IF David Attenborough ever wants to see woodland ecology in action then Jake Davies could well become the star of the show.

To start with, Jake and his crew always make sure no engines are left running unnecessarily, all blades are kept sharp and clean and even the chainsaw oil is biodegradable, which is massively important to ensure the spray is harmless to both vegetation and operators.

He explained: “It’s a very important aspect of the way we work due to the damage oil can inflict. Once oil gets in to a stream, it’s not long before it’s found its way in to joining rivers and eventually the sea and therefore polluting a whole network of the environment, and who needs that?”

Jake’s firm – Round Top Trees, based in Sussex – works for several ecological firms and in recent months has been working in Hampshire restoring an ancient woodland that commemorates three major wars. Jake explained: “It dates right back to the Napoleonic War and then two world wars. The job itself was massive and meant we had the task of clearing it to bring it back to its original state all those years ago, which was a brilliant project especially with the history involved around the site itself.”

The job also involved making sure the wildlife would be safe and content within the new surroundings. In order to do this they had to create habitat piles and retain or create wildlife. Jake explained: “When we got the job there wasn’t much time to go until the start of the bird nesting season so we had to be quick. Once the job was finished we were proud of what we’d managed to do.”

Forestry Journal: Chipped wood being loaded into a walking floor lorry.Chipped wood being loaded into a walking floor lorry.

While many jobs are straightforward with tree surgery, Jake’s love is for felling trees, preferably in forests: “There’s nothing like it, being out in remote areas and seeing what a difference you can make, not just for us and the clients, but the wildlife as well.”

The firm, which has two full-time staff members and up to ten subcontractors, started about five years ago after Jake learned his trade studying at college then working for a whole range of tree surgery and forestry companies. 

He commented: “Nowadays there are workers who would rather be self-employed so they can enjoy a whole range of other jobs with other firms. That’s good for them and for the employer.”

Much of the work also involves keeping the local wildlife safe.

As Jake explains on his website: “At Round Top Trees we prioritise the welfare of animals when planning any works and ensure all employees adhere to these laws. To support and encourage the wildlife we can install bat boxes and we’ll also inspect all trees prior to works during the nesting season. Reptile fencing will be used to form a boundary around a property either to keep wildlife in or out and, in doing so, we can stop these species from accessing busy areas with the heavy machinery you get on building sites to prevent harm to any reptiles and to stop any disturbance to ongoing works.”

Like any other firm Jake has to deal with large amounts of waste. If the customer wants to keep any leftover timber it’s cut and stacked while large timber goes to the local saw mill. And if the timber’s no use as firewood then it gets chipped for biomass boilers and anything left over after that gets turned into mulch to be used as fertiliser for gardens or farmland.

But Jake does have his favourite jobs. He explained: “They’re the ones with lots of machinery and ones where we can fell the trees, process them, chip them for biomass and sell the result, which is cost-effective for the business. That’s often a landscaping firm but of course we also work for local councils.”

Even the occasional small job isn’t resented. Jake said: “They might start small but now and then they get bigger and the client keeps you on for that because you’ve done your best to start with. Makes sense to me.”

Less of a favourite nowadays is the number of people in the industry: “There are a lot of cowboys out there and, for me anyway, there’s just too much emphasis on health and safety, although it’s an extremely important part of the industry, there’s so much that’s just not necessary for anybody who is sensible, and most of us are.”

That trend – of an overpopulated industry – has, for Jake anyway, led to an unhealthy increase in competition. 

He argued: “It doesn’t do any of us any good at all. It just means everybody has to cut prices all the time and, quite often, it results in a rubbish result for the client and a bad result for all of us involved.”

Meanwhile Jake is determined to make the effort to show the world that people who spend their life felling trees and hacking them up are the good guys. As he explained: “We’re the ones looking after them. And we’re looking after and caring for all the species they support and surely that can’t be bad news can it?”

Graham Mole