Offering arboricultural consultancy, tree surgeon services, mobile sawmilling and bespoke furniture, the small team behind Fallen&Found really aim to do it all.

SETTING up a new business almost always presents problems. But for one forestry trio, there was just one crucial question: how to create an income out of a lifestyle?

One of the team, consultant Oliver Lower, recalled he and his colleague Jon Sowden had spent eight years planning the move. He said: “It was our dream to create a lifestyle from the passion we had for our industry.”

Oliver had been in practice as a principal arboricultural consultant for an established Arb Approved company based in Hampshire’s New Forest for four years prior to starting the business with Jon.

He explained the real driving force behind making the move to start their firm – Fallen&Found – was a lack of diversity.

“After nearly 18 years of climbing trees, the transition to full-time consultancy proved to be quite easy,” he said. “However, variety keeps the interest in the industry alive. Just add on the opportunity to work with your close friend and partner and you can see why it couldn’t be missed.”

Forestry Journal: Stephanie skilfully dismantles a beech limb at height.Stephanie skilfully dismantles a beech limb at height.

Later, the pair were joined by climber Stephanie Smith (forewoman) and all three now run the various aspects of operation. The company embodies the ethos of ‘waste not, want not’ by turning timber left over from jobs into products like furniture, sculpture and bespoke pieces which are then made available for sale.

One current example is a guitar Jon is building under tuition in Hampshire’s New Forest, from black walnut, hornbeam and red cedar. Another is a massive table which was so big and heavy that the only way of getting it into the buyer’s back garden was to crane it in from a barge on the Thames.

Forestry Journal: Jon hanging around on a recent raise.Jon hanging around on a recent raise.

“The timber was about to be turned into firewood but we got there just in time, and even now there’s still some of it left,” said Jon.

It’s now a firm company policy that, almost invariably, leftover timber gets a second life. Most of that work is carried out by Jon, who has created furniture for a nearby abbey in Hampshire, an Edwardian bakery in West London and a large table for the Glastonbury music festival. He said: “It’s just amazing how many uses there are for what’s normally just been wasted.

“There are so many things you can get out of a piece of timber if you know what the properties of that wood are and you know how to cut it correctly.

“We’ll be doing a lot of it here and we can do that by investing a little in some new kit.”

Forestry Journal: Big saws plus big slabs equal big tables.Big saws plus big slabs equal big tables.

What concerns Jon is that, within the arb industry, there’s a lack of knowledge about how timber can be put to extra use.

He said: “Nowadays we can spend time on site or in the woods looking at the timber there and working out what it could be turned into, rather than just wasted. There’s so much waste in the industry at the moment and I’m pretty convinced now that more people are aware of the need to find useful solutions to that problem.”

Forestry Journal: A recent oak table commission, on location in the Green Futures field, Glastonbury Festival, UK.A recent oak table commission, on location in the Green Futures field, Glastonbury Festival, UK.

What’s now starting to happen is the company is being approached by people who have the wood, but not the skill nor experience to turn it into something they’d treasure or might become an item by which someone can be remembered.

In the more normal course of events, the trio provide a contracting service for various clients, including the National Trust. They also provide consultancy services for a diverse collection of other businesses.

Oliver said: “There’s a wide range of regular customers and then there’s a big new house we’re working on, which people will see on the Grand Designs programme on TV next year.”

As part of that project, Oliver had to work with both the local council and planners to get an outcome that’s good for both the customer and the future of the woodland.

Forestry Journal: Forewoman Stephanie assesses her route into a big beech crown.Forewoman Stephanie assesses her route into a big beech crown.

Stephanie said: “We’re aiming to deliver at a high level and work with our industry colleagues to ensure a good standard. It’s fun and you learn a lot along the way. I guess the only jobs we don’t really like are the ones involving clearances and brambles. You just don’t get anything out of it.”

For Oliver, the aim is to become an Arb Approved contractor with more kit and larger contracts. And Stephanie’s aim is to make sure the firm stays inclusive and professional. She explained: “I’m aiming to complete my Level 4 in Arboriculture with the intent of promoting a high standard of knowledge for our future clients.”

For Stephanie, another priority is to educate more people about life in the woods – and in particular see the birth of more forest schools.

She said: “We never had that, but luckily now we’ve got that lifestyle and we can live and breathe it and it would be great to see that carry on into the future.

“Hopefully, approaching educational groups of different ages will not only introduce young children to engage with the outdoors but also expose the industry to older students looking at career choices, guiding them to further education in the subject.”

And for Jon, the woods provide a way of escaping pressure. “I spend half my week working for a fire brigade in a big city,” he said. “It’s very busy, everyone is rushing around constantly and there is lots of traffic and noise. In the woods, you just feel good and all that pressure from metropolitan life vanishes.”

Forestry Journal: Oliver keeps the old-school ascent alive with foot-locking.Oliver keeps the old-school ascent alive with foot-locking.

Oliver added: “It all goes back to that big question for our business. How can we create an income from a lifestyle? Luckily, I think we’re getting there.”

The firm’s well aware that working in arboriculture is not without problems – one being the industry’s level of theft.

Forestry Journal: The Logosol B1001 mobile sawmill stands ready for big timber.The Logosol B1001 mobile sawmill stands ready for big timber.

Jon explained: “Almost every day there are companies posting images and videos of break-ins in an attempt to make others aware, and draw attention to the machinery and objects and equipment that have been stolen.

“It’s very difficult for the police to be effective in this area and their hands are largely tied as the criminals targeting the arb companies are largely forensically aware. I’ve spoken to my local police officers and it’s a very frustrating and difficult situation – almost viewed as a rite of passage within the industry.

“Something that’s also frustrating is the insurance companies that refuse to pay out on legitimate claims. This leaves companies unable to recover the items that have been stolen, unable to claim on the policies and often unable to work to earn the money necessary to start again.

“I’ve had many conversations with colleagues that don’t actually pay for certain insurances, and instead they self-insure by putting a percentage of their profits aside to cover the expense of starting over. What makes it even worse is that some of the less reputable companies and individuals are only too happy to buy stolen machines – creating a market that sustains the problem that then goes on to affect the entire industry.”

He added: “On the plus side, I’ve also experienced friends and colleagues rallying round to help out victims, and often lending support, staff and even kit. This is a very positive aspect to our profession, and I’m grateful to my colleagues who’ve helped me out in the past. I bet there aren’t many industries who help each other like that.”