Thursday, 23 December 2010

Well, it snowed again but I guess we all know that!

Took these the day after it snowed.  I will be updating more soon, once christmas and assignments are out of the way!

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Fraxinus excelsior

The Ash tree (Fraxinus excelsior) is one of the taller of the native trees of Britain.  It is deciduous tree that’s makes its habitats near riverbanks, meadows, valley woodlands and deciduous woodlands but will more often than not grow anywhere. It can develop an impressive crown when it grows in damp soil rich in minerals.  It is a member of the olive family and can grow up to 46m tall in exceptional circumstances, normally 20-35m.  The bark is smooth and pale grey on young trees, becoming thick and vertically fissured on old trees. The shoots are stout, greenish-grey, with jet black buds. The leaves are pinnate compound.  The leaves are often among the last to open in spring, and the first to fall in autumn if an early frost strikes.

The resilience and rapid growth made it an important resource for smallholders and farmers. It was probably the most versatile wood in the countryside with wide-ranging uses. Until World War II the trees were often coppiced on a ten year cycle to provide a sustainable source of timber for fuel and poles for building and woodworking.  Because of its high flexibility, shock-resistance and resistance to splitting Ash wood is the traditional material for bows, tool handles, especially for hammers and axes, tennis rackets and snooker cue sticks.  Ash is valuable as firewood because it burns well even when 'green' (freshly cut). 

It is in the Teutonic manuscript of Edda, written in the 13th century, that one can read of the mythological ash called Yggdrasil. Its roots were anchored in the abyss of the underworld, and watered by the streams of wisdom and faith. Its trunk was supported by the earth, while its crown touched the arc of heaven.  Scandinavian mythology holds that the ash was the 'tree of life'; it was believed to have healing powers in Britain, and was widely regarded as a source of magic and mystery. Unfortunately, the mysterious aura of the ash has declined in modern times; it is now commonly viewed as a 'weed tree' due to its rapid colonisation of new areas and fast growth.

The Ash has high conservation value. The airy canopy and short leaf stay allow a lot of sunlight through to the woodland floor and hence a rich and varied ground flora can grow. This also means plenty of food to allow a wide variety of insects and birds.

Monday, 13 December 2010


Completed my Exam this afternoon, went quite well and think i've done enough to pass.  Only one more short test and one 2000 word assignment to go then thats my first semester done and dusted.  Role on Christmas and all that food.  I shall take some more pictures this week as this weekend has been fairly busy and i've not had time to post.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Sustainability and Global Tree Care

Knowing what little I know, i have formed basic opinions of this industry we work in from reading articles, journals, parts of my course etc etc etc and is it a case of ignorance is bliss?

I've been reading parts of the UK Forestry Standard and its got me thinking about sustainability and how trees are intrinsically linked with global sustainability. Tree work for the global good is an interesting view basically stating that forestry and arb industry (the fact we are responsible for the day to day care of trees forests and woodlands) is charged with the responsibility of protecting the interests of the planet. This is indeed a high charge, however, succeeding in this requires (IMO) changes from the ground up. Our industry would have to meet these global needs by excelling in our duty of care and operating sustainable and responsible practices.

I know that forestry and arb are in theory two different industries with forestry producing timber for mainly commercial markets where as arb is, well arb! but both can learn from each other in my opinion to increase profitability and sustainability e.g not sending arisings to landfill, using the chip for mulches, biomass etc, wood carvings on site (if appropriate), firewood, fencing, habitat piles, ecology and conservation.

I think we need to consider the economic, social and environmental factors of everything we do.

I'm only discussing MY opinions on this as today (and yesterday) we've been to a job on a council estate. The job is to take down a large (55-60ft) ash which is probably over a hundred years old. Now the couple who want the tree down live in a privately owned ex council house they bought 9 years ago. The tree in question is in the back garden of their next door neighbours house which is still council owned and rented out. They been trying (apparently) for the past 8 years to get the tree removed? Why, i hear you ask? Because the tree blocks light to their garden in the summer when they are hosting barbeques!!! When they bought the house was the tree not there already??
Anyway my point is this tree is, sorry was, healthy, sustained life other than that of itself, was a nice feature in a back garden that could cope with the size of it and in my opinion was doing nothing wrong, yet the housing assc and the TO have given in to the couple and the tree is being removed without anything being planted in return... where is the sustainability in that?? Is it really a case of ignorance is bliss or do the masses need educating or am I just on a one man mission to nowhere..

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Alnus glutinosa

The Commen Alder (Alnus glutinosa) is a deciduous tree that is native to Britain, it makes its home by streams, rivers and marshlands and is comfortable with its roots submerged in water. It provides a strong form of timber especially underwater. It is a member of the Birch family of trees and like birch grows relatively quickly and is short-lived.

The Alder is a tree that grows under favourable circumstances to a height of 20–30m but can grow taller in exceptional circumstances. It is characterized by its short-stalked rounded leaves, becoming wedge-shaped at the base and with a slightly toothed margin. The glossy green foliage lasts long after other trees have put on the red or brown of autumn, which renders it valuable for landscape effect. However, some ancient civilisations considered the tree to be a natural embodiment of evil because when the wood is cut it quickly turns a reddish colour as if bleeding. In Ireland the tree was so revered that cutting one down was a criminal offence, while in Norse mythology the first people were said to be made from ash and alder.

The Alder is a pioneer species in an ecological environment. Its symbiotic relationship with certain bacterium and ability to fix nitrogen from the atmosphere improves soil fertility, whilst it is also a host to a wide variety of moss and lichen.

It is important as coppice-wood on marshy ground. The wood is soft, white when first cut and turning to pale red; the knots are beautifully mottled. Under water the wood is very durable, and it is therefore used for piles. The supports of the Rialto at Venice, and many buildings at Amsterdam, are of Alder wood. Furniture is sometimes made from the wood, and it supplies excellent charcoal for gunpowder.

The biodiversity on alder is amazing. There are numerous species of mycorrhizal fungi grow with the alder which benefit both the fungi and the tree through the exchange of nutrients which neither the alder nor the fungi can access themselves. There are also well over a hundred separate plant eating insects that thrive on the alder. From an ecology point of view the alder is an important species.

There are however potential serious threats that endanger the alder like the fungus Phytophthora sp. which can grow upwards from the base of the tree killing the roots and bark. It has been apparently reported that 10% of the alder in England could be affected.

Alder is an important species and its survival and expansion is essential to the health of the land and rivers alike.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Today's Job

This Sycamore (Acer psuedoplatanus) was to be reduced by 30%.  So here is another gripe! I know work like this keeps me in a job, but was the spec really necessary? The tree over the past few years has already been thinned twice so in retrospect there was not much left to reduce!  Nobody lives in the house in the pic and it has been unoccupied while builders apparently are doing something to it AND it was built there with the trees already existing.  So why do we pander to peoples complaints about the trees? Poor trees i say!

Don't get me wrong i'm not a tree hugging hippy, and some trees are definately in the way sometimes when it comes to health and safety but i think this was unnecessary.

Anyway, took till dinner, was a nice sunny morning and I don't think it looked to bad in the end.


Last image courtesy of the "shadowlithers" at

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Mmmm tree work!

Picture of some of todays work. Alas not me, but scott up a tree, oh why does nobody take pictures of me? ;-)

So, Magnesium deficiency vs root: shoot ratio!

OK, just finished one of my Uni assignments this week due to be handed in on Friday and its got me thinking about a few things.  Magnesium deficiency in plants and trees causes a number of symptoms and also effects plant growth. One of those symptoms is called chlorosis.  Chlorosis is caused when the lack of chlorophyll in the leaves due to the Mg deficiency causes said leaves to become highly photosensitive and any increased light intensity can "scorch" them.  This gives the effect of "yellowing" of the veins within the leaves.  Magnesium as a nutrient is responsible for a large number of enzymes involved in energy transfers which control photosynthesis, respiration and some metabolic processses.  So not only does the deficiency in Mg cause chlorosis but the growth of the plant will be affected.  It is interesting to note that growth loss in magnesium deficient plants tends to happen above the surface in the shoots. 

And this is what got me thinking...

Roots allow a plant to absorb water and nutrients from the surrounding soil, and a healthy root system is key to a healthy plant. The root:shoot ratio is one measure to help assess the overall health of plants.

Plants growing under less favourable conditions could possibly have an increased root: shoot ratio campared to those with more favourable growing conditions.  If this be the case then Mg deficient trees or even other nutrient deficiencies could have a bearing on the size of the root system compared to "healthy" trees. 

Now most trees these days when planted in building/housing/transport schemes etc, IN MY OPINION, are not well thought out, are not well planted, are not well maintained.  Well I say most but i've probably tarnished a lot of people's good practice and I do apologise.  Anyway, a large majority of trees suffer the indignity of narrow minded people with big budgets for "the project" but little pockets for trees and plants as an afterthought.   Sites picked need better amelioration, and "PREVENTATIVE" procedures put in place to alliviate the urban trees plight.  So if there are a lack of nutrients especially magnesium in surrounding areas then surely the roots ARE going to get bigger in order to search out the required nutrients that the shoots aren't getting for the enzymes etc to create food and resources.  Bigger roots = bigger problems for the trees in the future = tree eventually dies or gets removed...

Bit of a long winded story and I could probably get into it more but I can only do my bit and hope to change things for the better one step at a time!

Monday, 6 December 2010


Twas rather cold today!!

New Job

Well it was my last day of work today and the start of new beginnings tomorrow.  Working for a proper tree company with the prospect of career progression!

Its been a long hard slog for the past six months trying to make people understand what tree work is.  Yes, sometimes is is about getting the work and making sure their is an income but not when the end result is affected to a degree of the ridiculous.  Time after time, people complaining about trees! Do they not know the trees where there first! Anyway enough of the ranting and never look back, only forward.

At least today I got the day off which gave me some time to finish off a uni assignment and take some winter pics.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

A bit of what I do!

This is a Betula pendula (Silver Birch) that was due to be reduced a few weeks ago.  We got to the customers house who actually wanted the tree out as it was blocking light to her bedroom.  This is a constant battle i'm forever having to fight :( If trees were planted correctly in a location that was well thought out, this tree and many others would hardly ever have to be touched but preventative tree care is another story i will tell another day.

In the end I persuaded the customer to have a large reduction.  it ended up being 40-50% which is probably too much for this species but it was better than taking it out.  Here's the result.


As time goes on I hope to add more and more pictures of everything I do (well it is arbography isn't it!!) at the moment i'm using my faithful ole camera phone which gets OK pics.  I have however just invested in a beginners DSLR so i'm hoping my pictures improve vastly over time.

I suppose I should start by showin the very first tree I climbed as a qualified arborist.  It's probably best easiest to start fresh with the photos as my back catalogue is huge. I may post from it once in a while but I want to look forward.

This tree is the ladder oak at Myerscough College (a term coined by the staff there as it literally is like a ladder to climb).  A really good climb for people with all skills and a good view from the top.  Its been a while since I did this but remember it well.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

What is Arboriculture?

Yes, what is this world of Arb I live in?

Well according to wiki, "arboriculture is the is the cultivation, management, and study of individual trees, shrubs, vines, and other perennial woody plants. It is both a practice and a science".

But i think it is more than that and through photos, writings, articles, views, anecdotes and opinions I hope to express my opinion of arboriculture.  This isn't me preaching, just one man's lowly life journey into a world of trees, past present and future.

"Trees aren't our right, they are our privilege"

Welcome to my world

Where to start? Mmmm.... First time blogger so please bear with me.

My names Robin and i'm an Arborist.  Plain and simple.  I started out in this world 4 years ago and have not looked back.  This blog aims to bring together all my learnings, ramblings, thoughts and processes on all things arboriculture and photography - Arbography!

I want to educate the masses and enjoy the feeling of new knowledge with other people, a journey I hope that will be long and fruitful starting now.  I hope you can join me as things unfold.