March 21, 2009

Kielder Forest - from axe & crosscut saw to computer

Northumberland, Forestry, Kielder, mechanisation, tree harvesting

By Clive Dalton & Donald Clegg

The first harvest
When the first trees planted on Smale in 1927 were ready to be cut down 50-60 years later, the technology available to forest workers was the axe to scarf the tree and a crosscut saw to cut it down. The tree had then to be 'snedded' by with the axe, and then measured with a tape before cutting into the required length. It was skilled job with plenty of danger involved with trees doing unexpected things. It was also hard physical work. This was the vision that Lord Robinson brought to the North Tyne forestry industry.

Don has recently videod this Robot-like machines doing the work of a dozen manual labourers, felling, stripping off branches and sizing the logs for collection using a combination of driver skill and the marvels of computer control. Take a look at this video shot this year:

video
Click the arrow at bottom left & turn the sound up to chop down a tree!

As Daft Laddies we do often wonder if the world is really a better place for all this technology? Just as milking machines caused turmoil up the North Tyne in the 1950s (have a look at these posts for more about that!), robots harvesting tree crops will amaze and dismay the modern day observer of the Kielder forest at work.

With Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) system, the position of every tree in a forest can be defined. The next step could be a tree harvester that doesn't have a human in the cab!

What on earth would the late Will Elliott and John Oliver, veteran forest workers of the past think of this machine?

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