Forestry Journal:

This piece is an extract from essentialARB's the Arborist newsletter, which is emailed out at 6PM on the first of every month, with a round-up of the latest goings-on in arboriculture. 

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THE thing about arboriculture is that it's never been particularly good at keeping tabs on its own history.

Maybe that's because it's still a (relatively) new profession, at least in how we understand it today. Maybe it's because arborists are just far too busy being arborists to take stock of what's been achieved. Or maybe it's because the industry evolves at such breakneck speeds that we're all too busy looking forward to turn back. 

Whatever the reason, there are gaping holes in the arb story, both in the UK and beyond, and that remains a shame; and with each passing year, the chances of filling in those blanks fades. 

This has become particularly apparent at eA towers this month as we mark the 100th print edition of the magazine. 

Launched all the way back in 1988, essentialARB began as a sister title to the long-running Forestry & British Timber magazine, published by UBM, in cooperation with the Arboricultural Association (AA). Originally printed just twice per year, it eventually ended up under the ownership of Forestry Journal (which it proudly remains today) and is now published six times annually. 

Forestry Journal: The cover of essentialARB's second edition, the earliest in eA's current archive. Do you have the first? The cover of essentialARB's second edition, the earliest in eA's current archive. Do you have the first?  (Image: eA archive)

In those near four decades, a lot has changed at the magazine, but even more has changed in arboriculture. The late 1980s appeared to have been a time of strain for many in tree care. Dutch elm disease was rife, having torn through millions of the UK's elm trees since the start of the 1970s. Today, the ash dieback threat looms large. 

But those early days of eA were also a period in which mechanical innovation was equally as widespread. For instance, just two years before its first copies hit the shelves, Entec Industries was launching its debut woodchipper, the Chippit, laying the foundations for what would become the modern-day's Timberwolf. 

In 2024, arb's current crop of innovators is just as determined to find solutions and to build on what has gone before.   

Forestry Journal: The late John Marshall, Founder of Entec Industries/ TimberwolfThe late John Marshall, Founder of Entec Industries/ Timberwolf (Image: Timberwolf)

The tricky thing is that very few people have attempted to create a comprehensive picture of arboriculture in the UK, so everything we know about it (including eA's history) can best be described as patchy.

One person who did try to build up a wider context was Mark Johnston in his recent work 'The Tree Experts – A History of Professional Arboriculture in Britain'who came to a pretty interesting conclusion about how he would surmise the time period in which eA was born. According to our 2022 review, 'Coming of Age’ is how the author describes arboriculture from 1946 to the present time. 

"This is a period of acceleration and change for amenity tree planting, care and maintenance, requiring adaptation to new concepts in urban, suburban and peri-urban development, including large housing estates with high-rise apartment buildings, urban and suburban shopping malls and out-of-town retail centres," our reviewer noted. "This has been and clearly continues to be a period when trees are being forced to cope with more and more concrete."

When the future eA team comes to mark edition number 200 – by my maths, in 2040 – what will arb look like? And, maybe equally as importantly, how will the first few decades of the 21st century be described?