From fireman to tree surgeon: the Modbury-based team to trust when it comes to managing your garden

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From fireman to tree surgeon: the Modbury-based team to trust when it comes to managing your garden

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Taking care of gardens and estates throughout the year, Coastal Garden Services offers everything from tree surgery and hedge cutting to landscaping and garden maintenance. Expertly qualified and a stickler for detail, here owner Andy Walker explains what makes his team such a trusted service…

How did Coastal Garden Services come about?

I started gardening part time while I was working for the Fire Service in Berkshire but living in Devon. When my wife and I decided to have a family, I left the Fire Service so that I could be at home more; she became a full-time mum and I started Coastal Garden Services, and it’s been non -stop work ever since.

Growing the business has been slow and steady, and as a result it’s got solid foundations. I have spent a lot of time getting the qualifications; as I come from a public sector background, I’m quite conscious of doing everything properly. From having the right knowledge and safety procedures in place, to doing all the little things that really make a difference, like being on time and doing what you say you’re going to do.

What services do you offer?

I started mainly as a gardener with qualifications in horticulture and landscaping, but I had my basic chainsaw qualifications as well. Now I’ve completed a diploma in arboriculture and forestry, which is a more specialist qualification in tree surgery. So, what was a gardening service with tree surgery on the side, has now become the other way around.

A lot of our work tends to be larger scale projects, and we also look after a few small estates and the grounds at various holiday properties, where we do regular grass cutting, landscaping and ongoing garden maintenance.

Tell us more about what you did before Coastal Garden Services?

I was in the Fire Service for ten years. I was brought up in Plymstock, and then lived in Australia for a year before returning to join the Fire Service in Berkshire. I re-located to Berkshire for five years and then returned home to Devon and commuted for five years, where I would do four days there and four days here gardening. I took the plunge and left my full-time job in 2012 to be in Devon. Now I work every day and my mind is always on my work, but I love it. Gardening had always been a hobby I enjoyed so it’s been great to turn it into a job. I love being outside and bringing more technical challenges of the tree surgery into it as well.

What should people be looking to do in their gardens over the coming weeks and months?

Now that it’s winter and the nesting season is over, it’s time to do structural changes to hedges and trees, trimming them back and also checking for any damaged or dangerous branches in the storms that we have had recently. Often people don’t realize if a branch falls out of a tree and onto someone, it’s the occupier's fault, so people need to keep an eye on their trees.

There’s also a lot of talk about Ash Dieback at the moment, which is a disease that came over from the continent and is having a big impact on trees in the UK. It’s estimated around 90% of our ash trees will die, which is devastating to the landscape, so if you have ash trees in your garden now’s the time to keep an eye on them for dead wood. If they’re in a position where they could fall and cause damage then they need to be taken out. If not, you can leave them and see if they survive. The survivors will then be used to repopulate the species.

As a result, we also need to be looking at planting new trees now so that in two or three years they will be sufficiently established to replace the lost ones. If you are planting new trees, it’s worth thinking about the ones that will attract wildlife to your garden. Trees that bear fruit or have a dense canopy will be attractive to birds. Even letting ivy over-run certain parts of your garden and leaving it long enough to flower adds another habitat that will feed visiting butterflies.

Is there anything in particular you’re currently looking forward to?

I always look forward to the fruit tree pruning in January and February. I am looking forward to a crisp, cold snap in the New Year and tending to the trees while they’re dormant. After all the heavy work with chainsaws before Christmas, it’s nice to be up a tree with a pair of secateurs. There’s always something coming up, though every season brings something different, and I love that variety through the year.

Is there anything that people tend not to realise about what you do?

I’ve only just started advertising and I think a lot of people hadn’t realised I had been working around the Modbury and South Hams area as long as I had. I have branded vehicles, but we are driving early and late in the day so people don’t necessarily see us out and about.

Quite a few clients are second home owners or have holiday lets, so we look after some gardens in their entirety, from weekly gardening to hedge cutting and fence building. We really offer that management and can keep an eye on it for them in a way they can trust, even if they’re only there once or twice a year.

We look after garden estates in Thurlestone and Bantham, but work all over the South Hams. We are a personal service so most people we work for have been clients of ours for years. Its lovely to have such good working relationships with people and their gardens that continues year after year.

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From fireman to tree surgeon: the Modbury-based team to trust when it comes to managing your garden
From fireman to tree surgeon: the Modbury-based team to trust when it comes to managing your garden

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