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Online Case Study of Brendon Hill Tree Services in the Rural Focus Blog. Spring 2012

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'Exmoor : The Country Magazine ' - Spring 2006

"Good woodland management has of recent years become a hot topic of debate in the countryside and business is booming for arboricultural contractors. As with other rural businesses, however, there are some very strong arguments for diversification. Besides making economical sense, intelligent use of materials and bi-products can have distinct advantages for the environment. If you are looking to source a surface for an equine arena or ménage, or would like to soften an area of hard standing for your four-legged friend, then you could do far worse than give Brendon Hill Tree Services a call.

This ten-year-old company run by tree surgeon Henry Fox, manages all aspects of woodland conservation from Henry's base in Wiverliscombe. Henry might have started out on his own with little more than a chainsaw and a Landover, but he now has access to a team of four forestry trained woodland subcontractors. Together they plant thousands of trees each year, restore ancient hedgerows and construct mile upon mile of fencing.

The operation has long been supplemented by a firewood operation, but now Henry has decided that it makes sense to re-cycle his woodchip by-product as well. With the help of a Jensen A340 woodchipper, Henry has chipped over 200 tonnes of product since October 2005 and there is evidently a growing demand.

'It is ideal for farmers who want to put down a woodchip doormat for their cattle' Henry enthuses. ' It might not make them wipe their feet but it absorbes an awful lot of moisture and dirt and saves a great deal on straw!' The wood chip can also be used in the garden as a weed suppressant and for walkways and garden landscaping."

Country Gardener. March 2006

Complete Tree Service
Henry Fox runs Brendon Hill Tree Services Ltd in Somerset, a successful small business that manages all aspects of tree surgery, woodland management, fencing and conservation. After training for a career in arboriculture, conservation and wildlife management at Sparsholt College, he worked for a specialist woodland contracting business before setting up on his own eight years ago.

With access to a team of four similarly qualified and arboriculturally trained subcontractors, the business is well placed to meet the needs of landowners, local authorities and timber processors throughout Exmoor, The Quantocks and, of course, the Brendon Hills. The company also produces a sustainable product in the form of woodchip. This woodchip has a wide range of uses, including work surfaces for the equine industry, for example, gallops, ménages and arenas, as bedding for cattle, and an effective weed suppressant on flower-beds and the creation of pathways to avoid erosion.

Farmers Weekly. October 2004

Henry Fox has a penchant for wood. After spending several years at Sparsholt College to gain suitable training for a career in arboriculture, conservation and wildlife management, he duly put his new-found skills to good use by joining a specialist woodland contracting business.

But working for others was to be short-lived. As his employer's business ran into trouble, Mr Fox's future employ gradually veered towards running his own business and controlling his own destiny. So he decided to branch out and set-up on his own, with little more than a Land Rover and a chainsaw.

That was six years ago and Henry Fox now runs Brendon Hill Tree Services - a successful enterprise that manages all aspects of woodland conservation and management from his base at Jews Farmhouse, Wiveliscombe, near Taunton, Somerset."I enjoy working with wood and the attraction that an outdoor lifestyle offers" he says. "Even in winter, it's a pleasure to be outdoors working in the countryside."

Mr Fox is not the archetypal one-man band. With access to a team of four similarly qualified and forestry trained subcontractors, he is suitably placed to meet the needs of landowners, local authorities and timber processors throughout Exmoor, the Quantocks and the Brendon Hills. It is a team effort that last year saw the firm plant tens of thousands of new trees, restore over 1000m of hedgerows and construct over 5000m of fencing. The workload is supplemented by a firewood operation which delivers over 300 tonnes of logs to customers in the area each year. And this season, Mr Fox anticipates completing over 15,000m of fencing, along with the removal and reinstatement of many thousands of trees.

" Between the five of us who regularly pool resources, Brendon Hill Tree Services can offer customers a wide variety of skills that encompass fencing, hedging and tree surgery," he says. Fully trained in arboriculture, Mr Fox believes the Countryside Stewardship scheme has recently rekindled interest in woodland management, which has resulted in many customers preparing long-term plans for hedgerows.

Knowing when - and where - to make those essential cuts to encourage trees to flourish rather than fade away is not for the faint hearted. And it's little wonder that the specialist skills of Mr Fox and his colleagues are in strong demand.

"We hire additional specialist kit such as earth moving equipment and wood chippers, but a full compliment of chainsaws, posthole borers, log splitting equipment and a Case MX135 tractor complete with self loading timber trailer are the main tools of the business," he adds. "And it is essential for us, particularly in this line of business, to ensure that certification and training are maintained to the highest standards."

But like many contracting operations, Brendon Hill Tree Services has recently faced mounting costs, mostly in the insurance department, given the perception that working with chainsaws is still a risky business. He reports that his annual insurance premium, which offers a level of covers of up to £10m, rose from around £800 to more than £3,500 this year, despite remaining claim-free over the last 6 years.

"Like any industry, there are plenty of cowboys out there with access to a chainsaw. They put experienced and highly trained operators under increasing financial pressure, as they dip in and out of our industry just to make a fast buck," says Mr Fox. "And while we can pass on only small amounts of our increased costs to our customers, it should eventually help to weed out the weak so that only the true specialists will continue to survive."

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