Mark Beach

Timber Harvesting in the Lake District with Mark Beach

It has been a few years since I last saw Mark Beach and there have been many changes to his business since.

He still has the large workshop in Tebay where he repairs, maintains and services forestry machines, timber wagon cranes, forklifts, and chippers but two years ago the lure of being out in the forest returned and Mark re-kindled his love for timber harvesting.

Working throughout Northwest England and the Lake District, Mark currently has a Ponsse Fox Harvester, with a H6 harvesting head, a Ponsse Wisent Forwarder, and a Valmet Tractor with a Junkkari 10 tonne forwarding trailer for secondary extraction.

As I got near to the pin he had sent to my phone, I began to wonder whether we were on the right road as it was a narrow twisty track with some tight corners for the Jeep to manoeuvre round let alone a timber lorry. When my phone said we had arrived I was pleased to see a forestry entrance leading down a single-track road and Mark’s sign written service van.

The privately owned forest was in three sections separated by fields and was a mixture of Sitka Spruce and Larch. A considerable amount of the Sitka had fallen victim to Storm Arwen, so it was a case of clearing up the damaged areas and thinning out the remaining standing trees.

The larch was infected with Phytophthora ramorum so all of those had to be removed. The majority of storm damaged timber was mature and averaging over 2m³, many were too big for the PONSSE Fox/H6, so Mark had a chainsaw operator on site to butt off the larger trees and remove the first couple of sawlogs until they were a manageable size.

The Fox and the Wisent are a good combination, as they are extremely capable in all types of harvesting work from first thinning to clearfelling.

These narrow, low impact PONSSE machines suit Mark’s work ethos as a lot of his work is on privately owned estates where versatility is important.


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Mark was operating the harvester, and his twin brother Wayne was operating the forwarder. Mark came over as soon as he saw us, and it gave me the opportunity to find out why he had returned to timber harvesting.

“This would be frowned upon today, but Wayne and I started using Sachs Dolmar chainsaws in the forest when we were just nine years old”, said Mark. “Our dad, John Beach, worked in the forest near Bala in North Wales, and we couldn’t wait for the weekends and school holidays so we could go out with him. Everything was hand cut back then and we had a Massey Ferguson 135 for extracting the trees.

We carried out first thinnings and the wood was crosscut into 1m lengths and handballed onto one of my dad’s three timber lorries before heading off to Bowaters pulp mill in Ellesmere Port.

“As time went on, we invested in a Highland Bear forwarding trailer from James Jones and Sons Engineering Division at Larbert, we progressed to a Nokka trailer and then we bought the first Patu drive trailer in the UK from GR Smith. The trailer had hydraulic drive and was constantly blowing the seals in the motors. Next up was our first forwarder, a six-wheel drive Volvo BM 868, this had the chain driven rear bogies and was a grand old tool. I knew every single nut, bolt and washer on the Volvo lol. We worked all over the country with the Volvo, Sherwood Forest, the Lake District, Delamere Forest in Cheshire and throughout Derbyshire.

“I left my dad in the early nineties and went to work for Gavin Arris operating a Bruunett Harvester that had been converted by Gavin himself from an 868 forwarder by Emmex forestry. The crane was removed from the cab’s roof and installed on the rear frame and an FMG 740 harvesting head replaced the timber grapple, it was a great little thinnings harvester.

I then moved on to operate a Silvatec harvester with a Cranab crane before Jeff Proud approached me. I worked for Jeff up until 2003. At that time, I had a young family, and I wanted a bit less travelling, so I joined Komatsu Forest as an engineer and was involved with setting up new machines and training operators.

A few years later, an opportunity arose to work for Peter Irvine at his sawmill in Kirby Longsdale, this involved maintaining and repairing all the equipment in the mill. I enjoyed this as it was something completely different and increased my engineering knowledge.

“11 years ago, I decided to take the bull by the horns and set up on my own as a forestry and timber haulage engineer.”

I can imagine running both the workshop and the harvesting side will be difficult and finding a balance between the two hard, so I asked Mark how he manages.

“Tina runs the office and I’ve got two good engineers, Robbie and Tom, who take care of all the jobs that come into the workshop, plus Woody, a retired gentleman, loves helping out. I go to the workshop every morning to see what’s what and prioritise work before coming onto the harvester. I have the fully equipped service van so if there is any emergency callouts/breakdowns I am able to jump in the van and deal with them.

It’s hard work, but it has been working well, there is always enough wood on the ground for Wayne on the forwarder, the workshop is running smoothly, and I have managed to keep on top of any emergencies.”

This wasn’t the easiest of jobs as most of the timber was down a steep, narrow and twisty single-track road, the main road to the forest entrance wasn’t much better either so I asked Mark how they were moving the timber.

“I’ve got a young lad, Ewan who’s better known as Mowdy, on secondary extraction with the Valmet and trailer. He takes the wood from the landing up the narrow track and down the road to a yard a few miles away where it is picked up by wagon and drag. I think I have kind of adopted Mowdy as although he is now full time, he has been coming to work with us on weekends and school holidays since he was a young lad lol.”

Mark enjoys operating the harvester and although it is an awkward site with steep areas he is managing to harvest and extract without traction aids.
“The TRS tread pattern tyres are brilliant for getting grip, we are finding we can do a lot of jobs purely on rubber which is a lot kinder to extraction routes and forest roads.”

Both machines were bought second hand from Ponsse, the Fox had 4,000 hours and the Wisent 2,000 hours

“They have both performed really well,” said Mark “although this timber is a bit on the big side for harvesting, the Fox is a really economical harvester that performs brilliantly.”

I asked Mark how the work situation was.

“A couple of weeks back we exhibited at the Westmorland County Show. Their dedicated forestry section had some brilliant demonstrations on throughout the day. There were chainsaw carvers and lots of stalls specialising in forestry equipment, axemen, two man crosscut saws and chainsaw skills competitions. We were delighted with the enquiries we received, and some have progressed to submitting prices. This was a much better show than the APF as it is both local and attended by a whopping 37,000 visitors.”

This was a very tidy worksite done by a professional team who take great pride in their work. I asked Mark if all his work involves secondary extraction with the Valmet and trailer.

“We have just landed a contract to keep some of the roads clear of snow over the winter months so we will use the Valmet for this as well, it will be based out of our workshop in Tebay.”

Mark then suggested we visit the workshop to see the changes that have been made there since our last visit.

The large workshop is just off the M6 at Tebay, and it is here that Mark and his team can offer a comprehensive service, including repairing, maintaining and servicing forestry machines, timber wagon cranes, forklifts and chippers. Mark has a wealth of knowledge and experience in sawmilling and fabrication and is also a certified LOLER inspector. He is also the UK sales and service distributor for the quality equipment from Finnish manufacturer Kesla.
As soon as I entered the workshop, I saw a County 1004 James Jones and Sons Highlander Skidder. It was immaculate and had been fully restored, this was a real bonus as it’s not often you see one in this condition. Another County was being restored for a customer and was stripped down completely, as a lot of the cosmetic bodywork had rusted away and would need cutting out and replacing.

An interesting project that was underway was with a small Vahva Jussi forwarding trailer with roller drive. It was in the process of being converted to a small mobile chipper. A tipping chip collector had been fitted at the front of the trailer and a chipper was to be installed behind this. It would be independently powered with a small engine to drive the hydraulic pump mounted at the rear.

This was a completely self-contained unit, the draw bar had been lengthened so that the operator could stand between the quad and trailer and operate the crane to feed the chipper. This to me summed up what the workshop was all about, it’s not only installations, repairs and servicing but being able to work along with customers to bring to life unique projects.

The workshop is a hub for the local farming forestry and haulage community with all the nuts and bolts, bits and pieces and oils and grease on the shelf. There is a comprehensive hydraulic workshop where all sizes and single to multi spiral can be made to order. Mark is currently working on a one stop shop at his premises where customers can purchase a huge range of items off the shelf from work clothing and safety wear to all sorts of spares and accessories for forestry, farming, haulage and commercial vehicles. This will be open for business later this year.

It is always a pleasure catching up with Mark as his enthusiasm and can-do attitude is contagious.

The workshop in Tebay and Marks service van.

Mark’s restored County 1004 Highlander Skidder.

Mowdy heading off to the lorry pick up point.

Wayne next to the Ponsse Wisent.

Mark with his Ponsse Fox

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