Jenny Flatters of Target Trees
Jenny Flatters of Target Trees

An Insight Of A Tree Surgeon based in Norwich & Norfolk – by Anna

My name is Anna, and I recently had to have a large tree felled and knowing nothing about arboriculture I asked around for recommendations. So when Target Trees was mentioned by a number of people, I met with them and the rest, as they say, is history!

The service was so outstanding it prompted me to find out more and share my story, so those in a similar position can benefit from their expertise.

I asked Jenny from Target Trees lots of questions about their arborist company, and how their reputation precedes them.

Jenny, my wonderful Beech tree has gone but you really did an amazing job in removing it. Why did it have to go?

Jenny and my Beech tree
Jenny and my Beech tree

Thank you Anna for your kind words, we love our job and take great pride and care in providing a truly professional, experienced, enthusiastic and knowledgeable team in carryout the best tree works and advice possible for both our clients and the team.

It was such a shame that your beautiful Beech tree in your garden had to be removed due to one of the most serious fungi infections called Meripilus Giganteus (Giant Polypore). This fungi rapidly degrades and destroys the trees rooting structure. This means within a few years the tree will enter decline and is likely to fall over at the root plate.

This was confirmed by our own consultant’s inspection during his visit. Unfortunately, removal was the only viable option. The tree was situated over a busy road, cycle and footpath and was within falling distance of the house. The proposed works were approved by the council after permission was gained due to this being within a Conservation Area.

How do you help protect the local environment after a tree removal to a disease?

When we remove trees we also encourage replanting, luckily, you and your family have been provided links to an excellent Tree Nursery.

You also wanted to save as much of the timber as possible, which we cut into small sections and split for their firewood needs. All of the wood chip we created through our large wood chipper was also recycled at our yard ready for biomass and some went to a local marshland to help build up the soil levels and for use behind quay heading to reduce erosion on the broads. We recycle as much as possible to ensure we are not being wasteful even some of our larger sections of timber become unique and bespoke carvings!

Do you always conduct an onsite survey of the tree in question and is there a cost involved?

Beech tree removal in Norwich
Beech tree removal

When someone calls or emails us you will be in contact with either myself or Becky in the office and they will arrange a time and date either through phone calls or email in which to come and meet you and discuss any works you may be thinking about. This is vitally important, as every tree and location is unique and the equipment needed is hugely different.

There is no cost for this. Someone would be sent over, with me as our trained Tree Officer,  Ian who is a trained Arboricultural Consultant or Rob our Arborists and team leader. We would then take all the information and calculations needed and go back to the office to work out a time frame and the best way in which to carry out the works with as little stress and damage in the safest possible way and for the cheapest possible price for our customers, as tree work is very expensive.

This would all be sent out to you in an email as a quotation along with our Insurance documents and more importantly our waste carriers licence, as the tree and homeowner you would need to see these before the works begin.

This would all be done free of charge and we would then leave the decision with yourself, no pressure calling or reminder emails. If you would then like us to carry out the works we would work out a good time and date with yourselves as some people like to be home to see how the tree works are carried out and book you in the diary.

The only cost you would have as a client would be after the works are completed; a week later we will send you out the agreed invoice with no hidden extra charges.

The only types of onsite surveys we charge for are in the form of reports that are either required for planning of extensions and builds, tree condition reports, mortgage reports and arboricultural impact assessments under British standard 5837. These are specialist items that only our arboricultural consultant can write and produce a tree surgeon or arborist are sadly not qualified to write these and would not have the relevant insurance to cover their recommendations.

Do you think some people may not realise the extent of paperwork involved in taking down a protected tree?

Whether you live within a Conservation Area or your tree has a Tree Preservation Order attached works can still be carried out as long as you have obtained the Councils permission. This consists of a four-page document outlining the tree and the proposed works.

As a company, we carry this out free of charge upon acceptance of our quotation. This is because the council paperwork can be quite confusing and they need specific measurements and explanations regarding why these works should or need to be done. We will not only submit your application but liaise, mediate and update our clients on any changes or requests by the planning authority.

As a business, we celebrated our 10th year in 2019 and carry out works for councils such as North Norfolk District Council and Broadland District Council and over the years have built excellent relationships with the Tree Officers. Ian is well known not just in the UK for his Arboricultural knowledge and skills but also by being a trained Arboriclutral Consultant he completes the paperwork and deals with any issues or questions that the councils may ask. It may help that he is more highly trained than some of the Tree officers themselves.

What is the penalty for felling a tree without the correct consent?

The penalty fines may come back to the owner who at the end of the day is their responsibility to make sure who they employ to carry out tree works on a protective tree are fully insured, have gained the correct approval, have their waste carriers licence but also are trained to a certain level of competency and that works need to be completed to the trees at a certain standard which we will BS3998:2010. Although the person(s) cutting the tree will also receive a hefty fine.

The fees usually range between £2000.00 – £20,000.00 Per offence although in recent years some fines have been charged in regards to monetary gains (The Giant Wellingtonia felled in Swansea’s Penllergare Valley was one of the first of its kind and in 2018 the Developer was fined a record £300,000.00).

Obviously I researched other tree surgeons and you are not the only ones in Norwich. What sets your company apart from your competitors?

Target Trees On The Job
Target Trees On The Job

That is very true, our industry is swamped with Tree Surgeons and understanding the difference between companies is vitally important.

Firstly our team has a passion for nature and trees and we perform closely, like a family business. We want to do the best for the living tree as well as the customer. Both my husband and I work alongside the team to ensure the best job is delivered.

Every team member is highly trained in Arboriculture, we are not Tree Surgeons but Arborists and Consultants. The training for these job titles is huge, most of our members have more than 19 years experience in the industry. To be a tree surgeon you simply need insurance, a trained Arborist has been to college and furthered their training to learn all about Arb, as every tree and species is different and needs to be maintained in a different way.

Our consultants who are more highly trained with professional training and qualifications and have spent many years learning all about trees, their environment and the science behind it. We all regularly update our training, with Ash Die Back, Platform training, first aid and many many more.

I didn’t realise how much machinery is involved, is it normal to need such large equipment?

Vermeer skid steer at work
Vermeer skid steer

Our machinery really does set us apart from any other Norfolk and Suffolk arborist company. As a family business, with me and my husband “on the tools”, we have made such that we have invested over the years into specialist machinery and vehicles. This makes the job a lot easier on our bodies and created an efficient and fast service without having to compromise on the quality of works. For instance, our trucks which are small lorry’s can pull a lot more weight with their specialist designed arb backs for holding more materials. This enables us to do fewer runs of materials and actually have more bodies on-site to complete the works, saving the customers time.

Our machinery consists of one of the largest chippers available, being able to chip a timber log with the dimensions of 13 inches by 17 inches. Furthermore, this is one of only two BC1000xl’s in the UK fitted with a WiFi tree commander system allowing a machine operator to control it fully, we also have a smaller chipper which will chip 7.5 inches by 11 inches which we use for narrow access works and works on the broads. Both these machines are huge when our competitors run the small orange chippers which can chip a timber log of 6 inches by 6 inches. What this means is we are able to throw more and bigger materials into our chipper, this again saves on time cutting one branch into 10 sections for instance and again we are able to hold more chippings in our trucks than timber.

Saving you time and money is the key. This is why we are employed by companies such as Amazon UK, the NHS, Serco, The National Trust and Wildlife Trust. Ideally, we need to be in and out as quickly and affordably as possible. However, this concept is equally efficient and cost-effective for homeowners too.

Stump grinder we own allows us to remove the entire tree without having to subcontract the stumps out or the additional costing of hiring one.

We also have a tracked Vermeer skid steer which allows us to pick up timber weighing over 1/2 ton and track onto the back of the trucks or feed through the large chipper. This again saves a huge amount of man-hours handling and hauling the materials from the tree to the trucks, chippers and trailer. The tracks also mean we can work around and throughout the wet marshes on the broads and will not rip clients lawns up as the machines on tyres do.

Craning removal of Beech tree
Craning removal of Beech tree

Then for our tracked 25-meter platform, which again allows us to not only complete the works in a much quicker way as the climber will not have to work around the inner crown of the tree and constantly move their rope positions around but also for the safety and speed. This is one of the largest in Norfolk and allows us to reach higher and further away than even a truck-mounted one!

So, all in all, we are able to offer our clients a much speedier service and can complete some works within a day which our competitors would need three-plus, saving you as the client, in the long run, freeing up your valuable time and greatly reducing your stress and anxiety.

With all this machinery and our team, we are able to complete all aspects of Tree works from maintenance including crown reductions, raises and thinning to full removal and replanting. We also carry out hedge works as well as stump grinding and have our Consultancy side to the team which allows us to carry out Tree condition Reports and reports for mortgage advice, new homeowners and BS5837 Reports which are need when a tree is close to the proximity when extending or creating a new building.

You seem to have a huge amount of equipment. Are you always updating your kit? Is a lot of investment required?

For a usual job, we would arrive at around £ 80,000.00 worth of equipment to complete the works. It is very expensive and the safety of all is paramount. Even down to the uniform and PPE each staff member wears, their hats with radio communication is alone £800.00 each and the gear we wear comes in at around £1000 each and adds just over an extra 7kg in the weight you have to carry and this doesn’t include having a saw dangling from your harness.
But investing in the kit and our team is hugely important for us to continue in this physical industry.

Do you have to check equipment and attend training, so ensure you are always safe?

Jenny's husband Ian Flatters of Target Trees
Jenny’s husband Ian Flatters of Target Trees

As a team and company, we believe in the individuals training to help develop in this industry and everyone has a training plan in place. Training needs to be updated regularly with some of our tickets and courses only being valid for a few years.

As for the checks we have to carry out a vast amount not only daily and weekly but on each piece of machinery and saw. Ian, our Consultant is also our trained and qualified LOLER inspector in Norfolk and not only inspects the companies climbing equipment but also carry out inspections for other companies. This entails inspecting every piece of kit we have for both PPE and Rigging equipment every 6 and 12 months.

This is not only vital to the companies insurance as if they do not have this by a trained inspector the insurance is invalid (a huge one to look out) but also for the safety of each person and the public. It is all extremely dangerous and we have a care for others and ourselves.

When we bought our large wood chipper, for instance, we all attended training provided by Vermeer in the UK as the machine can literally chip a large person!

Even with the right tools and training, the job seems to be very dangerous. What makes you most nervous?

Nerves are always about and in a good way, no fear and knowing fear are very important things to grasp. Every tree is different so every tree must be planned uniquely to ensure the process is carried out with safety as the main aspect. Thankfully the first things we do when we arrive and have safely parked up is to as a team openly discuss the plan for the works.

This is a great way to settle any nerves and discuss any potential risks as a team. We are also the only tree company in Norfolk that I know of that runs on radio communications systems which are fitted into our ear defenders. This allows a conversation to be had, clearly as if you were standing next to the person, although in our case it’s normally someone up a tree. Most of the time to be honest nerves come and go but in a good way they make you stop for a few more seconds to ponder and discuss the next move and always a reassuring voice over the radio does wonder.

You left the garden immaculate and stacked the logs so they look like a work of art. Is this part of the service or were you swayed by the teas and coffees?

Stacked logs on the job
Stacked logs on the job

As a company, we take great pride in our works which when removing a tree can be destructive but we do everything we can to leave your garden and area as clean and tidy as possible.

Ian upholds some words of wisdom his late grandfather told him,

“Always do your best, work hard, work smart, be safe and always tidy your mess up as it’s not fair for someone to tidy your mess”

So much so its another one of the companies core values along with honesty, no pressure tactics, integrity and courtesy to others.

Your husband Ian Flatters I spoke to briefly. He’s extremely passionate, where did his passion come from?

Ian’s passion sets Target Trees up to being an expert in this Industry all over the World, due to his knowledge, skill, company developments and new ideas. Over the years he has written many interesting articles for an Arb related publication, been heavily involved in new climbing practices, held World, European and British rankings in Pole climbing competitions. He’s even been on an expedition in The Gambia and has climbed trees over 55m high and much more.

Recently we were over in the Netherlands in which to advise the large World Wide Company Vermeer in their machinery and help them with their latest developments. With Vermeer, we attend many shows throughout the UK which are Arb related such as the Royal Highlands Show, Arb Show, APF, Royal Norfolk Show and more to help promote the industry, share knowledge and demonstrate new skills and techniques. (He will hate me for writing this but it is true).

We are honest people and only want to help others, we do not believe in generating work for the sake of it and would always tell our clients this as sometimes cutting too much can be a lot worse than simply leaving nature to take its course. This is one of our core values as a company and we believe this is a huge part of why we are in high demand. It greatly saddens us when we drive around our beautiful countryside and see some shocking works being carried out and unjustified works too.

And finally, tell us something you love about living and working in Norfolk.

What makes us love Norfolk? The people we meet do and learning about people lives and life experiences are unique to every one of us, from doctors to test pilots, lorry drivers to taxi drivers, MPs to PM’s relations each having an individual take on the world we live in and that in itself makes for interesting discussions and an insight into others.

Having lived and worked in Norfolk all our lives and working and living in the area where we grew up has created a strong community bond over the years and we love giving back to the wonderful people of Norfolk. We have donated several large woodcarvings of Gruffalo characters to local schools (Taverham Hall, Salhouse Fledglings Nursery and Wherry School in Norwich) and nurseries along with wood chippings, timber sections and hand made wooden toys made by me, such as chalkboards and counters We have build orchids with other schools and held tree talks not only in schools and Forest School sites but for Felbrigg Halls green build, Salhouse Broad and many more. We talk at the local college and Ian shares his knowledge on techniques created over the years.

I attend several high schools throughout the year to hold assemblies on gender stereotyping and careers advice.

We are very passionate about our community and the environment and take great care in recycling as much of our materials as possible. Donating a lot of wood to local turners, carvers and craftsman. Wood chip back into marshlands and along the broads, planks from the timber and firewood.

Norfolk is a unique county where you can visit the coast, marshlands, fenlands, woodlands, historic houses and estates, castles, windmills and even a roman fort or two. You can even take a bimble in a pleasure boat and if you’re lucky enough to be in Horning, woodbastwick marshes or Ranworth you may even be lucky enough to see a swallowtail butterfly, or hear the call of a bittern if you venture over to Hickling broad. There’s just so much to see and do and I haven’t even mentioned our 2 cathedrals and a fine example of a Norman-style castle.