BTS Group official logo


Paul Read’s team took on a complex task at Robins Folly, Thurleigh (near Bedford). The job: taking down two decaying ash trees and siding up a large poplar. The terrain was awkward, and scheduling happened to line up with a July heatwave.

Date: 22 July 2021
Location: Address: Robins Folly, Thurleigh
Area: Cambridgeshire team
Client: UK Power Networks
Extra equipment:
  • 26-meter tracked MEWP
  • 33-meter tracked MEWP
  • Tracked high-tip pedestrian dumper
  • 230mm tracked chipper

The project

The larger of the ashes had the potential of taking out two spans of ABC, a pole-mounted transformer, and a span of 11kv. The other, which had an internal decay cavity, was leaning towards the 11kv overhead conductors.

The poplar was over the top of the 11kv and could be faced on the same day.

UK Power Networks and bts had been hoping to do this work for some time – the job had been initially scheduled a few months ago, but the village network was powering vital medical equipment we couldn’t risk, even with generators, so UK Power Networks rescheduled when it was safe to do so.

As you might imagine, the landowner was also keen for us to take the ashes down! They helped UKPN and bts finetune their plans over several meetings. Work was scheduled for 21-23 July.


The trees stood on an awkward plot of land: despite its elevation, wind exposure, and the landowner’s tree planting, the ground remains soft/wet through the year. Access routes had to be carefully considered because of this… and because of the active beehives in the orchard.

Once the team had the equipment in, they’d still be working in a tight spot. UK Power Networks would have to do a line drop on the span.

David Walker (UK Power Networks Manager) and Paul Read (bts Cambridgeshire Area Manager) realised on the initial survey they didn’t have the space they needed.

The landowner was willing to arrange moving two garden sheds; and bts would move the large trampoline. This meant cutters would have the space to get a hoist in and pollard the two ashes.

On top of land and space challenges, the work was scheduled during a heatwave.

Shut-down and rebuild

Engineers from UK Power Networks went in on 21 July and installed five generators around the village before dropping the affected span

bts came in the next day for the tree work

The UK Power Networks team rebuilt the network on day three, as scheduled

Arb work

22 July was hot. Temperatures were in the 20s by 06:00 and forecast to reach highs of 27°C. The team discussed challenges at the start of the day during the permit talk, agreeing to take plenty of breaks and stay well hydrated, although shade was had to find the landowner kindly kept them topped up with iced water!

Once the hoist was positioned, the first ash came down easy enough until the awkward angle stopped cutters from taking off the crown. After a bit of repositioning, they were able to finish the first and the second ash, and face up the poplar, without much difficulty.

Clear-up was a challenge in itself: the soft top layer and limited access meant the team couldn’t just load up a transit with timber. There was no chance of a couple of tonnes on tyres making it off the plot.

Paul had planned ahead, though, and used a tracked pedestrian dumper, moving timber in small batches to the truck on the driveway.

By the time the logs were cleared, it was 14:00. The intensifying heat of the day, combined with the humidity, would make further work unsafe. David Walker called it and work stopped for the day.

The rest of the clear-up – mainly brash – was scheduled for the next week and was completed without issue.


Despite the challenges with terrain and timing, UK Power Networks and bts worked together and got a tough job done to a high standard, with minimal disruption to customers.

The last of the clear-up was delayed by a few days due to a deliberate safety decision.  Though we try to deal with all mess on the day, postponing was the best choice given the conditions – and certainly a better outcome than putting workers’ health at risk.