Client satisfaction is the number-one aim of KTrees, a tree surgery company based in the Scottish Highlands.

I  first caught up with Kenny Turnbull, who operates KTrees, offering tree surgery services across Lochaber, towards the end of 2023. At the time, he was dealing with the many issues caused in the area by Storm Gerrit and days off were at a premium. He was stoic about that, recognising both the business opportunity the storm presented and the need to help people affected.

His Facebook page at the time reflected this, with Kenny informing people that he was dealing with many jobs and he would get to them as quickly as possible. Comments espoused the good work he was doing.

Reflecting on this, Kenny said: “Juggling many windblown trees to be made safe, along with the safety of the crew, is challenging. This work is dangerous and unpredictable at times. When Storm Gerrit hit, we had multiple call-outs to make trees safe in our area. One was a beech that had blown onto a house. Working closely with the local authority we managed to successfully remove the tree using a JCB to help stabilise it, which allowed us to climb and safely dismantle it.”

Forestry Journal: Working on beech tree removal on Invergarry Castle Estate.Working on beech tree removal on Invergarry Castle Estate. (Image: Supplied)

Kenny is a local lad, born in the small village of Ardgour, near Fort William, and from an early age experienced what he describes as ‘the various country pursuits’ such as fishing and camping. On leaving school his first job was at the local fish farm, before working at Corran Ferry. He then moved to a local building restoration company, before finally ending up in tree work under Ian Shaw, a commercial forestry contractor. 

“I have always loved nature, especially being out in the woods, and liked this type of work,” said Kenny. “It also kept me very fit for rugby. After working for Ian I decided to travel to Australia, staying for two years. In 2008, I returned to Ardgour and went back to work for Ian for six months.

“Doing this allowed me the chance to save up so I could travel New Zealand. Almost immediately after arriving there I started work, for a year, with a tree surgeon called Tui. His company was Tree Zone.

Forestry Journal:  Kenny arriving on site. Kenny arriving on site. (Image: Supplied)

“Tui was a small, independent tree surgeon based in Auckland. His company covered all aspects of tree surgery such as removals, pruning, crown lifts and reductions. Working there I became a very proficient groundsman. Tui’s mantra was no matter how big or small a job, people always remembered how you left the site. So for him, the tidy up was very important. 

“For every job the only way you would know someone had been in there was from the tree stump that was left. Sadly, the qualifications I gained there were only relevant to New Zealand standards.”

After returning home Kenny managed to get a job with one of the SSE tree-cutting squads.

“I completed all my tree-climbing qualifications and electrical tickets through SSE,” he said. “It has a very high standard of health and safety, which has stood me in good stead, and I still maintain these standards today running my own business.”

Kenny worked for SSE for around five years. Thereafter he got a job with construction firm Stag Infrastructure. He met his wife Alisha in 2011 and in 2015, Odhran, their first son, was born followed in 2017 by Fionn. Kenny returned to the Corran Ferry, which allowed him to do shift work, more suitable for family life.

Then, in 2016, he finally took the plunge and started out as a sole trader with his company KTrees.

Forestry Journal:  Kenny assessing windblown trees affecting the paths at the Invergarry Castle Estate. Kenny assessing windblown trees affecting the paths at the Invergarry Castle Estate. (Image: Supplied)

“I wanted more time with the family and to enjoy a job without having to beat to someone else’s drum,” he said. “I started out with one climbing kit, one top-handle saw and one ground saw, because this was all I could afford. Getting domestic clients was not too hard, but on the commercial side it was difficult, due to not being established long enough, nor having the crew or equipment to deal with larger projects.

“I advertised in our local Lochaber Life magazine and my Facebook page, as well as on banners that I had made and placed around Fort William. From there, word of mouth spread. I received good feedback and recommendations and importantly managed to get on the local council-tendering list, receiving various contracts through them.

“Alisha, my wife, helps with paperwork from time to time and sorting the work schedule. But she can only do this when her own work is not so crazy, as she is a lecturer in beauty at UHI NWH Fort William.

“Our former employee Julie also helped with all the administrative tasks, which supported the business and made a real contribution to KTrees. Sadly, she passed away suddenly in January, this year. This was a great shock to us and she will be missed immensely.”

As the years have gone by, Kenny has built up his kit and equipment to allow him to be in the position to take on larger contracts. Then, in 2020, he was hit with consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, though he and his team were able to keep working. In 2021 KTrees became a limited company.

It has now grown to the stage where Kenny has his own yard, two pickup trucks and a wide range of essential equipment. Services offered include tree removal, pruning and reduction, as well as site clearance and stump grinding. Logs, woodchip, and timber products are also offered for sale.

“The logs for sale came about as a by-product as more customers required everything to be removed from the site,” he said. “This allowed a market for me to sell on the logs, which are a mixture of hardwood and softwood. They are dried out in our yard to make them ready for sale. The woodchip was asked for by the local council, for weed suppression, and often customers request it for paths or chicken runs.”

Forestry Journal: Watching the Palfinger in action dealing with a wild cherry, which had half snapped during Storm Gerrit.Watching the Palfinger in action dealing with a wild cherry, which had half snapped during Storm Gerrit. (Image: Supplied)

Having the right kit to be able to deal with all the range of jobs, from domestic to commercial, has been a key aim as Kenny has built the business. For him, Stihl is the chainsaw brand he trusts and he has a range of saws including a 661 with a 36-in bar for crosscutting and felling large stems. Kenny describes it as a “heavy, powerful, bulletproof saw”. He has an eight-year-old MS362 which is “still going strong”. His new favourite, in terms of its power-to-weight ratio, is an MS261, which he has found to be a “small, light, but surprising powerful saw, which is good in the canopy, when my top-handle saw is under-gunned.” 

That top-handle saw is a Husqvarna T540, which he finds to be “small and torquey”. It was bought in an emergency, when his Stihl seized, but he really likes it.

On the climbing side, KTrees uses Teufelberger treeMOTION Pro harnesses. Kenny settled on these after trying several others and a fellow arborist recommended them. Kenny uses Petzl ropes and mechanical climbing aids. He also uses DMM carabiners, as he has found a size that can be opened and closed easily with one hand. He finds all these brands are good quality and reliable.

On the machinery side, Kenny has invested in a Lumag BSF15 stump grinder, which had good reviews. He has found it light enough to manhandle around gardens. He also has a Forst ST6D towable woodchipper, which he has found to be a “good, powerful chipper, easy to maintain, and one that tows very well”. Kenny has two pickups, an L200 Mitsubishi and a Ford Transit Crew Cab Tipper. The L200 is used for its towing and the Transit for carrying all the equipment.

He also uses the Transit for chipping branches into the rear bed. Kenny decided to purchase a stump grinder due to requests for the complete removal of trees. “We used to hire our chipper but it made more business sense to purchase our own and that way we have it available when needed,” he said.


Kenny’s client base is fairly mixed. He said: “They range from neighbours to large, international companies who have taken up residence in Fort William. So one day we could be in Fort William and the next it could be Kilchoan, which is a two-hour drive from where we are based, along single-track roads. On the commercial side, we work for Jahama Estates, SIMEC Lochaber, Lochaber Housing Association, and Highland Council. The jobs vary from storm call-outs to routine maintenance.

“We recently teamed up with another local company, Corrigan Contractors, to deal with a windblown wild cherry, which was half snapped and split, leaning over a brand new chalet. The issues were caused by Storm Gerrit and it was not safe to climb. So, using their Palfinger PK78002 and GMT035 grapple saw, with a 31-m reach, which kept our crew safe, we made short work of an otherwise dangerous job. Our role in this job was to guide the operator as to which branches to take off, in order to prevent any damage to the chalet. We then carried out a tidy-up of the entire wood site, logged the firewood for the client, chipped the branches and removed the chips and waste from the site.”

KTrees was recently involved in the removal of dangerous trees from the Kinlochleven ‘loop’ road, which is a minor road from Onich to Glencoe Village. This job involved the removal of heavily leaning trees, alongside rotten and dead ones, also any overhanging branches, from a carriageway. There were a number of different tree species there, including oaks, a lot of ash, birch, and willow. The machinery employed included a MEWP, saws, the chipper, and a bit of climbing was involved.

Forestry Journal: Climbing a wind-blown beech that had landed on top of a house.Climbing a wind-blown beech that had landed on top of a house. (Image: Supplied)

Not all the jobs that Kenny and his team tackle are dangerous. While there is a satisfaction in dealing with these issue trees, there are jobs that are more routine.

“Last year we did a little job for a lovely customer in Strontian,” he said. “It involved the removal of 90 trees allowing all native species to flourish. There was enough timber to replenish the wood store and then some. Many of the trees were self-seeded spruce, with a lot of willow and a few birch trees, none of which were of any real value to the garden. It was a good job for us both, with the client able to stock up on logs.”

KTrees also carries out work on local estates. One job Kenny remembers well – more for the story around the tree than its removal – was on the Achnacarry Estate.

Forestry Journal: Removal of a beech tree on Invergarry Castle Estate.Removal of a beech tree on Invergarry Castle Estate. (Image: Supplied)

He said: “It was a tricky removal of a completely hollow ash tree, growing in a small outbuilding near the castle. There is a history to the building. I am led to believe that Bonnie Prince Charlie, Lord Lovat (the Red Fox) and Cameron Lochiel met there just before Charlie headed to Culloden, with Lovat and Lochiel trying to convince him not to go.

“I am not sure of the entire truth behind this, but it is a nice story. While working that day we were visited by a very bold red fox who strolled straight past us on the riverbank, turned back for another look, then disappeared into the bushes.”

Eight years on from starting his own business, I wondered how Kenny saw things and what plans he had for the future.

Forestry Journal: Lumag BSF15 stump grinder in action.Lumag BSF15 stump grinder in action. (Image: Supplied)

“The business has steadily grown,” he said. “Keeping a good reputation is paramount in this trade. Having customers trust your expertise, judgement and knowledge is important. We do not want to get too big. Keeping a small team suits us, as we like to work hard. We have just purchased a small, old but serviceable digger with a log grab to help in our yard and a new tipping cage trailer for moving logs etc from jobs. I am not sure how we can expand, though I am interested in milling some of our wood to produce bespoke shelving, mantels, or tables – time permitting, as spare time is a rarity.”

One thing is for sure. Kenny, as a local businessperson, is a supporter of others and the people of the Lochaber area. He also believes in giving back to his local community that has supported him and helped his business grow. For that reason KTrees sponsors Lochaber Rugby Club’s girls U14 team strip.

“We were very proud that they were chosen to represent Lochaber Rugby Club as official flag bearers at a Women’s RBS Six Nations Scotland v Italy game,” said Kenny. “We were made aware that they were looking for a sponsor and we gladly offered to do so. Some of our arb team have worn the black-and-gold jersey in the past, so we have a real connection with the club. 

“While I no longer play, our boys have taken up my passion for rugby and Odhran and Fionn regularly train in the children’s group and I help out with the coaching.”