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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Arboricultural Association.

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A journey to AARC

Author:  Frank Spooner
  16/03/2020
Last Updated:  16/03/2020
AA Registered Consultant
Frank Spooner

I’ve been invited to pen this short article by the Arboricultural Association following my recent acceptance as a Registered Consultant; of course, I am happy to oblige.

First off, a bit about me: I graduated from Sussex University with a biology degree in 2004. Much to the dismay of the university’s careers advice team, I told everyone I wanted to be a tree surgeon as I had met a tree surgeon in my gap year before uni and it sounded like the job for me (having never even heard of tree surgery before that).

I completed the ten-week course at Merrist Wood and quickly discovered not only that my biology degree was actually of use but that there is a whole arboricultural industry out there. I thought I was just going to be climbing trees for a while before moving onto something else, but I quickly found that there are real career opportunities in the industry.

I climbed for about four years before deciding to go back to college part-time and do what was the Tech-Cert, and before long I got a job as a tree officer at South Bucks District Council. At the time I thought I’d be working with and learning from the arboriculturist who interviewed me, but it turns out I was replacing him, and I was ‘on my own. A very steep learning curve, several high-profile Public Inquiries, a successful prosecution and six years later I decided to branch out (dreadful pun fully intended) and jump the fence into the private sector.

So here I am after six years with SJAtrees and now I’m a Registered Consultant. In the private sector as a consultant I became conscious/self-conscious that experience isn’t everything. I wanted a professional qualification to back up the advice I was giving our clients, especially as I was starting to get involved in more Public Inquiries. Working with other Registered Consultants at SJAtrees has also been a steep learning curve but it has encouraged me to work hard and seek to achieve a similar status.

Becoming a Registered Consultant is something that took me about two and a half years, at first just finding out about it and then actively seeking the full range of jobs on which to base my portfolio. Despite working with Simon Jones, I wanted my application to be entirely my own work, and aside from the initial peer-review when the work was released to the client in the normal course of events, the portfolio was compiled and edited myself.

What I have found, from the start of my time at SJAtrees and borne out in the application process to become a Registered Consultant, is that my arboricultural knowledge, assessments and conclusions have never really been in question. It was my presentation in the ‘house style’ and even my grammar that was the problem. On many occasions I’m sure Simon wanted to wring my neck for writing ‘the LPA are…’.

Far from being the end of the road, the Registered Consultant process has also been a steep learning curve. I have taken a lot from it and hope my work also continues to improve. Being a Registered Consultant really does mean, to me, being able to consistently produce the highest standard of work.

If I’m allowed a brief boast, I am proud to have come so far in a relatively short space of time and being accepted as a Registered Consultant before the age of 40 (which sadly is no longer the case) is a real achievement. However, it is something I hope to build on and I look forward to meeting and working with other consultants, tree officers and contractors, registered or otherwise.


This article was taken form Issue 188 Spring 2020 of the ARB Magazine, which is available to view free to members by simply logging in to the website and viewing your profile area.