Working Down Under

Working Down Under 3

Over the years we’ve welcomed many international climbers to work in with the crew at Tree FX. We’ve supported their stays here in Australia and enjoyed the benefit of their experience being shared with our team. Recently, we’ve been joined by Rob and Ellie, a hard-working couple from the UK who were obliging enough to sit down and answer a few questions about their time Down Under.

We started off with asking where exactly they’re from. Rob tells us he’s from a place called Tonbridge, in Kent – a small town with small trees and big hedges. And Ellie is from London – a place that is, as Tree FX understands it, rather culturally significant to the Brits (something about big clocks, big bridges and even bigger hedges than Tonbridge).

So, what was it that drew you both to Australia specifically for your working holiday?

Rob and Ellie: We thought it was safer than a lot of other choices, both for tree work and just in general. It feels a bit quieter and a bit more remote, and it’s much more spacious than back home. Australia has a big variety of trees and a variety of conditions to work in. And there’s no bears.

I’ll resist making an easy drop-bear joke there and move on, how does tree work differ in Australia to back home?

Rob: Australian trees have more open canopies and are more fun to climb. A lot of trees back home have very tight branch structures that you can’t move through as freely. Jobs are bigger here, more open access to yards, access to bigger trucks and machinery. We have a lot of size restrictions on what you can tow back home, so a lot of tree work is done with smaller equipment.

A lot of work back home is also hedging. I did a job in Leeds Castle trimming an absolutely enormous yew hedge maze that took weeks. I’d get lost nearly every day when it was time to pack up and head home. So, some hedging jobs can be interesting, but you get sick of them.

Tree FX has been a fun company to work for, you’ve got a young crew and everyone gets along really well. It’s an interesting dynamic, very different to crews back home. And we’ve been enjoying the variety of work, especially with the bigger jobs.

Ellie, you’re not an arborist yourself, what did you do back home and how did you get roped into working with us?

Ellie: I used to be a research technician. It’s not as fancy as it sounds – I can’t quite call myself a scientist because I don’t have any degrees, but I’ve been thinking about a career change for a while now. I looked for farm work when we first got here but no one was getting back to me. I’ve worked with Rob before and tree work is way easier than farm work, plus it’s nice that Rob and I get to work together. I’ve been loving the bigger jobs here so far, I’ve helped Rob with small jobs back home but nothing like what we’ve been doing here.

Well you’ve both been ripping into it since you got here, we’ve heard nothing but good things from the crew. Do you think you’ll stick around?

Ellie: We’ll probably head home in a year, we miss the dogs and Rob has his business waiting when we get back home.

Oh well, it was worth a shot. So what else do you guys have planned for your time here? Anything in particular you’re hoping to experience before heading home?

Rob: I haven’t climbed a Mountain Ash yet, so there’s that. But I think I just want to ride someone else’s motorbike through the bush, maybe chasing cows or kangaroos.

Ellie: We’ll be heading to South Australia soon, then west along the coast. We’d love to work on more farms and just enjoy the time on the road.

Alright, before I let you get back to work I have to ask, do you guys have a favourite Australian tree?

Rob: Don’t have one favourite yet but I like all Eucalyptus species. There’s so many and it’s hard to tell a lot of them apart, but the smooth barked ones are fun trees to climb, like Red Gums or Spotted Gums.

Ellie: I really like Banksias. I haven’t worked on any yet, but they just look so different to anything we have at home.

What about a most hated tree?

Rob: There have been some spiky palms here that haven’t been nice to work in, but the worst was definitely the Coral Tree (Erythrina). Those are nasty with spikes all over every branch and you can’t avoid getting your hands all cut up.

Ellie: Probably conifers, we just get so sick of hedging…

Have you encountered the dreaded Itchy-bomb tree yet?

No we haven’t, but they sound similar to London Planes for the irritation. And there are heaps of London Planes in the UK. Pruning them day in and day out, breathing in all the fine hairs and pollen, coughing and spluttering. Sometimes it gets so bad you struggle to swallow when having a drink of water.

Ah, the wonders of tree work. Have you run into any Huntsman spiders on the job, yet? They are a uniquely horrible part of Australian tree work…

Ellie: I think they’re cool! They look nasty but you can poke ‘em with a stick and they rear up at you, but they don’t seem to do much else. Not sure what all the fuss is about…

I’ll take your word for it. Just be sure to check the sun visor in your car before hitting the road out west…

So, there you have it folks! If you’re reading this overseas and planning a working holiday Down Under, give TreeFX a shout, we’d love to have you on board! Maybe minus the kangaroo chasing and poking Huntsmans bit…