Farmer John Brown of Thornton in Leicestershire converted all his land from agricultural production to forestry in the early years of the National Forest project. The woodland mostly native broadleaves with pockets of pine and spruce are now ready for thinning. It was in Brown’s Wood in mid-June that forestry consultant Liz Sharkey and oakleaf Forestry’s Joe Litter introduced woodland owners, managers, and contractors to a range of machinery that may prove eminently suitable for operations in the region’s woodlands. Formerly involved in forestry contracting herself, Liz Sharkey has been running her management and consultancy business operates UK-wide, Liz has stamped her mark in the English Midlands and now manages around 30 estate woodlands in the area. She has already produced over 60 10-year woodland management plans.
Oakleaf Forestry arranged for three harvesting units to demonstrate their capabilities to the professionals on the Brown’s Wood site – the Vimek 404 Duo and Sampo Rosenlew’s HR46 harvester and FR28 forwarder. The latter machine featured courtesy of Practicality Brown and MD Alistair Beddal also agreed to bring his recently delivered Prinoth Raptor up from the Home Counties to demonstrate its formidable mulching capabilities.
The Vimek 404 Duo is a true mini-harvesting system. Efficiency is essential to achieve financial viability in the earliest thinnings, especially where forest holdings are small in area. A single operator can complete both harvesting and extraction of the produce and can be ready to move on to another site as soon as the contract is completed. The lightweight makes intersite movement eminently suitable for agricultural tractor/low loader handling. The working length of the machine in forwarder mode is 9.25m, but for transportation, this can be reduced by showing the trailer neck beneath the rear harvester axle.
While Finnish machinery manufacturer Sampo Rosenlew has recently developed a 21-tonne eight-wheeled harvester, its dedicated thinning harvester the HR46 stems from a concept developed almost a quarter of a century ago. Continuous modification of the design has produced an extremely productive harvester that can be delivered at 8000kg in weight and with a width of only 2.1m if required. The base of the 7.1m reach crane is positioned close below the operator; stability of the machine is thus improved, as is the operator’s ground-level view of the stems to be removed in the thinning operation. Cab design has been developed not only to improve the comfort of the operator at the controls but also to allow the eyes to flick upwards to the canopy to ensure the optimum selection is being made.
It cannot be denied that adapting a cut to length system – motor/manual or mechanised – to operate efficiently in scattered multi-owner expanses of forestry, such as the National Forest, has its complexities. Getting the cut produce out to a location where it has a monetary value should provide less of a headache for the forest works manager. Sampo Rosenlew’s FR28 forwarder has turned out to provide the ideal power/weight ratio for Practicality Brown’s forestry operations. Managing director Alistair Beddall has been on the hunt for a suitable extraction system for some years. The ability to maximise value from the harvested crop was of prime importance and Practicality Brown took possession of the first FR28 supplied to the UK by Joe Litter and Oakleaf Forestry.
(Forestry Journal, 2021)