Alistair Magee, Tree Surgeon

Alistair Magee

Alistair Magee, a former English Martyrs School pupil and East Durham College arboriculture student, now runs his own successful business, A.M Tree Surgeons based in Northallerton, working across the region.

Alistair is also the 2012 ISA United Kingdom & Ireland Tree Climbing Champion.

Alistair's Story

Business is not always about boardrooms, briefings and black coffee. So, in tribute to those who take a more unusual approach to enterprise, we examine an alternative career option. That of the tree surgeon.

Successful careers are based on climbing the job ladder. In Alistair Magee's case, however, his progression has been built on climbing trees. The 30-year-old, originally from Hartlepool, runs North-East company, AM Professional Tree Surgeons, and is a national tree climbing champion to boot.

The former East Durham College student did well at school but felt a non-academic route was the best option for him when he left The English Martyrs School in Hartlepool.

"My journey to becoming a successful arborist started when I was 16. I worked hard and came out of school with five decent GCSEs but always knew I was no academic so enrolled at East Durham College’s Houghall Campus, in Durham, on a two-year vocational course and it changed my life. When my arboriculture course started, I felt a real sense of excitement and I quickly excelled at practical climbing and was given a job with a local tree surgery company on my days off. I felt so proud and grasped the opportunity.

"After qualifying I worked in Italy, the Netherlands and then Sweden.

"In Sweden, the tree surgery profession borders on celebrity status. We were always on television and in newspapers, and people's reaction to us was that of disbelief. We even worked for the King of Sweden and other famous people and our order books were filled up for years in advance. Whist there I also became Swedish tree climbing champion four times in a row.

"I then moved on to climbing competitions all over the world, and was the 2012 UK and Ireland champion."

In 2005 Alistair returned to his native Hartlepool and started working as a freelance tree climber, travelling all over the UK, later starting his own business.

So does Alistair have any advice for people interested in becoming a tree surgeon? Anyone can do it. The only thing that ultimately defines you is how you go about it. Going to college is a great first step. Experience is vital and you have to be willing to work outside in all weathers.

But this job feels like you're getting paid to do a hobby. It’s a rewarding career and you get a great feeling from watching a tree you have worked on grow and mature.

"Tree work has given me purpose, motivation and opportunity to connect with life, and it makes me feel worthwhile. I have always loved my work and feel very passionate about it."