easily upwards of £160 per day, you’re going want you pound of flesh. I’ve tried to resist this urge, generally they do come in on larger jobs, and so it’s very nature is that these are harder days in fact the whole team works harder on these days. The reason you pay them more? No holiday, no sick, no pension, their PPE, their tools and so on. That’s their risk not yours. It’s not an excuse to load them up. When they are working with us they are part of our team, not some pit pony to be worked and worked and worked. This approach has worked for me, subbies want to come in for me, they’ll change stuff around for us in their diaries and my view is work more conscientiously for us. My experience has shown subbies to be amazing professionals who perform day in day out, learn how different companies work and adjust accordingly, they are worth the money, treat them well. Some may say it’s crazy but when we have subbies in I’m quite happy for the whole team to job and knock.

No expert

I’m really no expert, this is my take on trying to manage people, I’ve never brought in to the school of thought that “there’s plenty more where they came from”mentality this builds no trust or appreciation. Like clients it’s much easier to keep existing employees ones that keep finding new ones. Treat people well, understand that they will clock off and not think about work to the next day, and take them for a pint on a Friday – sorted


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4th largest in the country


4th largest in the country

Eye catching figure that isn’t it? It doesn’t refer to About Trees Ltd. being the 4th largest in the country in terms of tree care, although we do think big. It’s to do with our latest job on the estate of the 4th largest in the country in the world of grape growing.

It’s an honour

To be asked by a vineyard that is the 4th largest in the country to help them out with their tree management issues. Like us all grapes enjoy the sun, and also like a lot of us they do not like the wind. Trees are planted as shelter belts to stop the wind from damaging the valuable crop. After time the trees on this site had become too tall and had started to affect the amount of sun hitting the fruit.

Time to fell the trees?

No, time to retain the old Alders but time to manage them also. Alnus spp. are pretty hardy trees and will re-genreate from fairly hard pruning. So that’s what we are doing. We are carefully reducing the height and spread of these trees so they can be of benefit to the crops and even the local wildlife.

When these people trust you

You know you are doing something right.


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Book now for April and May


Our reputation precedes us.

It’s a good idea to book now for April and May folks, the diary is bursting, the lads are working weekends. If you need your trees looking at before Spring and Summer better get us booked in for April and May. That’s right, people know that if they want us to carry out tree surgery for them, they have to book ahead.

Not blowing our own trumpet but….

People have released that when accompany is Trading Standards approved along with Checkatrade members that we are a serious company. We are serious about trees. We are serious about our clients and we are serious about being professionals. Oh yeah, we are also a CHAS accredited cpm any. This means good practice is at the forefront of all we do.

Unfortunately you will have to book now for April and May

It does mean that sometimes you’ll have to wait for us to get to you but you know the saying – “good things come to those that wait” That’s no hardship though, I can come and visit you way before then. We can chat about the trees and get a plan in place for later on. It’s all pretty laid back actually – just the way I like it.


Get in touch

Let’s do this in a typically non-English laid back style, this is Arboriculture – About Trees style – no pressure, just good old honest advice. It’s your call.

Let’s talk.

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Need a tree surgeon that can follow spec


Need a tree surgeon that can follow spec

Sometimes we all like to think we know best, we are guilty of that. Sometimes we have to accept that someone else knows better. This happened at a job recently. Our client had employed a Consultant Arboriculturalist to survey the estate of trees. We were tasked with carrying out the works on several trees and keeping to spec. Thus the title Need a tree surgeon that can follow spec

NO big deal

Yes, it’s true that following spec handed down by well qualified consultants isn’t a big deal at all. Sometimes, however it does’t make for an easy time. This is when other – no so committed arborists and companies interpret the spec. in their own way. Generally with a view of speeding things up and making them easier.

What was so tricky?

The spec. really reinforced the mantra of need a tree surgeon that can follow spec. This TPO’d tree (indeed the entire estate is TPO’d pretty much) was to: Reduce crown of tree by cutting back from branch tips by 2-2.5m ensuring wounds are no greater than 75mm and a even leaf density is left upon completion (paraphrased). Not a simple as it sounds. This was a lapsed pollard with cavities, dead wood and generally all the stuff that make tree climbing difficult present. There was not an option for a MEWP as access was tight and the ground conditions (tarmac) was questionable.

Rope and harness time then.

Yes, Arborist Dan climbed the tree using double and single rope technique and managed to ensure that he pruned the tree to spec. to growth points. He insured no cuts were greater than 75mm and that an even density of growth was left upon completion. Out of interest the dense area to the bottom right is another tree behind the one we worked on.












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Stump grinding in Kent


Stump grinding in Kent

True…. grinding stumps may not be the most glamorous area of Arboriculture but it is a very necessary one. But we at About Trees Ltd are really excited to be able to  carry out Stump grinding in Kent moreover we cover the entire county and also neighbouring ones too. So, if you have the need for stump grinding in Kent , Essex, East & west Sussex we can help.

What is a stump grinder?

It’s a very specialist piece of equipment that cuts away the stump that is left behind when tree is cut down or felled. As you may know we carry out Tree Surgery throughout the  entire county and now we can advertise Stump grinding in Kent as part of our services. This means we keep every aspect of our work in house. Just how it should be. Just think, you can re-plant where that old stump was. Maybe you keep hitting an old stump every tie you cut the grass, have the stump grinder in and solve that problem.

How much access do we need?

After much deliberation it was decided to get the best machine that we could guarantee us being to help the most people out with. We ended up getting a machine that only needs 7500mm or 29 inches for access. That’s most garden gates. Job done!

How much do we charge?

Well, most times we are already on site having just completed the tree felling, this means we can keep our costs low. Obviously every job is different but prices start at £50. That’s pretty competitive we think. As always our quotes are free and non-obligational, so why not just find out how much it’ll cost.

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Kent Trading Standards Approved Tree Surgeons


Kent Trading Standards Approved Tree Surgeons

That’s right, About Trees ltd is proud to be Kent Trading Standards Approved Tree Surgeons. This means we have been closely vetted and awarded approval. For you this is peace of mind, you know that we are safe, responsible and criminal conviction free.

Good news.

You need to be confident that the team you have working for you are trustworthy and decent people. They review our insurances and qualifications alongside DBS check (criminal records) and depending on the outcome offer you approval or not as it may be. I feel this is very important, there are, as in all trades lots of cowboys out there. The more we can do to make people’s minds rest at ease the better, accreditation is key.


So, now we are Kent Trading Standards Approved Tree Surgeons and also a CHAS accredited company. I’d hope this shows the commitment to being professional, safe and trustworthy the About Trees is willing to make. We are certainly not into this for the quick buck.


Checkatrade are working in partnership with KCC

About Trees is proud to be a Checkatrade approved company. This is what they check.

  • An interview carried out by Checkatrade at the trader’s home or permanent place of work.
  • Rigorous background checks carried out by Trading Standards, including a review of confidential and restricted information supplied by external organisations, other public authorities and the police in addition to checking information that is freely available to the public.
  • Public Liability Insurance check.
  • Identification checks.
  • Advice on and commitment to use correct documentation for example invoices, contracts etc.
  • A Criminal Background Check of the owner / responsible person of the business.
  • Accreditation and Qualification checks.
  • Verification of trading address.
  • Customer reference checks.

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Tree work specification


Tree work specification

Well, what is decent tree work specification ? In my view it’s when you look at the tree in question holistically. Look at the tree itself, it’s surroundings, the impact it has on its locality, both positive and negative. It’s when you speak to the client or owner of the tree, you listen. You draw from years worth of practical and intellectual skill. Hopefully all of this combines to the end result being the correct tree work specification.

This tree is question…

is a Fagus slyvatica – common beech and its a real beauty. It stands over the people on the ground dwarfing them. It measures 25metres in height and is a real specimen tree. However, it has some issues. The owner of this tree is aware of their duty of care and so has the tree inspected annually by Harroway Trees

John carried out a sonic test of the tree, this showed him and us if any issues were present in the tree itself. Think “Tree X-ray” and you’re not far off!


To everyone’s surprise this outwardly healthy looking tree – it had a full crown, very close to no deadwood present and full of vigour was under attack. The Picus test showed a cavity in the main stem indicated by an area of low sonic velocity.

What caused this?

Difficult to say, no fungal brackets were found on this test but on the last visit Kretzchmaria deusta was noted present. The assumption is this is the cause of the internal rot. Now, this is where years of knowledge pays dividends. It could easily be a knee-jerk reaction time and it could be said that this amazing tree needs to be felled on grounds of safety. No – not so. Drawing on years of experience a specification of

“it would now be prudent to carry out a reduction in the tree’s height by approximately 2-3 metres, depending on the opportunities for cutting back to suitable live growth in each instance”

This is where we came in.

Leading arborist Joe carried out the task of pruning this tree, he used his years of experience to get to the correct points in the tree and carry out an incredible job of executing the spec to the letter. I think you’ll agree the quality here shines. We are often told as Arborists that the sign of a good job is one where the results are natural and hard to see where intervention has taken place. In this case both boxes are ticked.

                          Well done lads.

Even the sun came out!


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