Relocation To Middle Earth
This summer, after 28 years in the Highlands of Scotland, I decided to make a significant life and career change. I sold up most of my posessions, put the house on the market, said au revoir to some very good friends and a host of highly-regarded business associates, booked a small white van and relocated to a place I’d only ever heard of on radio traffic bulletins – The West Midlands.
Now I’m not Scottish – I was born in Durham and I grew up in Gloucestershire but still, The Midlands is for me as strange a land as anything you could pluck from one of those maps supplied with a Lord of The Rings trilogy. In fact, a map of Middle Earth looks ridiculously similar to a map of the West Midlands including Wales. Seriously. Google it.
Anyway. It’s all new to me. I was up something inexplicably called The Wrekin a couple of weekends ago, in totally the wrong shoes, and my site visits down here have taken me everywhere from Wivenhoe (yes, I know – that’s long way away in Essex but Arb happens everywhere) to Rudheath via the pleasant byways of Staffordshire and something namelessly ugly known only as ‘M6’.
I’m slowly getting used to congested traffic arteries, the horrible taste of the water and having an overwhelming amount of completely new places to explore. After 12 years of solo consultancy I’m also having to get used to being part of a team.
Over the last two to three decades, the evolution of my field of expertise, arboriculture, has resulted in it becoming less of a field, and more of a multi-facetted landscape. Arb (as we call it, because saying ‘arboriculture’ is like trying to enunciate through a mouthful of pudding) is no longer solely the province of bearded woodsmen smelling of pine-resin, of rorty chainsaws, chippers, snaky piles of climbing rope, caribiners and boots with spurs. Not that the arts of practical tree care aren’t still one of the more exciting aspects of working with trees, but due to an exponential increase in research and subsequent understanding, Arboriculture can now offer plenty of support for our efforts to combat climate change, render our towns and cities more liveable, green our very necessary housing developments and keep our country a cool and pleasant land.
Having habitually plotted my course through life in response to what’s known as ‘gut feeling’, and finding myself as I got older motivated by an impulse to branch out, last July I said yes to a role offered by a small but ambitious environmental consultancy, staffed by people with whom I resonated. Their palette of projects was eclectic and in some ways quite different to my Highland practice and there was a clear opportunity to contribute tree knowledge and experience to help build something cohesive and uniquely responsive.
For the foreseeable future at least, we as a society will have to build – homes, schools, hospitals, roads – and we will continue to ask our environment to supply us with what have undoubtedly become the necessities of life via mineral extraction and bio-degradable waste disposal. All the kinds of things we don’t particularly like to think we rely on but which, whilst there’s still an absence of viable alternatives, serve to keep our homes and our lives functional.
It’s important to me, and the small but highly motivated team I now work with, that we employ our collective expertise with the aim of both managing down environmental impact and, where it is inevitably present, providing practical compensation with bold and creative restoration plans.
At the end of the day I don’t suppose it’s remotely possible for efforts such as ours to ‘save the planet’. No I don’t believe that. For that to be possible we need brave, pro-active governments, a root and branch overhaul of our economic priorities and intelligent world leaders with functioning souls. But, while I wait for all of this to come about, and despite having to get to grips with inspiration-depleting office procedures, a complex internal IT set-up and, yes, something bafflingly called a ‘Management Structure’ I’m very glad to be active on a team striving in every practical way to keep what surrounds us green, clean, leafy and abundant with life.