Keeping calm and carrying on has worked wonders for the husband-and-wife team behind tree surgeons Street & Parker over the years.

AS a branch of the family’s tree firm, Sharon Parker has a unique role.

Not only does she organise her husband, Brian, and their son, Alex, sorting out the jobs to be done and running the office, but she still finds time to deal with the brushwood out on-site.

The current firm was established in 1947 by Brian’s grandfather, Jack Street, who, at the end of World War II, started a small tree-cutting service in the New Forest. The family connection with the industry is hardly new. Brian explained it all goes back to when his grandfather worked for the Forestry Commission before the war, when such work was classified by the government as a reserved occupation with regard to recruitment. In those days, the firm’s machinery was a bike and handsaw, all conveyed on a donkey cart. There was free climbing with the aid of long ladders, and handsaws were the tools of the trade. Brushwood was burnt on site most of the time by means of bonfires. At one stage, Sharon’s father worked with Brian’s grandfather at weekends.

Forestry Journal: The firm was established in 1947 by Brian’s grandfather, Jack Street, who, at the end of World War II, started a small tree-cutting service in the New Forest.The firm was established in 1947 by Brian’s grandfather, Jack Street, who, at the end of World War II, started a small tree-cutting service in the New Forest.

Brian and Sharon’s first meeting happened when Sharon’s father was working with the Forestry Commission in Hampshire. It was there that Jack Street had felled trees on the Beaulieu Estate to make way for gravel car parks, for the opening of the famous motor museum in the 1970s.

 Nowadays, with up-to-date kit, all three of the family work for the firm, which is still based in the New Forest though son Alex, aged 20, is leaning towards agricultural contracts.

Brian, meanwhile, having left school at 16, worked with his uncle for one year in the timber business and then started his own business, B. W. Parker. A few years later, Brian and Jack Street decided to merge both of their businesses to form Street & Parker.

Forestry Journal: The business some 28 years ago.The business some 28 years ago.

Brian still recalls the chaos that followed the big storm of ’87. He remembered: “At 3am we had a call from Hampshire County Council urgently asking us to attend the A337 Brockenhurst to Lymington road, where multiple trees were coming down. We got there quickly and found the site was very dangerous with trees falling down even as we were clearing. When daylight broke, the state of the devastation became much more apparent. Ancient trees were ripped up by their roots and huge trees were destroyed. We were kept busy for at least three years clearing up the storm damage.”

Then, in the 1990s, came the arrival of stump grinders and woodchippers. Brian said: “We were quick to take advantage of what was new equipment and that put us in a great position leading the local market. That way, the business continued to grow by making use of the new kit which meant our work was completed faster and more efficiently.”

Forestry Journal: Brian Street gets to the root of the problem.Brian Street gets to the root of the problem.

As a result of the storm, the firm got into the business of looking after trees, producing a flood of competitors. He remembered: “Down here on the coast, the salt spray was picked up and pushed inland and for miles was salt-burnt brown foliage.”

Brian then decided he needed training and joined a two-day course at a service station near Newbury. There was very little training available at the time. As more modern courses were introduced, Brian attended further courses at Kingston Maurward College in Dorset.

He recalled: “There was no training on safety. Some chainsaws still didn’t have chain brakes.”

Currently, the firm handles contracts for a whole range of local businesses and private homes. Brian said: “Environmental issues are high on our agenda. We take great care of wildlife such as nesting birds and using biodegradable oils to help the environment. We often tell our customers about the nesting season so that work can be postponed to more suitable times. However, we rely on the customers’ own environmental values, as some decide to continue with the work with other means.

“Wood is reused to heat our home with our wood burner, which also provides hot water. We are currently investigating the use of more battery-powered tools.”

Forestry Journal: Just for once, the chance to relax for Brian, Sharon and Alex.Just for once, the chance to relax for Brian, Sharon and Alex.

Brian also talked about some of the challenges they face on-site.

“Nowadays, we find challenges with new and modern housing estates. Our trucks and chipper are large, and we often find parking very troublesome. Compounded with the noise and dust from our machinery, the close proximity of houses and parked cars can make undertaking the work with our equipment very complex. Weather also plays a factor and sometimes it can be difficult to plan jobs around customer requirements.”

Forestry Journal: Street & Parker today.Street & Parker today.

Sharon commented: “I know it’s unusual to see a lady working out on-site, but the number of women is increasing all the time and I’m just happy to be one of them.” 

Brian added: “I feel this industry is hard work and under-valued, taking on dangerous trees and expensive machinery. Customers sometimes don’t realise the complexities and danger of undertaking certain work. This is a tough job. Keep calm and carry on!”