Comprehensive instruction on a range of subjects from chainsaw use to large tree felling and advanced aerial rigging courses is on offer at the recently established Environmental Training Centre, a state-of-the-art facility in Stafford.

LOCATED on an attractive country estate in Stafford is a facility that aims to set a new standard for how industry training is delivered in the world of arboriculture.

The purpose-built Environmental Training Centre (ETC) delivers practical, hands-on arboricultural training from experienced instructors who are well respected within the sector. Courses include tree climbing and aerial rescue, chainsaw maintenance, felling and cross-cutting, pesticides, rigging, CPD and refresher courses. With skilled staff shortages industry wide, its aim is to assist companies in up-skilling their existing workforce, increasing staff retention, productivity and motivation.

Company director Rob Keyzor has over 30 years’ experience in arboriculture, forestry and landscaping. For the past 25 years, Rob has run a successful Arb Approved contracting and consultancy business based at the same site in Stafford.

However, he said it had long been his aim to establish a training business.

“The provision of arboricultural training is generally very poor now,” he explained. “Colleges have to be self-funding and it’s not in their ability to provide proper training in-house. So many courses are unable to deliver the resources and expertise required.

“Commercial training has always been very poor. There are some very good exceptions, but too often training companies turn out to be individual self-employed people training out of the back of a van, if they can tear themselves away from their phone. In the main it’s a poor cottage industry and it needs to be much better.”

Forestry Journal: Each rope has a different climbing system on it, offering people the chance to try out different methods.Each rope has a different climbing system on it, offering people the chance to try out different methods.

Rob was given the chance to make his dream a reality when the farming buildings next door to him on the estate became redundant. The estate owner tore them down and asked Rob what he wanted to put in their place.

Plans were soon in development for a state-of-the-art training centre that would provide people with a comprehensive learning experience.

The new facility, which finished construction earlier this year, boasts customised classrooms and conference room with electronic learning aids, a fully equipped workshop, kitchen and toilets, with both hard and softwood plantations on site.

ETC’s star attraction is its indoor climbing tree, which was sourced from the estate. Solidly anchored – with its stem sunk two metres into the floor – the presence of the oak indoors ensures training can continue in all weathers. Additionally, by using the first-floor walkway, instructors can easily come up to eye-level with anyone on the ropes to get a closer look at what they’re doing and offer words of assistance.

Other training takes place out in the field on the estate or in the workshop and classrooms.

Forestry Journal: ETC’s purpose-built classrooms are ideal for delivering instruction on such subjects as chainsaw maintenance.ETC’s purpose-built classrooms are ideal for delivering instruction on such subjects as chainsaw maintenance.

ETC offers a comprehensive range of NPTC, Lantra and short courses in a wide range of disciplines, from chainsaw maintenance and tree climbing to tree and pest identification and pesticide application.

With a wealth of theoretical and working knowledge, plus a keen interest in mycology, the history of the British countryside and how it has evolved, Rob specialises in CPD courses such as tree and fungi identification. However, he was never going to be able to do everything himself, and the ETC project as a whole really became viable when two others came on board – David ‘Dak’ Wiles and Martin Spooner.

Operations manager Dak is an internationally recognised climber, arborist and founder of Explore Trees. Having spent the past decade chasing dreams, climbing some of the world’s greatest trees in places like Guinea-Bissua, while sharing knowledge with some of the best climbers, Dak loves nothing more than getting new people up into trees and trying out a variety of climbing gadgets.

Forestry Journal: Operations manager Dave ‘Dak’ Wiles teaches aerial courses such as tree climbing and aerial rescue.Operations manager Dave ‘Dak’ Wiles teaches aerial courses such as tree climbing and aerial rescue.

While teaching aerial courses such as tree climbing and aerial rescue, Dak aims to promote best practice, with modern ‘real world’ equipment and techniques whilst giving students a solid understanding of the basic fundamentals.

Dak said: “On our demonstration tree, every rope has a different climbing system on it. A lot of climbers go through life using whatever they learned on because they’ve never tried anything else and it might not be the best thing for them. Before anyone develops any long-term habits we want to give them the chance to try a few different ropes, harnesses and systems, to see the difference.

“It provides you with a better knowledge to understand what other people are using, too. Manufacturers have been very supportive in supplying us with kit.”

Forestry Journal: Martin Spooner provides instruction on chainsaw technique out on the estate.Martin Spooner provides instruction on chainsaw technique out on the estate.

The third key member of the team is Martin Spooner, NPTC assessor and instructor, who pursued a life in trees after teaching mountaineering and climbing during his extensive career in the Armed Forces.

“Martin is a very well-known instructor,” said Dak. “We’ve had people enquire about courses who have said they’re not interested unless they know he’ll be teaching it.”

ETC opened in March and has had a steady stream of students through its doors, some travelling considerable distances for the chance to learn from the experts in a professional, practical environment.

For a complete list of courses and prices or for more information, visit or email