Qualifications and awards

For some little while I’ve been pondering the changes to the available chainsaw awards, the following I hope describes the offering from NPTC City and Guilds, always recognised in the past as the industry benchmark:


I am particularly pleased to see Unit 304, the Level 3 Award in Preparing and Agreeing Emergency Treework Operations, following on from the development of two of the National Occupational Standards in particular,

Prepare for, and agree, emergency treework
operations, /goo.gl/gxSs2, and

Carry out emergency treework operations, /goo.gl/7vLMu



(320) 679-2543

On 31 March my curiosity was aroused by reports from the local press that I picked up through Twitter, @Chronsnappers, that said under a couple of dramatic pictures:

You don’t see this every day! 200 year old tree ‘falls over’ in Thornton Park, Kingsthorpe.

Here is a view of the tree roots. Apparently sounded like a building collapsing, when it fell.

The report from @ChronandEcho said:

200 year old tree falls down in Northampton park

but with a link /goo.gl/BLjsf to a (slightly) fuller report in the weekly newspaper, which said

By Stephanie Steward

Published on 02/04/2013 09:53

A tree, thought to be more than 200 years old, has fallen down in a Northampton park.

The cedar tree fell over earlier today in Thornton Park, off Mill Lane, in Kingsthorpe.

Northamptonshire Fire Service, Northamptonshire Police Force and a tree surgeon from Northampton Borough Council are currently at the scene and the area around the tree has been cordened off.

Councillor Sally Beardsworth, leader of the Liberal Democrats, (Lib Dem, Kingsthorpe), said: “The tree is massive and it’s centuries old. It’s very sad to have lost it. It’s such a shame. I think it was it’s weight that caused it to fall over.”

In the string of comments there has, to date, been nothing in the way of explanation.

Many years ago, when I first came to Northampton as the Landscape/ Arboricultural Assistant, the tree gang was based at Thornton Park, in buildings only recently demolished and so it was with some interest that I returned to the scene.

In a very cursory look at the tree there was no obvious reason to the naked eye as to why it chose that day to fail, but I do recall an incident from my youth when a Cedar failed at Osterley Park House, exposing what I though at the time was a very shallow root plate, but to be honest what did I know then about how trees grew?

There are some pictures on Pinterest at 5084419903

If you have any comments or ideas as to why the tree may have failed then I’d be pleased to hear from you.


As an independent I have learnt and adopted a simple mantra, “define, design, deliver”.

Step 1: It is imperative for everyone to know exactly what it is that I, as the tree expert, have been asked to do, in other words to carefully define the actual problem that needs addressing.

This absolute need may not always be the same as simply trying to resolve the presenting problem.   For example, the absolute need may be to secure planning consent from the local planning authority; the presenting need may simply be for the applicant to submit “a tree report” with the application for planning consent.

Step 2: Once the client’s need has been defined and agreed them I can design the most appropriate consultancy service to meet that need.

Continuing the example from above, if the need is to secure planning consent then my report will, as an absolute minimum,  have to follow the guidance within BS 5837:2012 Tress in relation to design, demolition and construction – Recommendations – anything less will not meet the local planning authority’s needs and so will not serve the client’s best interests.

Step 3: The deliverables need to be agreed, just as much as the fundamental question that requires to be answered.

At the simplest level, what format should my report take?   Should it be an un-locked Word file or a secure PDF, should the site plan be on the back of a fag packet or presented as an AutoCAD or SHP file?


Once the 3Ds have been agreed then my client and I can both be content that the best quality of instruction has been prepared to deliver the most appropriate consultancy solution.


(417) 408-5203

Building on the ideas behind “define, design, deliver” I successfully introduced my team, when I had such a thing, to the concept that the data we were being paid to produce had to be ready for immediate use or consumption by our client.

Inventory tree surveys

In the context of the inventory survey we had to be aware of how our client wanted to use and manage the data

  • was it to be jealously guarded by a tree officer on dedicated licensed software that only the tree team knew how to access, or
  • was it for wider enterprise-use on much more generic asset management software?

The end-use often helped to determine the design of the survey,

  • what level of precision was required when locating trees, was near enough good enough?
  • what degree of accuracy is required or appropriate?
  • how to record the asset, as a numbered dot on a photocopied page from the A-Z accompanied by a spreadsheet?
  • how to provide the information, as a bundle of paper or as a SHP file from a hand-held data logger?

Whilst we may have had professional misgivings at either end of the continuum (and indeed over what level of information our client required us to capture) it was not for us to argue, we were simply required to populate our client’s database in their preferred way.

One consequence that may not have been given enough thought in the past is that an inadequate survey would not give the client all the information that they required for them to understand the condition of their tree stock, and so to discharge their duty of care and manage their stock.   The surveyor may know every tree individually, especially if he is periodically re-engaged to carry out a re-survey, but the real risk for the client is that inadequate information is transferred leaving them vulnerable to liability claims.

Development site surveys

In general the output from a development site survey is required for use and manipulation by fellow professionals, and they use enterprise-wide asset management software tools such as AutoCAD and so if the survey is presented as the product of a dedicated tree management software package it is of no interest, and so of no value to the client.

The accompanying text

It is also important to consider the narrative that is written to explain what has been submitted when thinking about “client ready data”.   In his essay “Politics and the English Language” George Orwell set down a number of rules to guide the writer:

  1. never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print
  2. never use a long word where a short one will do
  3. if it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out
  4. never use the passive where you can use the active
  5. never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent
  6. break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous

I find it difficult to honour rule 4 at all times, and I suspect I have broken a number of the other rules in this short piece.   However, that does not mean they should be there to guide the author at all times.

In summary

How to summarise my experience?

Whilst I think that the proprietary tree management database packages are very competent I believe that they have limitations, not least of which is when considering accessibility and the sharing of data across a range of platforms.   If an IT geek tells you the “data transfer will be seamless” be prepared for trouble.   A difficulty with a tree management package for which you hold the only licence is that you become by default the manager of the tree stock that you have surveyed.

I am very much in favour of providing high volumes of information from inventory surveys as SHP files created using properly considered and designed survey schema.   Good quality, accurate and precise information can be uploaded to the client enterprise’s server and all the relevant professionals within the organisation will be able to use the management information provided by the competent arboricultural professional to make good quality management decisions.

My Dutch Elm Disease cameo

Whatever became of Dutch Elm Disease?

I have now uploaded my cameo appearance, or more properly my umbrella’s cameo appearance, in a filmed piece for The One Show last year, 2012, that asked “Whatever became of Dutch Elm Disease?” – click on the link /youtu.be/u3Fw2QwHhJQ

It’s still around and waiting to strike!

The cycle begins when an elm tree’s stem become large enough to support the breeding beetle, she will then lay her eggs below the bark and, more than likely, fungal spores will be transmitted from a previously inhabited tree.



I am hoping, in the next few days, to be able to shed some light on the connection between the unsubstantiated suggestion in the CIRIA report that “large trees are good” and a similar suggestion in the recent work of TDAG.

Watch this space, both of you, but don’t hold your breath!

Stuck indoors!

Having been dashing around the week before last I was rather more local last week (but, in truth far less effective), but this week I’ve been holed up in my garret here at HazellTowers watching the weather.


One of the seating areas on the west terrace, at about noon on 20th

Northampton-20130122-00367 resized

The same terrace on the 22nd.

sbjs have been huddling in the birch, no cover there, noon on the 20th.

sbj huddling in the birch, no cover there, noon on the 20th.


A local landscape at about noon on 22nd – no point going to site for tree surveys when so much detail is obscured, the only upside might be that targets would reveal themselves by their tracks but that’s probably asking a bit much!

On the road again

No, not Canned Heat, but a description of next week’s movements, all with an academic theme.

Monday will be spent in Essex, a 5837 survey at a school where a development proposal may impact four outlying trees.

The rest of the week will be spread between Hampshire, Kent, Dorset and Wiltshire looking at a range of schools under the Education Funding Agency’s Priority School Building Programme, again the pro forma will be 5837 but there may be other things to discover as I go round!

Presumably the PSPB scheme replaces Building Schools for the Future, I carried out a few surveys for that scheme in Birmingham back in the day.


I am now the proud owner of 50 eprints of the Book Review pages from volume 34, issue 3 of the Arboricultural Journal, you can download your own copy, for posterity, by following this link: