Autumn has been spectacular this year. That combination of dry warm days and cold nights has really intensified the colours. This picture, taken in a Dartmoor woodland yesterday, pretty much demonstrates the four main pigments responsible for this multi- coloured spectacular.
They are; Chlorophyll, Xanthophyll, Carotene and Anthocyanin
Chlorophyll is the green pigment primarily responsible for photosynthesis. The grass on the path, the conifers and some of the lower hazel (Corylus avellana) leaves on the bottom right, are clearly still green in colour. Chlorophyll usually masks the other colours, making plants look green but other pigments are present throughout the year, but only show up once the chlorophyll is being broken down.
Once the chlorophyll is less dominating, Xanthophyll starts to show, which is primarily a yellow colour. The hazel bottom left is a glorious butter yellow colour.
In the background is a type of southern beech, the Raoul (Nothofagus procera). It is not a native tree, but has been planted in some forestry areas, because in its native South America, it is an important timber tree. This goes a spectacular crimson caused primarily by carotinoids- yes you guessed it, the pigment that makes carrots orange. It is also present throughout the year, but masked by the green of chlorophyll.
As the chlorophyll is broken down, the tree starts to produce anthocyanins. These are not present all year, but are synthesised as the leaves break down their green pigment. These contribute to the dark reds such as the purple colour of the beech (Fagus sylvatica) to the right of the Raoul.
Once combined across an entire woodland you get:
So whilst enjoying the beauty of our native woodlands, I was doing some research, and came across two things that brought me back to earth with a bump.
The first was this image *:
This was a picture that was used to illustrate a news article about deforestation in Australia. As with all images, you take them with a pinch of salt- but whether genuine or not, this a heart-breaking picture. We lose our forests at an impossible rate across the world, it is unsustainable, and seemingly unstoppable. It doesn’t seem to matter how much we understand that without forests, life on this planet will be badly affected, people always think that their corner of the world doesn’t matter. As forestry and arb practitioners- yes we do spend some of our time taking down trees, and felling as part of woodland management, but it doesn’t mean we should lose sight of sustainability, or the absolute necessity to replant trees. It also doesn’t mean we can condone wholesale destruction of forest environments for commercial exploitation, and I wholeheartedly support those who try to protect and preserve the trees of the world. So that leads me on to something that popped up in various online news sites, and struck me as something that needs to be highlighted and discussed.
There was an article in the Guardian online
It appears that the supermarket chain Iceland, and Greenpeace the environmental group, had got together to produce a Christmas advertising campaign highlighting the destruction of forests for palm oil plantations, and the ongoing slaughter of orangutans and the loss of their habitat. Some might applaud this as a change from the norm, but unfortunately it appears that this advert has fallen foul of an advertising watchdog, and been banned for being overtly political.
Apparently saving forests, or our now critically endangered relation, is considered to be in breach of the Broadcast Code for Advertising Practice (BCAP), and so we will be denied the chance to see the advert on television, or get the chance to raise awareness and educate those who could make a difference, by choosing the products they buy.
I suggest that you take a look and make your own mind up
Fungus of the week….. Ganoderma resinaceum
This lovely bracket fungus, is mainly found on oaks. It has a very shiny almost plastic like surface, and brown cocoa powder-like spores. It seems to cause removal of the lignin from the tree, which reduces the wood almost to a paste, which can cause the stem or roots to fail. This tree had been reduced to a stem, as it was adjacent to a kid’s playground!!
Arborist Apprentice Sedgemoor District Council
Brief overview of the role
You will be an integral part of one of the Council’s service areas supporting its day-to-day operations of all aspects of the Arboriculture team and Ground Maintenance.
01 Mar 2019
Your responsibilities will include:
General duties and responsibilities include:
Requirements and prospects
All of our previous apprentices have secured permanent employment on completion of their apprenticeship, most of them with the Council. Whilst there is no guarantee of a permanent role at Sedgemoor District Council, we have recently introduced a small number of “Apprentice Plus” posts, which offer successful candidates a permanent role on completion of their apprenticeship, incorporating further development and progression.
Things to consider
Must be able to get to and from the college in a safe and timely manner. Driving Licence preferable but not essential.
23 working days of annual leave.
Competitive salary with incremental reviews every six months, subject to satisfactory progress.
Flexible working options including flexi-time on completion of your apprenticeship.
Family friendly and wellbeing policies.
Local Government pension.
Questions for candidates
What interested you in this Vacancy?
What could you bring to the role?
About the employer
Sedgemoor District Council
Employer is not registered as Disability Confident
Sedgemoor District Council is fully committed to the ongoing development of its employees and this includes our apprentices. We continue to invest significantly in apprenticeships with a range of positions each year in different services across the Council.
These positions offer unique and exciting opportunities to gain a qualification alongside valuable on the job training and experience. Apprentices are required to complete all assessments and exams related to their course of study. Full support and training will be given for all aspects of the work that the apprentice undertakes. The Council has a network of workplace mentors and each apprentice is assigned a mentor to provide individual support. Apprentices are also encouraged to provide peer support to each other.
Training to be provided
The successful applicant will be enrolled on a Level 2 Arborist apprenticeship standard with The Focus Training Group. The two year programme comprises ten block weeks of training at a training centre, along with on the job training and assessments.
The following licence to practice qualifications would be required prior to end point assessment:
Focus Training And DCET Training
The Focus Training Group are delighted to announce that after a short inspection on the 14th and 15th of June by Ofsted, that we have maintained our Grade 2 (good) status.
Managing Director, Jamie Rail said, “we are delighted with this result, this is a judgement on the good quality training and assessment we have delivered day after day over the last 3 years since Ofsted were last here, rather than just what was seen in the 2 days of the inspection”.
At our last inspection there were a lot of things we were just starting out with, our Gas and Plumbing centre in Newton Abbot, our Arb (Arboriculture) Academy, and our new Bristol Centre, now these are all an integrated part of our business and formed part of the big picture that was looked at during this inspection.
We are delighted with the result, and a great reflection on the hard work of all of our staff.
Ofsted said; This provider continues to be good.
Your leaders and managers at Focus Training (SW) Limited (Focus) have managed and mitigated changes in the business environment well. Your continued approach to working closely with a very wide range of small and large-scale employers across the South West of England is proving successful. Feedback indicates that many employers regard Focus as a high-quality training partner. Since the previous inspection, you and other leaders have worked hard and not been complacent in bringing about further improvements. For example, substantial investment in new industry-standard resources for off-the-job training facilities throughout the South West adds considerably to the training offer now available for learners.
Regardless of what route learners choose, Focus staff pay very good attention to ensuring that all are helped to achieve to the best of their ability.
A copy of the full report can be found here
A week of mixed stuff, with a bank holiday to kick it off.
Andy Mead made sure all of the climbing and rigging kit has been thoroughly inspected, and with a few minor issues, it all passed with flying colours.
I went out to visit some of our employers during the week, to check their health and safety profiles, and for a catch up on how the apprentices are getting along. They all seem to be doing fine.
We then had to set up for the Buckfast Abbey Millenium Fair on the Saturday.
The Abbey is celebrating 1000 years of an Abbey on the site, and we were invited along to show the public what Arborists do, and to chat about trees and tree surgery. It was a beautiful day, and about 5000+ people attended.
James Mousley and Jack Borlase from Glendale kindly agreed to come in on their day off to show off their skills.
The Abbey kindly provided us with a beautiful Deodar cedar to climb, and we were on the main entrance so everyone got to see us- twice!
We were asked lots of well- meaning questions by the public, who took away lots of our flyers and freebies, but we did run a bet on how many people would ask us whether we were felling it. James reckoned 7, I said 13 and Jack said 17.
The actual number, believe it or not was 9- some people seem to think that is all we do!
It was a very hot and tiring day, we were lucky we had a bit of shade under the tree.
James and Jack did a great job demonstrating and explaining to the public- thanks very much indeed!!
The Abbey staff were incredibly helpful and friendly, and we all had a great time, as did, it seems, the public.
Sunday then and off to an Arboricultural Association meeting. The traffic was appalling!
These ‘Branching Out’ meetings are held annually, and it is a chance for those of us on branch committees to exchange ideas, to try to deliver events and information to members of our professional body.
We met in this imposing building Eastington Park near Stroud. The lovely weather continued, and we were privileged to have Sarah Beacock CEO of the Nuclear Institute, come to talk to us about the problems her organisation has. You wouldn’t think there was much cross over with an association that dedicates itself to educating people about trees, but we had surprisingly similar issues.
The branches that we are in, are all run by volunteers, and we have to try to engage members, and organise interesting relevant events for them using our contacts. It can be very time consuming, hard work, but very worthwhile. We just needed to know we aren’t the only ones trying to juggle jobs and volunteer roles!
Of course, I never go anywhere without taking pictures of the trees, and this oak was quite impressive. You will notice the old metal fence line running through the tree. The tree has simply incorporated the metal into the overall structure, and grown around it. The fence has since been cut off, bit the bars will remain within this tree for the rest of its life. Not a problem for the tree, but definitely a problem in the future if someone has to use a chainsaw to fell this tree!!
A long break from this I’m afraid.
It’s been a tough start to the year, and what feels like a very, very long winter. A walk in the woods today reminded me that despite everything that has been thrown at them so far this year, the trees have been very resilient.
We have had extremes of temperature, high winds and excessive rain followed by dry, and the woods here on Dartmoor have taken it all in their stride. We have lost a few over the winter, notably the Sweet Chestnut that we were following last year. The shear bomb finally did its work in the last lot of high winds and the stem failed at the fracture.
November 2017 May 2018
The new apprenticeship standards are now well underway, we have 5 cohorts of apprentices all at different stages. Some are just commencing their basic chainsaw whilst others are starting more tree science based elements. The oldest groups are now starting their tree identification and biology units. We went on a field trip to Westonbirt, The Forest of Dean and the Brecon Beacons to lay some of the foundations of basic biology, soils analysis and also were shown around the facilities at Westonbirt by the curator Mark Ballard.
The Arb team at the National Arboretum are rightly proud of their new facilities, enabling them to better look after all the equipment they need to manage this amazing national tree resource.
We then visited Highbury Woods an important National Nature Reserve and SSSI in the Forest of Dean. Having visited the Dart Valley ancient woodlands earlier in the week, it was interesting to see the change in tree species, due to the more alkaline soils of this area. The bluebells were in full swing beneath a canopy of beech, cherry and hornbeam, with whitebeam and yew. In the Dart Valley we were seeing more wet acid soil tolerating species such as sessile oak and small leaved lime. Although there was crossover between species at both sites, the species composition was different.
The apprentices were using a soil probe to record pH, moisture and light levels in both sets of woodland, and at the end of the week, wrote up their results.
Jake Harmieson has completed his apprenticeship after two years. His work has been exemplary throughout and Arborcure in Plymouth will be very proud of him.
Since it has been some time since I last did a blog I would just like to end on a sad note.
For those who don’t already know, we have had to say goodbye to Willow.
She was my constant companion and a permanent feature in all of my lessons. I know she has touched many hearts over the 10 + years that she has been teaching with me.
Block week two for Ash cohort, with Richard, Will, Owen and Dan doing training for tree felling up to 380mm. We are working in Shear wood near Ashburton. The woodland is being selectively thinned, and some of the more vigorous species such as beech, are being removed. This is being done under a felling licence. Whenever we are felling and processing more than 5m3 in any calendar quarter, and selling no more than 2m3 we need permission to do so, and we need to apply for a felling licence from the Forestry Commission. This tells us what we are allowed to do, and by having some control over how much is felled, the Commission can help to protect the woodlands and forests. It is an offence to fell trees unless you have a licence, so at the Academy, we make sure that all necessary permissions are in place before we carry out any work.
Once the trees have been felled, they are processed, cut to 2.4m and stacked for extraction. Will, here, is realising how heavy oak stems are and is using sensible, ergonomic techniques for moving the timber. The whole point is that we are working in real forestry situations, learning real forestry techniques. All the timber we cut is extracted and used. Some of this will go for biomass, but some may be suitable as timber. Once we have thinned the woodland, hopefully some of the woodland floor plants will regenerate, and where necessary replanting will take place
At the end of the week Owen and Will took their certificate of competence assessment and passed with flying colours, and Dan completed his cross cutting certificate, Congratulations to them!!
A week of contrasts.
Monday saw a day of heads down admin work- not as much fun as being out in the woods- but unfortunately necessary!
Tuesday I met up with Fearghas Powell from Glendale, it looks like he is almost finished, all we have to do now is go through his work in nit- picking detail, to ensure everything is complete. It’s looking like after 18 months, congratulations are (almost) in order.
Wednesday and Thursday were spent up country, helping to develop the next stage of the apprenticeship. At present the new apprenticeship has an outline of what is required to be delivered, but I joined a group of people from various colleges and from forestry and arb backgrounds, to put some detail to the specification. We are putting a lot of time and effort into drafting specimen tests, and making sure that they cover the bases as far as the training and assessment requirements are concerned.
It is important to get this right, most of these tests will be carried out at the end of the apprenticeship, they have to reflect what the apprentices have done and studied over those two years, and they need to test the actual underpinning knowledge they have gained, and the practical skills they have developed.
Friday, was meetings with employers to see how our new cohorts are performing- and so far all seems to be going well!!
As is always the case with trees and treework, it doesn’t fit so neatly into a week- over the weekend I had to deal with a small problem!
Sadly this poor old oak succumbed to both fungal attack and wind. It is probably somewhere between two and three hundred years old, and had fallen in a way that created a hazard for some of my neighbours. It was a case of getting all the timber flat on the deck, so that it wouldn’t fall or roll onto anyone, but because of the size of the timber, it took a large chainsaw to sever the limbs.
Chainsaw bars and engines come in lots of different sizes, everything from tiny 10” carving bars to 8 foot and above for larger timber. This one is around four feet long, and the saw body has a 120cc engine, and is big enough to go across the diameter of the timber. A lot of people think that as tree surgeons, we like to carry the biggest chainsaw we can. Actually the opposite is true- these big saws are very heavy and unwieldy, and they put a lot of strain on your back and arms. The smaller the saw you can get away with the better for your body!
Part of the problem for this tree was this:
I found these growing on part of the main stem.
This is Ganoderma australe. It is a ‘bracket’ fungus, meaning that the fruiting bodies of this species grow in this plate like form. Some species are hard brackets and some are softer. Some only last briefly, and some are perennial as in this case.
They can persist for years, and you can see how the fungus produces another pore layer over successive seasons. The most recent one is at the bottom.
This species can be difficult to tell apart from Ganoderma adspersum, most people in the tree world just call it ‘Ganoderma’ and leave it at that. There are some ways you can try to separate them, and in this case I have cut through a bracket, to reveal the colour of the flesh inside. It is a deep reddish brown colour, and quite thick. If this was G. applanatum, the flesh would be a milky coffee colour.
Our apprentices are going to have to be able to identify these fungi, they won’t get the luxury of just saying ‘Ganoderma’!!
Both species have the same effect on the wood, and as you can see top left, has been turned to a pale coloured mush. The lignin has been removed, leaving the softer, paler cellulose, and therefore the wood didn’t have the rigidity to withstand the loading of either the crown, or the extra loading caused by the wind.
Part of this tree had initially failed some weeks ago due to storm Brian and the softening of its supporting stem. This left the remaining tree very heavily weighted on one side and susceptible to collapse.
It is a great shame to see such a lovely old timer come down, but all hope for a future for this tree is not lost.
Although I have removed the bulk of the broken branches, there is a small amount of root system still intact, and some branches that could become a new crown. We are going to leave the now stable remaining stem where it is, and hopefully a ‘phoenix tree’ will sprout from the wreckage of the old one.
Too many old trees are dismembered simply for having the audacity, in old age, to have a bit of a lie down. With some careful management, this centuries old specimen, can live on for some time, albeit looking a bit different. There are all sorts of communities on this tree, fungi, lichens, ferns, beetles etc that have taken centuries to develop.
Not all of them will survive this change of orientation, but a lot will, so it is well worthwhile preserving what we can of this valuable ancient ecosystem.
First block week for Cohort Beech this week. A packed week with chainsaw maintenance and cross cutting training on Monday and Tuesday followed by assessment on Thursday, and woodchipper and ROLO training and tests in the remaining time. Above is the picture of the group hard at work practicing their cross cutting….
…. and here’s the picture Thursday afternoon when they had all passed their assessments!!!
There’s a lot to do in the NPTC assessments. They have to learn to read the forces in wood to stop their saws getting stuck, they need to be able to use the saws accurately and safely, and they have to know how it works, and how to maintain it inside out.
L-R Kane, Jack, James and Finlay, who all worked very hard from hitting the ground running on Monday morning to taking their ROLO written tests on Friday afternoon…. Well Done!!
FOCUS on...tree ‘sleep’.
Any excuse to put in a picture of an autumn sunset. Makes you wonder, though, what goes on with trees at night. People already know that plants, trees included, are able to distinguish between different times of the day. They use various clues in the environment including flashes of certain types of light at dusk and dawn. In fact these rhythms are harnessed by plant growers who are able to mimic these clues to encourage growth and flowering at different times.
In addition though, recent research has highlighted something a bit different, that is going on in birch trees:
This article, and I would suggest you have a look at it, is from last year. It is very interesting, and the research is ongoing. Scientists used laser scanners to look at the shape of trees during the day, and at night. What they found was fascinating, trees appear to relax at night, and their branches droop. It could simply be that water pressure in trees changes at night, but it could also be that trees are actually deliberately resting because they don’t need to use the energy they would normally use to hold their branches at the correct angle to the light, which is very energy intensive.
The research is now focussing on which of these scenarios is accurate.
Do trees sleep? - watch this space!!!
A brief update on progress this week.
We kicked off the first block weeks of the new standards this week.
We have themed the cohort names around trees, so Cohort Ash took up pole position.
William Fitter and Richard Prout of AC landscapes and Treeworks and Owen Hall and Dan Clatworthy from KJ Thulborn joined us at the River Dart Country Park, for an intense week of training and assessment.
Monday and Tuesday saw training on basic chainsaw use, maintenance and cross cutting. It is a lot to cover in two days, but the guys got stuck in, and the days flew by.
Wednesday saw us undertaking Woodchipper training and assessment, a full day of integrated training and assessment, at the end of which all the apprentices had excelled themselves and passed.
Their assessment for Chainsaw Maintenance and Cross Cutting was on Thursday with Drew Mead, and once again there were positive outcomes for all the gang, bar one slight hiccup in cross cutting which will see a brief retake.
Hey- ho, it happens, assessments can be stressful situations and sometimes your mind goes a blank.
You just have to dust yourself off and do it again.
Friday the group undertook their ROLO training and assessment, just to round off a full on week, which for some of them also included their UA1 assessments and CITB touchscreen tests!!!
You can’t help but admire, just how much these apprentices get stuck in and how much hard work they do in five days.
The cohort now go back out into industry for a few weeks, using their new found skills, before joining us again just before Christmas for training in Felling and First Aid.
The guys from last week’s Buckfast Abbey training course also undertook their Climbing and Aerial Rescue assessments, and all passed with flying colours, congratulations to them!!
Next week sees Cohort Beech joining us from Glendale, the format is the same, just different apprentices.
Sadly I misplaced my camera, so at time of writing I have no photos of them with which to grace these pages!
FOCUS on………. Fungi
I found this fungal fruiting body, at the base of a Sweet Chestnut, right next to the one with the ‘shear bomb, from last week.
It is commonly known as Hen of the Woods, or Maitake.
It’s not to be mistaken for Chicken of the Woods (Laetiporus sulphureus), which is bright orange/ yellow in colour, and also grows on oaks like this one generally does.
The Scientific name is Grifola frondosa. I have never found it on anything other than oak before, so it was a surprise to find it on Castanea sativa.
The fruiting bodies appear in small clusters at the base of deciduous trees, usually between the buttresses but in some cases it grows along the roots as well.
It causes a white rot, which means that the stiff component of wood, lignin, has been removed leaving the softer and more flexible cellulose behind, and this can eventually lead to failure of the rootplate, or base of the stem, but this can take a very long time to occur.
It is a good edible species, and is prized in many parts of the world. This one didn’t find its way into the pot, I am going to monitor this chestnut and see what happens, as it appears to be quite an unusual occurrence on this species of tree.
Following last week’s blog, I have revisited the sweet chestnut with the ‘shear bomb’.
This week Last week
The crack is now a bit longer and a bit wider. There are also additional fractures opening around the circumference of the stem. This tree is slowly failing. That doesn’t mean that this is the end, depending on how the final failure plays out, and if the tree still has some functional roots in the ground, it will simply become horizontal, and start to throw vertical stems upwards.
However, if this stem fails catastrophically, and to be honest it looks quite likely, then we are watching the end game for this lovely old tree. A pity, but only part of the woodland cycle, and I will continue to follow the fortunes of this tree, as it struggles with a horizontal lifestyle, or is reduced to its component parts, and fed to the other inhabitants of the woodland.