Reggie’s Blog

     I have finally completed my first month of the work-exchange at AT Coombes Associates in Norwich UK, which was provided generously through the Prince of Wales Leadership Award. Even though there were many steps to get to this part of this exchange, everything went relatively smoothly. My application for a UK visa was a long process but with some clues left in past award winner’s blogs, and help from my dad (thanks Dad!), I managed to receive my youth mobility visa. Accommodation in Norwich was a concern. Through my past experiences, short-term rental offers can be elusive. Luckily for me, my employer’s daughter had my back and found me a comfortable room in a house with a couple of very nice physiotherapists, their son, and their awesome dog, Sol!

     Despite being struck with a totally inspiring chest cold, the first week working for AT Coombes has been a complete pleasure. My new colleagues have been doing their best to provide me with the most authentic British experience while showing me the ropes of the business. Since the foundation of the business in 1986, the founder Andy Coombes has grown his business by hiring four professional arborists who all operate from the main office in Barford, west of Norwich. Though AT Coombes does standard forestry consulting, most of the work they conduct is in an arboricultural or urban forestry field (exactly what my studies have focused on for the past two years). The services that AT Coombes provide vary, but so far there has been two common types of surveys. One is a health and safety survey that provides customers with a tree failure risk assessment for all the trees on a site. The other is an arboricultural impact assessment (AIA). On a site that is to be developed, an AIA survey collects information about every tree within proximity of the development. The survey will describe how the trees will be negatively affected and how those affects could be mitigated, in the wake of the development.

Reggie Blog

Photo: A Trimble GPS in it’s natural habitat. Collecting the information of a very questionable Horsechestnut tree (Aesculus hippocastanum)

     My first day at AT Coombes was a challenge. Learning new tree species and re-learning ones that are not common in Canada was a great challenge. Fortunately, I was paired up with a very talented arborist, Robert Green, who was eager to show me how it’s done. We set out to conduct a health and safety survey for The Diocese of Norwich. My first lesson was how to handle the Trimble GPS unit. This device records the  location  of  each  tree and allows the  user to input specific information about the qualities of each tree. By the end of the day we had collected nearly two hundred tree locations which then were ready to be presented in the form of a report.

     Though there is lots of work to do, Andy Coombes has made it his priority to show me the inner workings of both forestry and urban forestry in the UK. Andy insisted we go visit a friend of his, Keith Sacre, who is the sales director at Barcham Trees. I had never been to a tree nursery so I didn’t have many expectations but, was surprized of how large the tree nursery was. The property of the nursey was covered with a forest of potted trees that was 350 acres in size. After a tasty lunch, Keith invited Andy and I out for a tour of the establishment. We were introduced to a large piece of equipment that resembled an assembly line. It was explained that the equipment in front of us was unique to Barcham Trees and could be found nowhere else. It is capable of potting hundreds of trees a day!

     I received many good tips from Keith about selecting and checking nursery stock. Keith  also generously gave me a handy specification manual that is a guide for purchasing quality nursery stock (crafted by Keith, himself!). I was introduced to many new technological and economic advancements  in  urban  forestry  and  the  one  that caught my  interest  the  most  was called Arborcheck. Arborcheck is a system that allows tree professionals to check the vitality of trees. It measures the chlorophyll fluoresce, chlorophyll content, and cell electrolyte leakage using a plant efficiency analyser which, uses different types of light to detect certain characteristics of a leaf. My mind was literally blown… After an overwhelmingly educational afternoon Andy and I picked up a couple  of  trees  and  made  our way back to Barford.

Photo: A view of a seemingly never ending forest of potted trees.

Photo: The massive tree assembly line potting machine found at Barcham Trees

     As I mentioned earlier, Andy has been adamant about teaching me all about UK forestry. Andy is also a history enthusiast and has made his secondary priority to teach me all about British history. On trips to job sites, I regularly receive a detailed lesson on why the landscape and architecture is the way it is. During my second week, we were in the city of King’s Lynn when we decided to stop for tea. Andy was keen to show me a statue that was near the mouth of the river. When we arrived at the statue, to my surprize, it was of George Vancouver. The explorer who journeyed through the pacific northwest and is who The City of Vancouver is named. I appreciated that experience, and as I am learning more, I am becoming dazzled from the magnitude and relevance of British history that is connected to my life.

     Through my series of blog posts, I will explore differences between the way Canadians and Brits handle their arboriculture and urban forestry while sharing my experience in the UK. I am new to twitter, but I am trying to keep up with the times, so follow me at @regspaghetti  and my Canadain counterpart @therikaroli, where we will post about our internships as part of the Prince of Wales Leadership Award.

Photo: The statue of Captain Vancouver in King’s Lynn