Our jobbing young forestry contractor finds himself hounded by the media after being wrongly identified as one of the men accused of felling an iconic tree.

THROUGHOUT my years at both nursery and primary school it may have been noted that the small, shy child by the name of Daniel Graham could often be found playing contentedly by himself in some corner of the school field. Today, this would probably be assumed to be a condition or syndrome and I’d be assessed and treated as ‘special needs’. Yet later, nothing has changed and I am still at my most contented while working on a project alone. I can get lost in my own thoughts with no distractions. I find it very difficult to think deeply about work with someone else looking over my shoulder. Even writing these articles, for instance, would be impossible in the presence of others. In fact, the moment I’m in company my brain seems to switch into a different mode where it tries to interpret people’s thoughts and sense of humour. In social situations I rarely upset people, so it can’t be that bad, but just recently I’ve found this ‘social exposure’ very draining and the only way for me to recharge is to seek solitude.

The employment of hired staff this winter has been a real challenge for me. From mid-December until a few weeks ago, when the drawn-out grant scheme finally came to a close, I have been surrounded by staff seven days a week with the only respite being the occasional weekend family celebration. It’s been a huge challenge not only keeping other people motivated during one of the wettest winters in memory, but maintaining my own motivation. I have been pushed well beyond my own social limits and have longed to get off this crazy speeding conveyor belt and reclaim my sanity in the quiet peacefulness of the Ingram Valley.


For the last fortnight of hedging it is safe to say the team was sick of the sight of mud, bamboo and Tubex. The light at the end of the tunnel, for some, was no doubt the thought of getting paid, but for me it was hiding alone in my workshop, grinding chains and dressing bars ahead of a summer of firewood processing, felling and other mixed solo campaigns.

Having finally reached this state of bliss, the first day was everything I wanted it to be – a work bench and an air compressor to blow all the crap out of saws. My mind slowly began to heal itself as I thought about the timber tasks ahead. The second day, however, took a very strange twist.

I was in the workshop and was listening to Radio 2 while putting a fresh edge on some Stihl rails when it was announced that I’d just been arrested on suspicion of cutting down the Sycamore Gap tree. The incident, as you will recall, caused international condemnation and the hunt has been ongoing to identify the perpetrators. The way the announcement was made even convinced me it was me! But how, I reasoned, could they announce it when the police haven’t even arrested me?

Life was going so well for Danny ... until he was accused of a crime he did not commit Life was going so well for Danny ... until he was accused of a crime he did not commit (Image: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire)

A quick bit of research established that it was indeed a coincidence and I happened to share the name Daniel Graham (same spelling) with another woodsman who knew how to gob a tree. The problem was, no one seemed to know who he was but everyone seemed to know me. So, having craved social isolation, I was immediately subjected to the greatest social bombardment of my life.

Oh for a bygone era of quills, carrier pigeons and horse power. The phone rang relentlessly – texts, emails and every other form of social media searched for my identity. Friends took the mickey, tree-huggers demanded capital punishment and the National Distrust immediately cancelled my membership. All of this I could cope with, but by far the greatest aggravation was the press as they fell over each other for a slice of the pie.

I spoke to the Daily Mail and The Telegraph on a first-come, first-served basis, keen to establish that I was not the Daniel Graham in question and to prevent the weird and wonderful from flocking to my door. The rest of the press flooded in with their note pads eager for a scoop, but I told them all the same thing: ‘No money, no story! I have a business to run.’ None of them wanted to pay and some left it at that, but what really annoyed me was their sheer persistence. They continued to phone and pester me to the point where I had to become extremely blunt in my responses. They then produced their own articles for their own papers, all based on the original interviews I’d given to the Mail and Telegraph, but bulked with fabrication and quotes which I was alleged to have made, but never had.

One claimed I’d said ‘this could end my business’, which was completely untrue.

I’m a self-employed sole trader and have had the chance of work every single day since leaving school. The way I see it, the only thing that could end my business would be my own demise. I would have much preferred it if the headline in The Mirror had read: ‘The real Daniel Graham tells our reporter to “f—k off as I have a business to run.”’ Alas, this was not to be.

As well as getting on with running a business and being the running joke in the local pub, I’ve been trialling some workwear for Ariat Clothing which I’ve certainly put through its paces. First up is the blue hoodie, which is strong, durable and I’m yet to rip off the front pocket. A handy little extra you’ll find with this garment is a small pocket that’s perfect for your car keys and the accumulation of copious amounts of sawdust while disking firewood.

I have to be honest in all of this in that I feel a little uncomfortable wearing designer clothes at work. I can usually be found in oil-stained high-viz-clad cheap Primark attire and my blue hoodie looked a bit at odds with my Primark-clad workforce. It was a little like the boy who gets a new sweater for Christmas who then gets a stern reprimand for getting it muddy. However, it wasn’t long before my beautiful new blue Ariat hoodie blended in seamlessly with my other soiled garments on the back seat of the pickup. Conclusion: I like it. Comfortable, strong, warm, but not too hot. Probably a little too fashionable for the woods, but you’d look the dogs bollocks on a building site with a little high-viz waistcoat on top.

Certainly a great choice for a first date.

Then there’s the Ariat brown shirt. Again, I’m not really a shirt type of bloke and I don’t know anyone under 50 years old who is. As it was a free trial I tucked it into my trousers and headed into the woods, chainsaw in hand, looking for all the world like Steve Irwin. Instead of a crocodile, I rolled my Husqvarna around a hemlock in a breathable-collared fashion, being able to button up to the neck, thereby preventing sawdust from venturing down the inside of the garment and irritating the waistline. In order to prevent a red card from the forestry manager (and to keep my street cred intact) I went back to the high viz.

Overall, it’s a very nice working-man’s shirt. Was I ever to return to British Colonial India in the late 1800s  to hunt tiger and elephant, then the Ariat brown shirt would be my shirt of choice.

Danny was very much impressed with his Ariat clothing Danny was very much impressed with his Ariat clothing (Image: FJ/DG)

The sun is now shining in the north of England and the ground is finally managing to dry out. As a consequence of nine months of rain, the countryside is teeming with life. The grass is knee high already, lambs are racing round the fields, fencers are fencing, farmers are farming, ploughing and drilling and the young rooks have already fledged. The only thing showing reluctance for life in the Northumbrian countryside is the ash tree. I did some work a few years ago on the south coast just as ash dieback was beginning to have an impact and knew it would cast its cloak of destruction northwards. I also knew that when it did, my phone would start ringing.

Northumberland’s hedgerows are filled with mature ash trees and of a density I haven’t seen in other parts of the UK. I have now received several calls from farmers and have a felling list of over 60. I suppose after the tabloids labelled me as ‘the oversized logger specialist’ I must be the man for the job. I really don’t like them due to their unpredictability, but I’m developing some safe ideas and will proceed with caution.