Owned and run by Jack Evans and Gareth Lloyd, Blackpool-based Cromwell Forestry makes shrewd use of machinery to tackle a range of jobs.

DEALING with environmentalists, ecologists, archeologists, visits with site and project managers and their guests, discussing and agreeing exactly how each tree will be taken out and all the while felling sections of ancient woodland – all part and parcel of Gareth Lloyd’s daily routine. I caught up with Gareth and his Cromwell Forestry team at Singleton Hall near Poulton-le-Fylde, a family-owned country estate that has seen a large portion of its land compulsorily purchased to make way for a bypass running through it. But the ancient trees, archaeological finds and wildlife all have to be taken into consideration, with Gareth and Cromwell Forestry playing a major role.

“The project we’re working on is part of Highways England and we are providing tree and vegetation clearance for a bypass that has been in the planning for about 20 years,” said Gareth. “The main contractors are Kier and Ashleigh, a company we carry out significant amounts of work for throughout the country. The main benefit of this contract is that it is literally on our doorstep.” Cromwell Forestry’s yard is based in nearby Bispham. “And the reason we’re based there is because I moved to Bispham fifteen years ago with my wife, along with wanting to acquire a good location for the business with every facility we could possibly need.”

Forestry Journal: Gareth Lloyd, one half of the Cromwell Forestry partnership.Gareth Lloyd, one half of the Cromwell Forestry partnership.

Originally from East Lancashire before moving to South West Scotland in 1992, Gareth’s interest in tree work began with his family’s acquisition of some ex-MOD land that hadn’t been touched since the mid-1940s. Covered in scrub and neglected birch trees, Gareth started helping his father and it went on from there, forestry and arboriculture capturing his imagination. And, like many foresters, it was the outdoor life that also appealed.

“Working for ourselves soon led onto working with and for other people, carrying out the same sort of work but this time being paid to do it,” said Gareth. “But on one job we had to bring in a climber called Dougie to dismantle a large oak tree and I was fascinated watching him and how he went about the job. I had a quick chat with him come brew time and he said ‘do you want a go?’. I didn’t need asking twice. It was on with the harness, hard hat and climbing spikes and I tried my hand. Since then I’ve never looked back.”

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So where does the Cromwell name come from? Driving home from a job in Manchester with his soon-to-be business partner Jack Evans, having decided to go it alone instead of working for other people, they knew they had to come up with a name. Jack used to live on Cromwell Avenue, which made it an obvious contender, while Gareth’s address wasn’t especially inspiring. Between them they also had sufficient kit to do the job, Gareth owning a Unimog and a TP chipper, Jack one of the area’s top climbers with everything he needed, including the name that’s now been thriving for over eight years.

Advertising in the usual fashion in local magazines and on the internet, most of Cromwell Forestry’s initial work was domestic, based around the Fylde Coast. But Gareth and Jack soon realised they had a lot of serious competition and there weren’t maybe as many trees around as they first thought. This meant the pair had to sit down and rethink their original plans.

Forestry Journal: On the Singleton Hall job, Gareth is using a team of subcontractors.On the Singleton Hall job, Gareth is using a team of subcontractors.

“Over the course of the first three years we started venturing into more commercial work,” Gareth explained. “To a degree, one hundred per cent of the work we carry out today is commercial forestry. We don’t tender for anything ourselves, everything is now sub-contracted. We found that while domestic work can generate decent money, unless you’re based in heavily populated areas that will constantly feed you the number of jobs you need, it’s hard work. As a partnership we needed to generate two wages along with the capital to invest in equipment and also pay other people’s wages. Since moving into commercial only, we’ve never looked back. As regards employees, even though we’re still what I’d call a micro company, including sub-contractors, we currently employ fifteen people, which is the biggest Cromwell Forestry has ever been, with more than sufficient work to keep us going very nicely. The benefit of sub-contractors is that as and when work slows down, they can find things elsewhere.”

While business partner Jack is known for his technical skills, Gareth has gained a reputation for his knowledge and passion for what he calls ‘plant’, describing a range of machinery and equipment. And if he doesn’t own it, it’s a given that he’ll have it on long-term hire with purchase in mind. Most of the heavy machinery on the Singleton Hall site flew the Field & Forest banner, such as the remote-control 15” Bandit Intimidator 1390HD tracked chipper and the Sani SY26U mini excavator, complete with a small rotating Intermercato grab that Gareth is keen to buy.

Forestry Journal: The Cromwell team was visited at work at Singleton Hall near Poultonle-Fylde.The Cromwell team was visited at work at Singleton Hall near Poultonle-Fylde.

“We started off with what looked like a pile of old chainsaws welded together,” he said. “Since then, we’ve bought what we needed, but bought wisely. One of our first pieces of new equipment was a TP chipper, the first of six. We’ve now got two Timberwolfs, one of which has been rebuilt on numerous occasions, and a brand new 280 TFTR, the 8-inch tracked Timberwolf, from Spectrum Plant. We would have bought another 280, but Timberwolf has now gone petrol only and we wanted to stay with diesel. So in the end we went to Tom at Field and Forest and bought a pair of Jensens, tracked A430Ts with brand new 56 hp Kubota engines fitted, and got Tom to fully refurbish them to a degree that’s better than new. We also have a new Manitou Roto 25-metre telehandler and a GMT grapple saw, both from Tom, ready for all the ash dieback work we’ll be undertaking, especially since many of these trees will have to be mechanically dismantled in complete safety. And then there’s the speed of operation. We recently did a job in just over two days that other contractors had quoted four days to carry out.”

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Like most arb workers, Gareth’s most important pieces of equipment are chainsaws. But unlike others, he has no particular favourite make or model, guided to make his selection on each job by an old adage of his father’s: “Which is the best chainsaw? The sharp one!”

Forestry Journal: Hiding behind the next pile, one of Gareth’s Iveco Dailys waiting for its next load to transport back to the yard or waiting customer.Hiding behind the next pile, one of Gareth’s Iveco Dailys waiting for its next load to transport back to the yard or waiting customer.

Within the Cromwell Forestry arsenal of chainsaws you’ll find three makes; Stihl, Husqvarna and Echo, each one chosen because it exhibits something the others don’t, be that engine size, torque, throttle response, ease of use, balance and handling or something else. According to Gareth, there’s no such thing as the perfect chainsaw, but there’s the correct chainsaw for the job in hand. He said: “In no particular order of preference, the Echos are the 2510 and 2515 because they’re small climbing saws. You don’t get joint pain when you’re using them, you can use them for longer without fatigue. They are just brilliant little saws for what they were designed for. Ground saw wise, we have the new Stihl MS261 with the narrower chain, which gives us a thirty per cent reduction in weight, three Husqvarna 550XPs and two 261s, a 560XP, a 562XP, two Stihl MS362s, an old 100cc MS266 and the injected MS500i which I’ll admit is in a different league – the throttle response is outstanding. The Husqvarnas have more chain speed and are really good in soft wood, while the Stihls have better torque, are more ergonomic and more comfortable to use, exhibit better balance and are superior on hard wood. Most of our saws have dual-form mufflers on them to increase the power. And once I’ve finished today, I’m off to collect a new Stihl MS400 that’ll be my personal saw.”

Forestry Journal: Gareth uses a selection of Stihl and Husqvarna chainsaws.Gareth uses a selection of Stihl and Husqvarna chainsaws.

As regards daily transportation, besides his Toyota RAV4, which he was given and now has far in excess of 100,000 miles on the clock, the main on-road vehicles are three 3.5-tonne Iveco Daily crew cabs with high-sided bodywork fitted, a 7-tonne Iveco Daily and a Mitsubishi L200 with a tipper body fitted, used in the main for towing a chipper and hauling a fuel bowser and other sundry items. There is also a 2-tonne SD mini loader and a street sweeper, which dramatically reduces clean-up time when Gareth and the team are working on jobs like car parks and other large areas.

Forestry Journal: On hire from Field & Forest is this Sani SY26U mini tracked excavator.On hire from Field & Forest is this Sani SY26U mini tracked excavator.

“I’m awaiting another Unimog U500 that I imported from Holland and is currently being sorted out, once again, with Tom at Field and Forest,” said Gareth. “The reason it’s coming over from Holland is that it’s the model I wanted at the price we wanted to pay. Unimog dealers here in the UK no longer talk any sense when it comes to price and many of them try to sell you one that they haven’t even brought into the country. No matter what anyone says about Unimog, they aren’t the be-all and end-all, they aren’t the best at any one thing, but as regards an all-round piece of equipment they take some beating. If you want to haul timber, buy a truck. If you want to forward timber or mulch, get a tractor. But for something that can do most things reasonably well, it’s the Unimog. But don’t buy one because you like the look or sound of them. They need maintenance and they’re not cheap to own or run.”

Forestry Journal: This remote-controlled Bandit Intimidator 1390HD is Gareth’s chipper of choice.This remote-controlled Bandit Intimidator 1390HD is Gareth’s chipper of choice.

So what’s next for Cromwell Forestry? Gareth and Jack are always looking to expand, but in a controlled way.

“Initially, like many others, we produced and sold firewood, but as our work increased we found we didn’t have time to process it or store it,” said Gareth. But when we have hardwood in commercial lengths we’ll sell it to firewood merchants, while the woodchip we generate is sold on as arb-grade biomass. But we are now considering going back into and expanding the firewood business that will be a stand-alone enterprise, selling the WoodSure approved and accredited top-quality products that conform with all the current and pending legislations. We’ll also be selling graded chip for use in the poultry industry and play areas. We’re aiming to not have a waste product, meaning that anything and everything we bring off site will have a good, environmental use for which there’s already an existing demand.”

Forestry Journal: The excavator is fitted with a small Intermercato grab.The excavator is fitted with a small Intermercato grab.

The one lasting impression you’re left with as regards Gareth and Cromwell Forestry is that the company is forward looking, makes wise investments when needed and ensures those it works with and for are constantly up to speed on progress and plans. In other words, a thoroughly modern business that happens to manage trees.

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