Mike Storey runs Treekit, a business supplying arboriculturalists (arbs) and other tree climbing equipment users, with his brother Max based in Dorset. Despite the business having only been running for eighteen months it has quickly become a focus for the local arb scene. For the past 20 years, prior to setting up Treekit, Mike worked in Germany running his own tree care company. Over a cup of coffee, while Mike was visiting DMM in north Wales, we threw some questions at him to get his perspective on being an arborist in the UK, along with some background to his career.
Firstly, how did you end up working in Germany?
Twenty years ago I did a National Diploma in Arboriculture at Merrist Wood College down in Guildford (Surrey). I did a one year placement for the second year of the course in Munich. It was a lot more fun than I anticipated and the one year turned into two years. After college finished I went back out there because of all the contacts I’d made and ended up setting up my own tree care company, Baumpflege Storey. For personal reasons about two years ago I moved back to the UK and decided to establish Treekit with my brother.
How does the tree care industry in the UK compare with the one you were used to in Germany?
When I was first in Germany the industry was in its formative years whereas in the UK it had a well established history. Now the German scene is very dynamic with a lot of young enthusiastic arborists. Coming back to the UK I found there was very little networking or sharing of information. I’m not sure the term arborist is as well recognised by the public here as in other parts of the world. Perhaps in the UK people don’t appreciate the need for a professional arborist?
What exactly is an arborist for those who don’t understand the term?
An arborist is the term for a qualified tree care specialist with an extensive knowledge of trees, particularly; species, tree biology and safe practice for working at height that can take years to refine. People use the term ‘Tree Surgeon’ which suggests we just cut bits off; when in fact for each individual tree we decide on a strategy for the tree’s long term health and benefit so it continues to give amenity value, while not posing a danger to the public. Think of it as veterinary care for trees if you like.
Amenity value sounds a bit woolly and academic. Can you explain?
The amenity value is really about the pleasure and sense of well-being people get from seeing and being around trees. A priority of our work is that by using long established pruning techniques any procedure we undertake isn’t to the detriment of the tree.
How do you minimise the risks of working at height in a tree?
For me the most important aspect of working in trees, given you’ve got the correct equipment and knowledge of how to use it combined with the trees own limitations, is to work as a team. Teamwork is what makes it such a good job to be involved with. You need a team that understands each other. It’s incredibly rewarding to take-on a potentially dangerous situation and manage it safely and with the least impact to the immediate area. Having a plan and then a contingency plan is also crucial.
Why did you recently spend the night up an oak tree?
I’ve enjoyed climbing trees and camping since I was a kid. It seemed a great way to combine the two activities and I’d been talking about taking camping into the trees for years. So when a group of us down south got together with the same idea it was just a case of finding a weekend we were all free. It was my first and definitely not my last time. Just an amazing way to appreciate a tree.
Of course we’ve got to ask you what is your favourite bit of DMM kit and what was your highlight of looking around DMM’s factory?
At the moment I’d say it was the Sentinel Locksafe carabiner because it’s small and fits in the hand perfectly. It’s also because it’s the most recent bit of kit I’ve bought and so may well shift from favourite when I finally get my hands on the DMM RPM Shackles.
Because I’ve always been into making things the factory tour was fascinating but I think the drama of the hot forging process and the die for the Hitch Climber Pulley were the highlights. Touching that die was like being connected to every Hitch Climber in the world!
We’ve noticed that you and your associates are avid users of social media and Instagram in particular?
We love it. Social media is the way we share information easily, pick-up tips, hear about innovations and meet new people who you wouldn’t normally encounter. Having pictures from arbs working all over the world and sharing experience and ideas can add a great deal to people’s knowledge. [Ed: On Instagram you’ll find Treekit (TreeKitARB) run by Mike Storey (thinkintr333s) and their associates Marcus Undery (timberwolf190), Terry Banyard (t4rry) and Andrew (Syd) Howells (socialtreeclimber). Plus DMM (dmm_wales) is there as well.
top: Mike Storey during a weekend’s recreational tree climb. © Ray Wood
middle: Mike Storey in the DMM showroom with an over-sized ‘show’ Revolver and early prototype. © Ray Wood
lower: Terry Banyard, Syd Howells and Mike Storey in DMM’s toolroom during their factory tour. © Ray Wood