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Sue Adams – 1949–2021

Author:  Geoff March
  30/05/2022
Last Updated:  30/05/2022

Sue Adams

1949–2021

Sue (sixth from right) with fellow tree gazers under the mighty Liriodendron at Stourhead, 2011.

Sue (sixth from right) with fellow tree gazers under the mighty Liriodendron at Stourhead, 2011.

A personal appreciation by Geoff March

Sue Adams was an arboricultural officer then private consultant in the west of England and a familiar friendly face at Association conferences and seminars. Born in 1949, she died in 2021 at the end of June, having battled cancer over the previous year.

I first got to know Sue perhaps 20 years ago at informal meetings of what was loosely known as the Tree Gazers. These little get-togethers were – and in fact still are, Covid permitting – aimed at fellow tree enthusiasts in the west of England and South Wales, with most being professionals, either arborists, local authority tree officers or consultants.

If this sounds rather sophisticated, in reality it usually consisted of maybe half a dozen motley folk, occasionally many more but sometimes even fewer, meeting up every few months to trudge round an arboretum or other suitable place, rain or shine. We’d start off with a spring in our step but progress more and more slowly as we stopped to argue the finer points of every less common tree on our route. We would also pause for a sociable lunch if there happened to be a nearby café or pub.

On these walks, and given that we would usually be in the presence of some pretty rare stuff, particularly hard to identify were the more obscure types of evergreen mostly known as taxads which – understandably – are rare due to being not very large, not very distinguishable, not at all colourful, and frankly a little boring. NOT to Sue though! Perhaps reflecting her early MSc in evolution, variation and taxonomy, she had a real enthusiasm for these and would happily enlighten us as to the exact species, be it Podocarpus or Cephalotaxus, Taiwania or Torreya.

At the opposite end of the spectrum to her large collection of orchids at her Gloucestershire home in North Nibley was a very unspectacular collection of these odd little trees, most of which were scruffy little bushes in fact, growing at the front of her house. This included an unwanted one of my own that I had managed to unload on her. Planted just a few feet from her front window, it rapidly grew into a surprisingly large and hideous specimen. By this time Sue was contemplating her move to Upton St Leonards, and realising she was probably blighting her old house for any rational purchaser, she reluctantly and apologetically removed it at last.

By this time Sue had jumped from being a well-established local authority tree officer at South Gloucestershire to a career as an independent arboricultural consultant (Treescope), on the lookout for private work. A high point of her previous job had been effectively securing the future of the superb collection of trees at Tortworth Court, not far from Wotton under Edge, that was under severe threat. Sue organised the surveying and proper identification of these, many of which were – and still are – very rare and notable, and had them protected for the future by a Tree Preservation Order. Reflecting this achievement, we are planning to plant a Torreya californica in her memory at Tortworth this year.

Sue was a very talented and knowledgeable professional. She was a member of the Institute of Chartered Foresters and held the RFS Professional Diploma in Arboriculture. A Fellow of the Arboricultural Association, she was an examiner for the Technician’s Certificate, vice chair of the Education & Training Committee, a member of AA Western Branch Committee and also assisted with editing copy for the ARB Mag.

When, in 2007, I found myself looking for extra consultancy help, Sue seemed the obvious person to ask and luckily she agreed right away. As an associate to Tree Maintenance Ltd, she rapidly adapted to our own way of doing things and I soon realised that she was much better than me where a particular involvement with planning issues was required. In fact, she was soon indispensible, and I knew that if Sue was given a job, it would be returned on time, with the minimum of fuss and impeccably presented.

I think the only time she dropped a real clanger was when she emailed me about a particularly irritating, but quite important, client who had proved a thorn in our side on previous occasions. Sue offloaded to me in quite ripe language in this email and then hit the ‘reply all’ button by mistake, thereby sending it straight back … to the client. Talking my way out of that one was fun.

After Sue retired from her arboricultural work a few years back we were all quite shocked when she announced that this was to be total, to the extent that she rapidly sold off her collection of specialist books and equipment. We soon learnt that, instead, she was launching headlong into her new passion in the world of archaeology, and she was soon travelling the UK working as a volunteer on digs. Luckily for us, I’m pleased to say that she continued to come to our little meetings whenever she could, right up until her illness made it impossible. So I think Sue was possibly unique in swapping a life of peering up in the air at trees to peering down into the ground, trowel in hand.

Sue, your cheerfulness, reliability, good sense and knowledge were an inspiration to us all and it was a privilege to be counted as your friend. From ALL of your tree friends – a big THANK YOU!


This article was taken from Issue 197 Summer 2022 of the ARB Magazine, which is available to view free to members by simply logging in to the website and viewing your profile area.