The Australian Arbor Age. Words Andy Hempsall / Images All Round Tree Worx

As a fourth generation forester and tree worker, there was only one career Leon Critchfield could follow.

Leon Critchfield grew up in rural NZ and developed a passion for the outdoors at an early age. He comes from a long line of forestry workers so it was inevitable he would follow the same path. He is in fact a fourth generation forestry worker. He rose through the ranks quickly early on in his career, driven by the high risk or danger and the adrenalin kick it led to. “I was a chaser for a large cable hauler and operated large forestry machines, swing yarders, excavators and processors, and also did lots of tree felling.”

Leon moved to Australia in 2004 and decided to pursue a career in Arboriculture, and worked as a climber for Advanced Arbor for five years where he brushed up on his skills whilst also learning specific Australian Standards and tree species. “I’ve always had the drive to work hard to achieve my goals so I decided to start my own business, All Round Tree Worx Pty Ltd at the end of 2009”. This was mainly done to help support his young family and has grown considerably since 2009, which has resulted in Leon contracting to a lot of the larger tree companies such as Active Trees, UAM, Plateau Trees and Sydney Metro Trees.

One of Leon’s major partners is Terry Cockayne at Extreme Trees in Oakville, who in his opinion is an expert in his field.

One of the most rewarding and enjoyable aspects of Leon’s job is “the challenge of a really difficult tree and getting it done (without damage) and also dropping big sections of tree or felling them in confined spaces”. This can be a real challenge especially in built up urban areas.

One of the most challenging climbs he’s had to do recently was a big iron bark which was around 100ft plus high growing out of a steep rock face. If that wasn’t enough it was also next to high voltage power lines and was hit by lightning in Wisemans Ferry. “I had a great ground team, the boys from 4 Seasons Trees, which kept me safe and had their eye open for anything that I might have missed. The morning I left to do the job I kissed my kids a bit longer to say goodbye as I wasn’t sure how bad the lightning strike was, but it looked pretty bad from the ground”.

From this it’s clear family means a lot to Leon and from speaking to him it is one of the main driving forces for his business.

When he started work on that iron bark he could see it was full of big cracks and tear outs. “You name it, it was up there, I just grit my teeth and climbed straight to the top of it. The customer offered me ridiculous money and to be honest, I couldn’t refuse. Thankfully it came down safely as planned, with no injuries and no damage.”

We asked Leon about how he started All Round Tree Worx and how he sees the company developing over the next few years. “I used to do a lot of my own small jobs but it was hard to find a reliable truck and chipper company to hire, so I made the decision to start up my own. I brought a small four-tonne tipper truck and BC 1400 Chipper, along with chainsaws and started contracting to the larger tree companies. I then started advertising and also got a lot of work from word of mouth, all from climbing large trees”.

“I then started working with Wayne Parlett, former owner of the successful and highly regarded All Suburbs Trees. He was a big influence on me and helped a lot with pointing me in the right direction when I started and still does to this day.”

All Round Tree Worx has been operating for more than six years and has now upgraded to bigger and better equipment, meaning even larger jobs can be tackled. “I climb all jobs and usually hire groundsman to suit the job. We have tried several times to employ staff but have had a lot of problems getting the right people. My best “groundy” over the years, who is always there when I need him has been Dave Cromack. He is a good man on the ropes and drags hard all day, every day.”

“We are hopefully going to get a second truck and chipper going soon so I can get from the six day a week climbing. But the ‘Big’ difficult trees will always have my name on them as I love the challenge of them.”

We then asked Leon what his thoughts were on the industry at the moment and how he thinks it may change in the future. “Unfortunately due to the amount of work available at the moment there is definitely an element of tree loppers out there, that shouldn’t be in the industry as they are rough, untidy, rip off customers and also make a lot of damage. I think if some kind of licence was in place that all climbers/companies had to have this, would keep a lot of the cowboys to a minimum and would also be good for customers, so they are aware of who they are hiring. I’ve had to clean up or fix many dodgy jobs over the years that had gone wrong or were never finished.”

Leon did say he was flat out at the moment leading up the end of the financial year and he’s been carrying out a lot of private jobs in and around Sydney’s Hills District.

Just to prove Leon lives and breathes tree work, on top of being flat out working, he’s been busy doing the Woodchopping and Sawing competitions at Royal Easter Show and other shows around the country. He’s made the Australian Team at the Sydney Royal Easter Show for several years in a row and also represented NSW overseas. He has also won a pole climbing comp in New Zealand for six years in a row before moving to Australia.

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