MENTION the family tree to Peter Payne and he might just ask which generation of the family you need to know about, for the family stretches back over a century and the last four generations were and still are involved with forestry.

As a young lad Peter would spend his school holidays working with his father who in turn worked with his father.

Forestry Journal: Michael Payne with the Vermeer 186 stump grinder.Michael Payne with the Vermeer 186 stump grinder.

What soon becomes clear is that Peter and his firm rely on just one manufacturer to supply them with the machinery they need for the job. The firm? Vermeer, which Peter’s father Michael Payne first began using some 41 years ago and which makes the machines for Peter’s forte – tree surgery and stump grinding.

The family got its first Vermeer stump grinder way back in 1978 and, along the way, has adapted the machines to fit their workload, in some cases being able to reduce the constant vibration from the machine at work. Peter explained: “In the late 70s early 80s, it was all about hands-on and hydraulic levers to get the job done. Now, I can do it all with radio control. I’ve been using them for the last ten years so why swap?”

What has changed though is the way jobs are approached. Normally these days workers turn up on the job for the day, get it done and go home. But not back then...

He said: “The people on a job would stay in the same place and on the job for up to a week.

“They’d even sleep in a shepherd’s hut on the site. All their kit – like crosscuts and axes – could be carried around and tied to their motorbikes.”

Forestry Journal: Grinding big ash stump with the Vermeer SC60TX.Grinding big ash stump with the Vermeer SC60TX.

From time to time the family has dabbled in other jobs, but almost invariably returned to its roots of forestry and tree surgery. 

One interruption was World War Two, which saw his grandfather serve in the Fleet Air Arm. Luckily the family came through unscathed. Afterwards, various members of the family – even some cousins – tended to get involved in whatever work was going on.

“A family affair is putting it mildly,” Peter said.

Then came the big storm of ’87 when the work concentrated on stump grinding, which in the late 80s saw a move towards more tree surgery and mobile saw milling as stump grinders became affordable and therefore more popular.

Forestry Journal: Peter Payne with Wood-mizer LT40 mobile saw mill.Peter Payne with Wood-mizer LT40 mobile saw mill.

Peter explained: “Dad worked enough to cover costs and make a living and put his business philosophy down to long hours and hard work to keep the firm going. He knew what he needed to do and knew what he had to earn to get by. People will remember that sometimes he’d let people pay for work in instalments. It was different then but I try to be the good businessman that he was.”

Same goes for the way he deals with his workers. He said: “I’m lucky to have the people I have. I’m proud of that. It’s good to have people who are respectful and reliable and know how to do the work.”

Part of that praise goes from him to Vermeer. He added: “The machines make my life easier. What more could you want?”