Kenny McGregor, Arboricultural Officer, Cambridge City Council

“Just being in [the forest as a child] … nothing else really interested me. I just wanted to be working outside in the trees. I didn’t know what that was. But that was what I wanted to do. And I damn well stuck to it.” – Kenny McGregor

Kenny is an arboricultural officer, biodiversity officer, educator, advocate, urban planter, and hippy horticulturist with Cambridge City Council.

Kenny’s job is to look after the city council tree stock – 33,000 trees and counting – and keep them in a safe condition, monitor their health, replacement/succession planting and deliver public engagement. In a lifetime of loving and working with trees, Kenny has found you just have to get hands on, there’s only so much you can learn from a book. But the moment Kenny talks about trees, or takes them on a tree tour, peoples’ eyes light up. 

Kenny is fascinated by trees. There are so many ways to teach others about trees, even a complaint can be an opportunity to explain how valuable a tree is. Just dropping an old dead hawthorn to its side, pegging the bottom so it doesn’t roll around, helps people to slow down, sit and look around at the woods. Each species has its quirks and their own strategy for survival that works holistically with their environment. Even in really poor environments and incredibly tough conditions, some trees find a way to grow, have a capability to avoid death, and to allow themselves to collapse, in order to re root and regrow from the ground again. Kenny emphasises we are still learning to understand trees better, to understand their interactions with their environment for example, or the importance of balance in landscapes.

Kenny believes being drawn to trees is a human thing – it’s in us. Trees are always a focal point, as a shelter, or shade or as a mark in the landscape. Trees have been doing what they’re doing for hundreds of thousands of years, and humans are just a fraction of that. We can learn so much from trees, so Kenny recommends visiting any old veteran tree. He can show you where to go or you can discover for yourself. Go on to the ancient tree Forum website, find an old tree and just stand and have a think about it. You’ll be a better person walking away.