We visit the Sussex/Kent border to meet a man who uses venerable, but well-maintained machinery for timber extraction and reforestation.
Brodie Ross Thompson Hall has been working with trees since completing his time at Harper Adams Agricultural College in the early 1970s. He says he was born with a chainsaw in his hand!
His family has its roots in Dundee, Scotland – his grandfather was a sergeant in The Black Watch regiment, and his father had a fascinating life, too. He started as an ambulance driver during the Spanish Civil War and was later a Hurricane fighter pilot in the East Africa campaign.
While in the RAF, he was shot down in the North Africa campaign, on June 24th, 1940. His leg had to be amputated by a German doctor, who did a good job. Later, he was a flight commander in the Indian Air Force and met his wife, who was in the WAAF, when he landed back in England after his time as a prisoner of war.
They eventually settled, running the Blacksmith’s Arms, near Tunbridge Wells, and made a great success of the venture – enabling them to take up the tenancy of the farm from which Brodie operates today, in 1987.
The countryside, timber and coppice care has been Brodie’s life and continues to be, even though he is now 72. In his early days, back in the 1970s, he set up with another fellow to supply pulpwood on a weekly basis to Bowaters of Sittingbourne, Kent, for its extensive paper-making operation.
During his career he was also marketing/sales manager for Euroforest Ltd, which he says was a challenging job at times. Naturally, these roles provided him with the knowledge and experience that has left him in good stead for the environmental situation we’re in today.
In his early days, he used Fordson Majors of all types, and even had a Roadless 115 with Ransomes trailer. When he needed parts to keep the fleet going, he turned to East Sussex used tractor dealer/parts supplier Dougie Upton, who he had a good working relationship with.
Brodie’s tractors perhaps never looked the best but, mechanically, his equipment was always in great order – which is a trait that continues to this day. The venerable fleet is ready to go at a moment’s notice which is good as, on my visit, Brodie was negotiating the purchase of 30 acres of coppice timber that he had cut down and replanted 30 years ago!
For taking the timber away he uses a four-wheel-drive, 1984 Bedford TM that’s fitted with a 1990 Hiab 090 4.55-ton crane, and a flatbed body with the obligatory timber stakes.
Also in the fleet is a 1970 Ford 4000 with Lambourn cab that has 5,040 hours on the clock, having been supplied new by Testers of Edenbridge. On the back is a PTO-driven Rabaud Biface 240 post-pointer.
Brodie still uses a Fordson Diesel Major in his fleet, too, and this one is an early example with Super Major wheels on the front and wide rims on the rear, as well as a Horndraulic loader. The engine was rebuilt several years ago, allowing the tractor to continue performing a useful role despite its advancing years.
In the shed I spotted a clean, 1968 Ford 5000 fitted with a Boughton HDF/25 winch. It features a huge anchor and was used before Brodie bought it to pull a large ‘drag’ back and forth. It has a Sekura cab frame attached.
The tractor that’s used more than the others is a 1987 Ford 8210 Generation III with 7,214 hours behind it. Originally supplied by Invicta Motors of Canterbury, the tractor runs a Hakki Pilke firewood processor, which is used every week on various jobs, and is an essential tool for turning trees into logs for the fire.
Various excavators are also key to Brodie’s operation, including a three-ton, 2001 Komatsu PC27R with special attachments for lifting the lighter timber out of the woods, but the pièce de résistance is a c1986 Rottne forwarder based on a Ford Series 10 skid unit.
These famous machines are still made in Sweden, with the company taking its first steps in the industry in 1955. It’s an impressive machine to watch in action, particularly in the hands of a skilled operator.
Unfortunately, time waits for no man, and Brodie and his wife see a new farming adventure looming in Wales during the next few years, which means much of the equipment will be sold off. Look out for an announcement, more than likely in spring next year.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Brodie, and was entertained by his enthusiasm, as well as impressed by his well-maintained fleet of specialist machinery.
This feature comes from a recent issue of Tractor & Machinery, and you can get a money-saving subscription to this magazine simply by clicking HERE
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