What I've Learned From Mr Treeman

A line of silver birch trees brightening up a gloomy November's day along one of the paths on our estate. Just a few of the many trees that have been planted in our neighbourhood and which help to make it one of the better public spaces in Chippenham

Following my report on Chippenham's Double Whammy Chestnuts a while back, I've eventually managed to talk to someone from our local council about them. As expected, it took quite a while to track down exactly whom I should be talking to. Here's what I've learned in the process.

Who exactly I should be talking to:
  • As I live in Chippenham, Wiltshire, it should be someone from Wiltshire County Council (WCC) right? Er, it depends...
  • If the tree's on a main road or on a highway structure such as a roundabout, it's the responsibility of the Highways Agency, who are contactable via the county's CLARENCE hotline *
  • If I want to discuss something like tree flailing which happened at the wrong time of the year, that's part of our estate's maintenance schedule. Therefore I should talk to the head of WCC's estate maintenance team
  • For all other trees in public spaces, then the county's sole arborist (aka Mr Treeman) is the person to talk to
What Mr Treeman had to say:
  • Nothing will be done about the horse chestnut leaf miner problem as they don't harm the tree and there's no budget available to treat them or clear up the leaves anyway
  • It seems there's pretty well no budget to do anything to any of our trees, unless the problem with them constitutes a health and safety hazard. Thus there won't be any tree thinning of the overcrowded trees, nor the removal of any of the branches touching our house - for now at least. I am however, most welcome to do any of these things - including clearing up the horse chestnut leaves - myself.
  • The horse chestnut trees with canker will be added to the county's observation list. The county has no policy to remove these trees as they may recover from the infection. However, they are kept under observation, because trees with canker tend to drop their limbs, which is of course a potential health and safety hazard
  • The trees at the side of our house aren't a danger to the house foundations (phew)
  • The broken branch on the ash tree at the side of the house will be removed because it could easily fall on top of our heads when we're in the garden and therefore constitutes a safety hazard. A month later: we're still waiting for this work to be done and gale force winds in excess of 75 miles per hour are expected as I write...
  • NAH and I are most welcome to contact Mr Treeman each year and request a review of the trees at the side of the house or any others we feel need attention. However, it's unlikely that anything will get done, because there's no budget available blah, blah, blah...

Confused? Annoyed? Yes, so am I. Threadspider is too because a couple of weeks after my meeting with Mr Treeman a whole gang of youths in hi-vis descended on the top of the estate and cleared away all the lavender nestling under the trees at the main entrance, hacked away at the tree roots and left everything looking extremely tidy but rather bare for now. It looks ripe for a weed fest next year. I think they were the estate maintenance team, so we'll be contacting them shortly to see when they're coming over to finish the job they've started.
Assuming there's the budget to do so of course.

* = NAH and I are constantly amazed that the reporting of our county's road and lighting - and now it would appear roadside trees - defects would appear to be named after a cross-eyed lion: one of the animal characters in the 1960s TV series Daktari. The acronym may have a perfectly reasonable explanation (Customer Lighting And Roads ENquiry CEntre), but the choice of accompanying logo - a lion - hardly helps us to take this system seriously.


  1. just reading about who to contact is headache-inducing. do you mean to say that mr. treeman actually encourages unbonded civilians to clear trees & etc. on public land? try that here & the appropriate agency is likely to panic just thinking about possible lawsuits if someone (or someone's house) is damaged by a non-employee!! hope everyone & thing makes it through the rough weather forecasted.

  2. I can feel your frustration from here. It seems most things of this nature depend on *someone's* budget.

  3. Ahhh, the labyrinthine structures of local government. On a positive note, whilst you have been enjoying your holiday, more youths in hi-viz returned and have laid turf over the potential weed beds. That's something, I suppose.

  4. I wonder what would happen if you took the law into your own hands and did your own tree surgery. A criminal record, no doubt.

  5. I've got a sharp pruning saw. You say the word, I'm there.


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