A premium festival celebrating the great British countryside, the Game Fair returned to Ragley Hall, Warwickshire last month to kickstart the long-dormant events calendar. And this year, forestry was out in force.

THE summer of 2019 feels like a long, long time ago. The memories of the forestry events held that year – the last of significant size to be held in the UK – have grown considerably hazy in the two years since.

The cancellation of this year’s APF was a frustrating but understandable blow to all those who had been hoping for a return to normality. But anyone who made the trip to the showground at Ragley Estate in Warwickshire last month would at least have enjoyed a taste of what the forestry show season can offer.

The Game Fair 2021 opened a few days after the lifting of COVID restrictions and amid sweltering heat on Friday 23 July, running for three days.

An annual gathering for people passionate about countryside pursuits, it boasted more than 800 exhibitors and activities based around shooting, gamekeeping, fishing, falconry and much more, with forestry well catered for in the Land and Estates section.

This year, for the first time, Forestry Journal hosted the Forestry Journal Pavilion, providing an additional draw for forestry professionals in the absence of any other large shows for the sector in 2021.

Forestry Journal: Assistant editor Fraser Rummens and editor John McNee at the Forestry Journal stand.Assistant editor Fraser Rummens and editor John McNee at the Forestry Journal stand.

Visitors had the chance to meet the core editorial team on the stand, access exclusive subscription deals and pick up a free copy, while joining the team on the Pavilion were dealers SB Forestry, Ufkes Greentec UK and Home Forestry.

Eco Log was the star of SB Forestry’s stand with a 574D forwarder on display as well as a 590F harvester with Logmax 7000, courtesy of owner John Owen of Top Log Forestry.

SB Forestry’s Scott Burton said: “The Game Fair offers us a great shop window at a time when we’ve had nothing else – no demos, nothing. I know we’ll get tremendous footfall and you only need one good customer to make the whole weekend worth it.”

Forestry Journal: The Eco Log 574D forwarder on show.The Eco Log 574D forwarder on show.

The Borders-based company was announced as the new UK dealer for Eco Log last year. The 590F on the stand was the first one it had sold since taking on the contract.

Scott said: “The numbers on the 590F basically outstrip every other competitor on the market. It’s been hidden for a while, but now’s the time when people are starting to look at bigger timber and higher volumes of production and with the right material this will do a hundred tonnes an hour.”

John Owen backed up that claim, adding: “I’ve been doing this work since 1993 so I’ve tried a few different machines. With the 590F it was the reach on the crane, allowing me to work over steep banks, that attracted me. Also, it suits the kind of ground we work on. The previous machine I had was very unreliable. I didn’t know much about Scott when I first approached him, but I’d read a lot about the Eco Log. Thus far, I’m overly pleased with its performance. It’s quiet, comfortable, reliable, very economical and it does the job.”

Forestry Journal: John Owen of Top Log Forestry with his Eco Log 590F harvester.John Owen of Top Log Forestry with his Eco Log 590F harvester.

South Shropshire-based harvesting company and forest machinery dealer Home Forestry showcased the Alstor 840 Pro mini forwarder and much more.

Owner Nathan Home said: “After lockdown, it’s really good that we can start coming out and doing shows and events. We’ve always been passionate about coming to the Game Fair, due to our shooting backgrounds. We’re very proud to be here with a good stand and a wide range of equipment from Alstor and Rabaud, plus the Workbox, which we produce ourselves.”

Forestry Journal: The Alstor 840 Pro mini forwarder on the Home Forestry stand.The Alstor 840 Pro mini forwarder on the Home Forestry stand.

The Alstor 840 Pro on the stand was a combi model set up with a Jobo ST50 stroke harvesting head from Finnish manufacturer Syketec, for which Home Forestry is now the official agent for England and Wales. Designed for first and second thinnings, the harvesting head has a maximum single cut of 30 cm and can delimb 25 cm down to around 2 cm.

Nathan said: “It’s suited for small woodlands, especially where low ground impact is key with smallish volumes of maybe a few hundred tonnes. It takes about 10 minutes to change from the grapple on the forwarder to the harvesting head. It’s very simple. It’s a small machine with 5.4 m of reach and good for herringbone thinning.”

Forestry Journal: The Home Forestry stand.The Home Forestry stand.

On Ufkes Greentec UK’s stand, Lee Richardson was keen to highlight the new Cheetah 30 3.5 tonne road-towable chipper.

Most of the chippers Ufkes Greentec UK has sold have been tracked versions, but the road-towable unit on the stand garnered a lot of interest from visitors. He said: “It’s got a Stage V Kubota diesel engine with 75 horsepower, a fully hydraulic system for chute and flipper, and a combination hopper for hand feeding and crane feeding. It has full remote control and lever control for the operator. This is a disc chipper but we have drum chippers ordered. It’s a promising machine for the UK market.”

He added that Ufkes Greentec UK expects to receive delivery of some new machines this month, which will be worth shouting about.

Forestry Journal: Lee Richardson and Mark Jibson of Ufkes Greentec UK with the Cheetah 30.Lee Richardson and Mark Jibson of Ufkes Greentec UK with the Cheetah 30.

Over the course of the show, Forestry Journal’s editorial team made efforts to visit every stand of interest to forestry professionals, gathering comments and sharing pictures and video to social media.

However, on Friday afternoon editor John McNee got to take a break from asking the questions, participating in a discussion at the Carter Jonas Theatre.

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Alongside Carter Jonas’ head of natural capital Mark Russell and head of forestry Marc Leibrecht, he was challenged by Fieldsports Channel host Charlie Jacoby to answer the question: ‘Carbon offsetting: Is it all bad?’

Much of the discussion revolved around the PR generated by BrewDog’s recent investment in forestry to reach ‘carbon negativity’, the advantages to pursuing and promoting such activity – and the pitfalls.

Forestry Journal: Forestry Journal editor John McNee (far right) in conversation with Charlie Jacoby, Carter Jonas’ head of natural capital Mark Russell and head of forestry Marc Leibrecht in the Carter Jonas Theatre.Forestry Journal editor John McNee (far right) in conversation with Charlie Jacoby, Carter Jonas’ head of natural capital Mark Russell and head of forestry Marc Leibrecht in the Carter Jonas Theatre.

On the Fuelwood stand there was excitement about finally being able to bang the drum about the Uniforest range of winches and processors.

Fuelwood took the brand on around 18 months ago, adding to the extensive list of well-regarded brands for which it is a dealer, including Japa, Heizohack, GROS, FTG-Mowi, FTG-Moheda, Plaisance, AMR and more.

Forestry Journal: The Fuelwood team (l–r): Nick Ironside, Neal Hussey, Danny Shepard, Ben Billing and Nick Marshall.The Fuelwood team (l–r): Nick Ironside, Neal Hussey, Danny Shepard, Ben Billing and Nick Marshall.

Danny Shepard, sales manager at Fuelwood (Warwick), said: “It’s a very well-built range of machinery and it fills a gap for us. Previously, we didn’t have any winches and we’ve been after a range for a long time. Their processors are built like tanks and have gone down really well, combined with the Fuelwood back-up and support we offer and which we’re renowned for. We did shift a few units in lockdown. Now that shows are open again we’re hoping we can hit the ground running and they’ll really take off.”

He added that Fuelwood would be hosting demo days at its bases in Devon on 10–11 September, Warwick on 23–25 September and in Scotland on 9–10 October, offering visitors the chance to see its range of equipment in action.

For site clearance and biomass specialist Kingwell Holdings, this year marked its first appearance at the Game Fair, with a stand primed to impress with its top-of-the-line mulching technology.

Forestry Journal: A VTN W1100 tree shear on a custom-built Hyundai HS260 on Kingwell’s stand.A VTN W1100 tree shear on a custom-built Hyundai HS260 on Kingwell’s stand.

Managing director Justin Kingwell said: “We’ve had plenty of footfall and plenty of good customers, so no complaints. I’m always excited to talk to people about mulchers, but we also recently acquired an operation in Scotland, so I’ve been excited to talk to people about that.”

Forestry Journal: The Kingwell team.The Kingwell team.

Among the array of machinery on the stand was a Serrat FX swinging hammer mulcher, TMC forestry tiller, Kingwell’s own portable incinerators and the new Dipperfox stump drill, which Justin described as “basically a low-speed stump auger which goes on everything from a 14-tonne to a 20-tonne”.

An AHWI RT400 mulcher sat alongside a new addition to the fleet – a Valtra T252 tractor and Jenz HEM 560 chipper – and across from an eye-catching custom-built Hyundai HS260 with VTN W1100 tree shear in hot pink.

Brought down from Kingwell’s Scottish operation was a custom-built 450 hp low-ground-pressure power pack.

Justin explained: “It looks like an excavator, but the only bits originally from an excavator are the boom and the dipper and lift cylinders in the cab. Everything else is custom built at our yard in Moffat. It’s got a big Merc V8 at the back and powers super-high-performance attachments. We have a number of these machines in Scotland working continuously on mulching or stump removal.”

Forestry Journal: Kingwell’s custom-built power pack.Kingwell’s custom-built power pack.

A short walk from Kingwell was the stand of forest road repair specialist MP & KM Golding, which caught the attention of attendees by bringing along a 2.8-tonne Wacker Neuson excavator with Steelwrist attachment and Wacker Neuson dumper.

Director Kate Golding explained these were two of the smallest machines in the company’s fleet, typically used for work on footpaths, but were all they had available as everything else was out working.

Commenting on the show, she said: “I think it’s been great because there have been so many people that have come and it’s just nice to be out and about again. We’re quite a specialist service, so we wouldn’t expect every person to stop here, but we’ve had a good level of enquiries, which is nice to see.”

Forestry Journal: Kate, Mark and Tash of MP and KM Golding.Kate, Mark and Tash of MP and KM Golding.

A few stands along, tree shear specialist NCD Equipment showcased equipment from TMK, Augertorque and Rabaud as well Mecalac excavators, for which it recently became a dealer.

NCD is now responsible for retailing Mecalac’s acclaimed MWR, MCR and 15MC range of excavators across Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire.

Founder and managing director Nick Dinsdale said: “It’s nice to reconnect with existing customers and have some new ones come on the stand. The good thing about the Game Fair is it’s quite a broad mix of people who attend. A lot of agricultural and other industries as well as forestry, which works for us quite well.

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“I’m always excited to talk to people about the TMK tree shears. It’s a small, family-run business from Finland and they’re incredibly passionate about the products they make. I’m passionate too. Their tree shears started my company, so I feel a connection there.

“We’re now selling the Mecalac excavator range. It’s been around for a few years, but the MCR crawler skid excavator is a new concept – a skid steer and excavator in one. Like many new concepts, it takes a while for people to fully understand it, so it’s nice for them to be able to see it here.”

Machinery dealer and rotor shaft balancing specialist Joe Turner Equipment’s stand also proved worth a visit, with a range of forest attachments for tractors and excavators including Lipa forest head shredders, Agriforest grabs and Bomford Buccaneer forestry mowers.

Nick Turner said he was being kept busy with demand from customers, adding: “There’s a bit of money available at the moment and people are spending. When they do, they want delivery immediately. That’s one of the reasons we’ve invested so heavily in stock. If we’re selling it, it’s because we’ve got it.”

Not many exhibitors in the Land and Estates section were able to show their machines working, but among those who were was Avant.

Forestry Journal: The Avant stand.The Avant stand.

Its compact, fully electric loader, the E6, was shown working with a range of attachments, as was the Leguan spider lift which Avant recently introduced to the UK from Finland. There are five Leguan models – 125, 135, 165 and 190 – with maximum working heights ranging from 12.5 to 19 metres and with maximum outreach from 6.3 to 9.8 metres.

Sales and marketing director John Spencer said: “Our loaders are aimed at forestry, arb, agriculture, construction and more. Because we’ve got over 200 attachments, we can go into many different sectors. With no emissions, no fumes, no noise, they’re ideal bits of kit for most industries.

“We were the first on the market to bring electric loaders to full manufacture, but it’s now building momentum with everyone wanting to go greener. Electric machinery in general is coming to the forefront of everyone’s mind.

“The Leguan spider lift is aimed at a growing market in the forestry and arb sector. Tree climbing is going away a bit and people want machinery to get into trees. Health and safety is a key advantage, but because it has the large tracks, it can go anywhere – tight spaces, across undulating ground. It makes getting up into trees a lot safer without the need for ropes and things. It’s much better for the operator.”

Forestry Journal: the Ventrac 4500T all-terrain tractor.the Ventrac 4500T all-terrain tractor.

Also attracting healthy crowds with regular demonstrations was Price Turfcare, showing off the Ventrac 4500T all-terrain tractor and its various attachments.

Described as the ‘estate manager’s Swiss Army knife’, the American-made tractor is fit for lifting logs, mowing, stump grinding and much more, with the ability to handle slopes of up to 30 degrees making it suitable for some hillier estates.

The Ventrac was just one of numerous tractors on display at the show from brands including John Deere, Kubota, Mitsubishi, Iseki and Farmtrac, debuting the FT25G, the industry’s first fully electric tractor.

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The FT25G was far from the only electric vehicle to capture the attention of crowds at the show. Marc Monsarrat was kept busy on the Eco Charger electric quad stand with questions from attendees interested to learn more about the lithium battery-powered Dominator and Pure quad bikes.

He said: “The last year has seen a growing awareness of electric vehicles in general. People are now looking that way. Some are surprised to hear there are electric quads, but they have a lot of advantages. You can hear the birds in the trees, there’s no engine vibration, so you’ll be a lot less tired at the end of the day and running costs are 10 times lower than a petrol quad. So if you want to pursue zero emissions and help preserve the planet, it’s the way to go.”

Forestry Journal: Marc Monsarrat on the Eco Charger stand.Marc Monsarrat on the Eco Charger stand.

Other quads and ATVs were on display from Suzuki, TH White, John Deere (running an ATV demo track) and Polaris, sharing a stand with gunmaker E.J. Churchill.

Among the range on display were the popular Ranger Diesel UTV and the Sportsman 570, its next-generation ATV model for 2021.

Off-road enthusiasts had other reasons to visit the show – not least the new Isuzu D-Max which could be taken for a test drive on site. Also attracting a lot of attention was a prototype of the Ineos Grenadier, a rugged, utilitarian 4x4 which is yet to have its official launch.

Forestry Journal: The Iseki stand.The Iseki stand.

While visitors were impressed with the vehicles, equipment and machinery on display, a common complaint voiced on the Forestry Journal stand was that businesses related to forest management or consultancy were mostly notable by their absence. With growing interest in woodland among farmers and landowners – a hefty slice of the Game Fair audience – it was felt this was a missed opportunity.

Without the presence of the Forestry Commission and other authoritative bodies, most enquiries about tree planting, grants and the Carbon Code had to be fielded by the Forestry Journal team, the Woodland Trust or Tilhill.

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Simon Marrington, Tilhill’s area manager for Yorkshire and the North East, said: “We’ve had quite a lot of interest in the new England Woodland Creation offer. The amount of money available has gone up considerably under that grant, which has helped generate quite a lot of interest in new tree planting at scale.

“A lot of the interest is coming from farmers who are looking to diversify and want to know what opportunities are out there. It’s uncertain times for things going forward, so woodlands look like quite a good bet.

“We’ve also had enquiries from people who are already woodland owners but are having issues with management. We’re helping to promote the grants that are available and offering our professional advice on tree health and things like that. Dieback is a subject that keeps cropping up in conversation and there’s a lot of interest in dealing with the aftermath of Chalara infections.”

Forestry Journal: The show remained busy across the three days, and it stayed dry, thankfully.The show remained busy across the three days, and it stayed dry, thankfully.

Though forecasters had predicted grey skies on Friday followed by thunderstorms on Saturday and Sunday, leading many to expect a washout, the weather stayed dry and bright throughout, encouraging a steady stream of visitors through the gates for all three days.

For anyone with an interest in forestry and who had never attended the Game Fair before, the event made for quite an experience, with plenty of machinery and equipment to see and people to speak to, complemented by the chance to browse an array of shotguns, enjoy some pony races, buy a panama hat or indulge in some pheasant goujons and foie gras ice cream.

While many had been doubtful it would happen, it proved to be a fantastic event, overriding anxieties and reinvigorating the excitement of show season.

And judging by how many visitors to the Forestry Journal Pavilion asked the question “When’s the APF?”, it looks certain that when that show returns, it will be one to remember.

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