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A day in the working life of........

David Humphries



Snap shot of a random typical day as a Trees Management Officer, at the City of London’s Open Space of Hampstead Heath


June 2017                                                                                                                                                                   


05:10 hrs


Woke up, fell out of bed, dragged a comb across my head……….


well, turned the alarm off before the wife elbows me in the ribs!  


It’s early and I’m faced with a coffee fuelled drive in to work from deepest darkest sub-urban Suffolk.


In to work for 06:50, unlock the park and office, make a brew, fire up the computer to check the weekends e-mails (already checked on the duty work phone to be honest, but I don’t let the better half know I’m keeping an eye on work at the weekend)


The office is a porta-cabin in the Arb yard at a Victorian park in North West London. I’ve been employed here variously since the hazy summer of 1985, at first as a horticultural apprentice, then as a climbing Arb before becoming team supervisor then the job morphing in to a TMO.

I run an in-house Arb team of four, we inspect our tree population using Arbortrack within a risk sequencing system.

We sometimes cut our trees, we sometimes airspade our trees, we sometimes talk to the locals about our/their trees.

Anything tree related, from safety to ecology, is basically our remit.

The Heath has approximately 20,000 trees and sprawls out across parts of the London Boroughs of Barnet, Camden & Haringey but the trees have no conservation area or tree preservation orders.


07:30 hrs

This particular morning I’m off to Queens Park (one of our satellite parks) over in the north east of the London Borough of Brent to check for the presence of Oak Processionary Caterpillars.

There are only a couple of dozen oaks here out of the local 580 tree population, and the critters have been sniffing them out for the last couple of years.               



During a walk over inspection I pick up on a few new potential Massaria affected London plane branches in the park, so note them for climb inspection and potential removal by the team possibly this week or later in the month.




09:30 hrs

Catch a breakfast in the park café, chatting to the (fleet, constabulary and park) manager about vehicle & equipment (mewp) disposal.


10:00 hrs                                                                                                                                                    

Drive back over to Hampstead.                                                                                                                                                     

There’s a phone call report of a large branch failure on an Ash near to property on the other side of the heath. Turn up, check on the tree failure (Inonotus hispidus decay at an old pruning wound) Clear the branch failure and note that the tree should go on to our priority tree works list for reduction, as its lost another branch in the past probably also due to I. hispidus.




11:30 hrs

Meet up with my boss in Highgate to sign off the team’s end of year performance/development reviews……….blinkin paper work !


12:00 hrs

Back to the yard.                                                                                                                                                                   

I order in some climbing & rigging equipment & vehicle parts for the team Land Rover.                                                

Send a few e-mails off.                                                                                                                                             

Sample of emails include……                                                                                                                                      

Brent Tree Officer (about OPM)                                                                                                                                              

My boss (about a work experience enquiry from France)                                                                                                                                                                        

In house Ecologist (asking me for a fungi ident)                                                                                                          

My boss (about some training issues)                                                                                                                    

A student (about why dressing parts of one of our trees in tin foil for an photography project, is not the type of thing we would ideally condone)                                                                                         Boss again (about team members sickness trigger level meeting)

Grab a coffee


13:30 hrs

Catch up with team out on site where they are clearing & lifting a few trees where the horticultural team are building a new stumpery.




14:45 hrs

Back to the office.                                                                                                                                                       

Putting together a list of veteran trees to work on over the next 18 months as part of an Ecology, Conservation & Trees team annual work plan.




16:00 hrs

Up to the head office on the Archway Road to catch up with the admin team (about receipts &  purchase card issues......blinkin admin)

then the boss to have the bi-monthly 121 meeting, talking budgets, work plans and stuff.


17:30 hrs – 20:00 hrs

Finish the day up by having a look at a few unread threads at the UKTC, LTOA & Arbtalk forums    


Chatting on line to an American Arb about Subterranean Root Girdles !              


Edit some photographic images for my archives.




tree day done..........now where's me beer !





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Now I wonder who the American Arb was? :D


Having lived in Enfield, Stansted and Cambridge, I don't envy your commute nor the travelling around London.

Edited by Gary Prentice
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1 hour ago, Gary Prentice said:

Now I wonder who the American Arb was? :D


Having lived in Enfield, Stansted and Cambridge, I don't envy your commute nor the travelling around London.

Fortunately I don't do the commute every day Gary.

My jobs good, but it's not that good ;)


Most of my daily movement is around the same few miles in north London, so not so bad, and I've battled a location switch a few times over the years and managed to retain my yard at a location that's pretty much in the opposite direction to the main flow of commuter traffic each morning and afternoon.


The American might have been a number of people, arb-talking is a very international pass time these days, but yeah, the 'girdling' reference is a fairly big give away, huh :D

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