Friday, 11 March 2011

What’s going on?
My team of three arboricultural assessors is now fully deployed in Nuneaton – we have to carry out an inventory survey to provide 7000 records by the end of March. We’re using ArcGIS10 on HP iPAQs, seems to be quite efficient so far – the weather is great so far, set to change at the weekend though which is a bit of a nuisance.

After Nuneaton we go back into Tamworth and complete the survey for the Borough Council there, then the team may well split up – one to go back to Nuneaton for a new style of target lead survey, the others to go back to Oxford to pick up where we left off.

New opportunities
I’ve made a number of proposals to architects and developers recently, is that an indication that the market is coming back to life, or that my profile has risen? I know that there are no end of alternative propositions available whenever I make my proposal and so the client is often required to make a leap of faith when selecting an appropriate consultant.

Don’t forget, you can continue to follow my bite-sized ramblings on Twitter –


Wednesday, 12 January 2011

NOS Reveiw

Lantra SSC's review of the Trees and Timber National Occupational Standards (NOS) is now building up a head of steam, and I am fortunate (is that really true?!) to be able to represent arboriculture on the Steering Group.

I am going to need help in the next few weeks and months and so I may be asking all my contacts for their contribution to the debate - remember, if we in the industry, the end users of the qualififations that will derive from the NOS, want to make changes then we need to be engaged and involved!

I'll also be using Twitter to send brief messages about the current state of play, find me @HazellTowers

Friday, 24 December 2010

Season’s Greetings

As the dog sled of time makes its way across the wintry landscape, pausing under leaden skies only long enough to cock a leg at Old Father Time, all that remains is for me, and the late, great, Humph, to wish you all the very best for Christmas and the new year!

For that last minute Christmas present, why not a single-user licence for ARBORtrack? It’s a great programme, but we only scratch the surface of it’s complex functionality and so I’m looking to forward it to a new home –

Don’t forget, you can continue to follow my bite-sized ramblings on Twitter –


Monday, 20 December 2010

A wintery tale

Since I last posted we’ve had a significant dump of snow and our surveying in Oxford has ground to a halt – my team simply cannot see enough detail to make a realistic comment upon tree condition.

I’ve also been to a meeting at Nuneaton and Bedworth Council to discuss the service that we currently deliver, and how we can improve our service for the client team so maintaining everyone’s duty of care.

I had an instruction from Shire Consulting to provide a number of tree assessments on primary school sites in Birmingham – demographic changes (as well as some political changes I suspect) have lead to plans to re-develop some school sites and so my client wanted detail of tree species and of ultimate height as an aid to foundation design. But, I am a bit down the food chain, I wonder if Shire know that I exist?

Since my last blog I’ve gone and joined Twitter – I don’t know if it will do any good but you can follow my bite-sized ramblings @HazellTowers

should get you there, he said optimistically!

I hope that you all have a great Christmas, and I look forward to welcoming you back in the new year!

Friday, 10 December 2010

A winter’s tale

We have now got our new ICT, ArcGIS10 from ESRI UK, I’ve no idea how to use it just yet but my team of field-based assessors have migrated from the previous software package to the new, without apparently too much trouble . . .

My children are delighted that I’ve now moved into the 1990s with my very own PDA, a least I can now access some of the sites that I need for work whilst on the move. The PDA supports Excel and so I should be able to carry out simple surveys myself without constantly referring to an IT self-help book!

The weather has played havoc with fieldwork, but we are not alone in having to deal with that particular complication.

Practically speaking
The data sets for Oxford Homes have been submitted, I think that our team on the ground have done realy well, there are issues behind the scenes with how data is being presented but that’s no reflection on Henry and Nick.

We’re now busy working through the public open spaces, a rather bigger project than any of us expected – we’ll need to add more capacity in the New Year, so if you are interested make contact!

The job for Tamworth has begun well, and we have found a very good young surveyor to lead that project for us – he knows his stuff and can share his enthusiasm and knowledge with others.

I’ve carried out a number of tree surveys on primary school sites in Birmingham to help foundation designers working on proposals to redevelop the sites to increase their capacity.

We are about to move onto the next stage of the inventory survey for Glendale in Nuneaton, the winter survey. I’m using an established local consultant to help on that, part of the learning from the now infamous job for the still un-named housing organisation!

Oh dear reader, that project, for the (still) un-named housing organisation has highlighted certain of my failings, such as the inability to exert sufficient quality control measures! The work has been submitted, and rejected as a sample of the output reviewed by the client was deemed to be of an inferior quality. It remains an unhappy experience for me, but I have held on to the learning!

Small instructions continue to pop up; some provide the opportunity to work with other disciplines on site, such as urban designers, others are the preserve of the solitary arboriculturist.

Expressly interesting
Since I last blogged (is that really a word?) I am more convinced that the market for sizable opportunities has stagnated, small jobs still cross my desk but nothing substantial. Is that the influence of the economic downturn, the coalition’s spending plans or my reputation – who can tell!

Thursday, 7 October 2010

An autumnal update

I’ve now got two substantial pieces of long-term work, with Oxford and with Glendale in Nuneaton, as well as a big one-off project with Tamworth, and so I have decided to ask my line manager and his colleagues for their approval to spend some money to upgrade our ICT.

We currently use a variety of software applications (both niche and generic) on a number of different data loggers – there are compatibility problems within and between each application and so I’ve made the decision to migrate everything that we do onto the ArcGIS platform from ESRI and to generally use PDAs for data capture. There will be occasions when “near enough is not good enough” and so we will roll out the TruPulse to help get a better fix (wasn’t he one of Asterix’s mates?) on specific assets.

All being well next time I venture into the blogosphere I’ll let you know how we are getting on!

I now have a new colleague, Jenny Esdon, an experienced landscape manager and member of the Landscape Institute, and I’m sure that Jenny and I will be able to work together on future projects.

The changing season
Autumn has arrived and with it a certain unpredictability creeps in –
1. will the weather hold throughout the day?
2. what fungus IS that?
3. which species or variety of broadleaf is that, now all the leaves are turning off?

I hope to be able to help out on the weather front (but only by providing a decent coat, my powers don’t extend very far you know!) and with fungal idents (by adding a variety of images and prompts and so on to the PDA), but the tree ident has to remain the responsibility of the field staff!

Practically speaking
We have now completed the fieldwork for a complete tree inventory and hazard assessment survey for Oxford Homes, we’ve been to every property that they manage and have assessed trees in front gardens, communal areas AND in rear gardens. Unusually, but I believe quite wisely, Oxford Homes have taken the decision to be aware of and responsible for all trees that might be within influencing distance of their properties and residents.

The job for Tamworth has begun well and we have established a good working relationship with our client and have begun to share a common understanding of the assessment and prioritisation of tree hazards and associated risks.

We have completed an “in-leaf” inventory survey for Glendale in Nuneaton, the winter survey will begin in October, to give us a chance to spot any fungal fruiting bodies that may be evident and to assess the hazard that they pose.

Regular readers (I flatter myself!) will be keen to know about the project for the as yet un-named housing organisation! – well, I’ve now submitted all the work that I can and I hope to have closed out the project. It has not been a happy experience for me but I have learnt much during the execution (and I use the word wisely) of the job.

I have now received clarification and clarity over the time allowed in the Consent to work on trees covered by TPO in a private road near Solihull. I have invited a local contractor to give me his best price for the first instalment, the removal of horse chestnut badly affected by leaf miner and by bleeding canker.

Small instructions pop up every so often; some provide the opportunity to work with other disciplines on site, such as the ecologists, others are more solitary affairs!

Expressly interesting
Since I last blogged (is that really a word?) I get the impression that the market has stagnated, opportunities across the board have dried up – I must do more to raise my profile and so come to the attention of those who want or need arboricultural advice!

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Torpor? No, frenetic activity!

I suspect that I’ve broken the rules, written or unwritten, of blogging by being inactive for such a long time but it’s not torpor that’s been holding me back, far from it!

Practically speaking
The job for Tamworth Borough Council is about to get going,

I’ve got my team on site now testing our ICT solution and submitting sample data sets to the Tree Officer, Marc Budge.

I can begin to see a pinprick of light expanding into a pool, that I can only presume means the end of the tunnel that has been the Registered Social Landlord’s project – but it is still in need of completion! The engagement of experienced project managers (experience in both arboriculture and delivering large scale projects) made a significant difference to progress and quality assurance, as did the hiring of more boots on the ground.

A survey for a sister company has gone well; I look forward to a repeat visit to the Midlands later in the year.

A tree management project that has been submitted to planners for their consideration has been given the go-ahead – the population is in a private road near Solihull. I hope to have clarification on the timelines for the project shortly, my proposal was that the work be spread over five years, the consent as granted refers to only two years.

We have now completed the survey of the trees in the housing areas for Oxford City Council – it is my understanding from my team on the ground that the project has gone well, the IT has been a bit of a bore on occasion but we have now submitted a seamless data set of in excess of 20,000 records to the client. The next phase will see us move into the parks and open spaces, my ambition is to provide a team of up to four surveyors to get on to the ground whilst the weather remains favourable and the species can be identified and any fungi noted!

Unfortunately Buckinghamshire County Council have withdrawn the PQQ for the management of thier green spaces, I am not sure why – I was looking forward to the project and I hope that there will be other similar opportunities.

Expressly interesting
My impression is that whilst some opportunities are drying up – there seem to have been fewer enquiries for development site tree surveys in recent weeks – other areas, or perhaps groups of clients, remain buoyant.