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Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT

Big Logs at Tarn Hows
Big Logs at Tarn Hows

First day’s tandem.

Big Logs at Tarn Hows

by Chris Wadsworth
photos by Simon Lenihan of England

The felling and extraction operation at the Lake District beauty spot of Tarn Hows in the summer and autumn of 2004, was done in often appalling weather, and in the full glare of publicity. It must rank as one of the most spectacular pieces of horse logging, or indeed of commercial horse work done in these islands in recent years. [tarn is a small lake, ed.]

Tarn Hows is a major tourist honey pot near Coniston in the south of the Lake District National Park, attracting up to 300,000 visitors a year. Together with 4000 acres of the former Monk Coniston Estate, it is owned by the National Trust. In its present form, it is a result of an exercise in landscape engineering by James Garth Marshall, the wealthy owner of the estate in the Nineteenth Century. His idea was to create a foreground feature for a panoramic vista of the surrounding high fells, [a fell is a rocky or barren hill, ed.] from Coniston Old Man, by way of the Langdale Pikes, to Fairfield over beyond Ambleside. A valley with three small tarns was dammed, creating a single large tarn fringed with a number of peninsulas, and woods were then planted on the bare slopes to the waters’ edge. Hardwoods were planted with a conifer nurse crop, but lack of management thereafter left the conifers dominating the landscape. By the turn of the 21st century, they were shutting out the high fells they were meant to frame.

The National Trust had long wanted to do something about the trees at Tarn Hows.

Big Logs at Tarn Hows

Home made metal frame to assist side loading.

This is an iconic landscape, with vast numbers of visitors. The Spruce at the edge of the water are huge. The Trust stalled at the idea of the public outcry that would result from the impact of mechanised forestry operations. Irish horse logger Simon Lenihan moved to the Lakes from County Kerry in 2001, and has logged considerable tonnages for the National Trust and others. Simon and his elder sons Simon, Keith, and Ian, with their Belgian Ardennes horses, work good timber in bad places. The Lenihans are very much a family unit, and Simons’ wife, Kate, and the rest of the family tend their other horses whilst the lads are working away. With skill and hard work, they are making a living logging with horses when many conventional operators are going to the wall.

A National Trust manager mentioned the Tarn Hows problem to Simon, and he offered to do the job with horses. The Trust had not considered horses as an option, given the large size of the timber, and the steep climb from the water to the road. However, Simon knew of a Swedish timber bogie over in the North East, and was sure that with this piece of kit, and the power of his horses, the task was possible. The Trust was persuaded, and arranged to hire in the bogie for Simon to use.

Having decided to go ahead, the Trust opted to do the hardest bit first, no doubt reasoning that if they could do that, all the rest would be possible. Work started in July 2004. The area chosen was a low peninsular covered in massive Spruce, with a narrow boggy neck at the landward side, and a steep, rocky, and sometimes wet slope up to the access lane.

Big Logs at Tarn Hows

Tarn Hows water in background.

The Spruce on the peninsular were impressive. The tallest were 121 feet (37 metres) tall, and the largest had a volume of 5.5 cubic metres. The option of felling these trees, and winching the timber across the water to the far bank, had been rejected for reasons of ecological sensitivity, including the presence of Medicinal Leeches in the tarn.

The trees at the waters’ edge had heavy side growth over the water, and it was necessary to climb and partially de-limb each one before felling. The brash was then manually hauled to the neck of the peninsular to build a stock proof barrier to exclude grazing sheep. It is possible that the cleared area will be replanted with hardwoods in the future.

As the trees were felled, they were crosscut to sawlog length, and the process of extraction began. The smaller logs were rolled by hand up ramps lent against the ends of the bunks of the bogie. Larger logs were hauled up the ramps by horse or horses walking at right angles to the bogie. After early efforts with wooden props, a specially fabricated tubular steel unit with fixed ramps proved much more effective. Using the horses to load logs onto the bogie took some practice initially, and there were some cases of logs pulled off the far side, but the horses soon learned to ease off the pull as the log came off the ramp onto the level bunk.

Big Logs at Tarn Hows

Sultan De La Campagnette (Ardennes Stallion)

Simons’ horses are all Belgian Ardennes of the mountain type, shorter and handier than the larger lowland variety. The horses used at Tarn Hows were the stallion Sultan, standing 15 hands, and weighing 750 kilograms, and the mare Hermes, standing 15.1, and weighing 780 kilograms. They work in Nordic harness. On this job, they usually worked as a pair, with Sultan in the bogie shafts, and Hermes ahead in traces.

Big Logs at Tarn Hows

Hermes (Ardennes Mare)

The combination of loads and extraction route on this site were a severe test, even for this fit, powerful, and experienced team. The biggest single logs exceeded 2 tonnes, plus the 325 kg tare weight of the bogie. The route started across the boggy neck of the peninsula, followed by a steep climb up and around a rocky ridge. Near the top there was a tight turn, bringing the trace horse out of draught. The shaft horse had to keep the load moving on his own for several yards, until the trace horse could swing back in line and start pulling again. There followed a long final section, mostly climbing, to the landing. The timber was then moved by tractor forwarder to the lorry loading point.

Big Logs at Tarn Hows

Getting ready for extraction.

As if the job were not hard enough already, the Lake District weather took a hand. In the first half of August 2004, 7.5 inches of rain fell. The neck of the peninsular became a quagmire, and swallowed vast quantities of brash to keep the track open. The climb became rutted and greasy. Horses and men struggled, but the work kept going. The job was extended into September.

Big Logs at Tarn Hows

The largest trees were felled at the end, and the largest log, 12 feet long and just over 4 feet diameter at the butt end, had a calculated weight of 2.1 tonnes. Sultan and Hermes loaded this monster, and hauled it up the bank in style. Over the whole job, in which the Lenihans climbed, felled, crosscut, moved brash, and worked their horses, 170 cubic metres of timber were brought to the top of the bank. On the best days’ extraction, 15 cubic metres was loaded and hauled to the landing.

The works at Tarn Hows were widely publicised and the already popular beauty spot was besieged by spectators. The team often hauled laden bogies into an already narrow landing, in the face of a press of tightly packed onlookers and a barrage of camera flashes. The Ardennes took all in their stride. The Trust managers did their best to relieve the team of most of the public pressure, but some urban comments did cause some bemusement to the loggers.

One day, the team were working on the felling area, and the stallion, standing in the bogie shafts, had nodded off. “Excuse Me,” the lady asked, “Is He Real?”

Big Logs at Tarn Hows

Taking a break.

At another time, in one of the very few adverse comments they received, a lady expressed concern that whilst the men using chainsaws wore helmets with ear protection, the horses did not. It is rumoured that, not long after, a picture was taken of Sultan wearing a safety helmet with ear defenders in place.

The Trust was well pleased with the result, with the overall workmanship, and with the final condition of the cleared site and the extraction route. Most of all, a potential public relations nightmare had been turned into an asset. The Tarn Hows work has lessons for all aspiring Horse Loggers. It is possible to put horses to very hard work full in the public gaze, but your horses and your gear have to be up to the job, in strength, fitness, and temperament. Your skills, both as a woodsman and a horseman must be of a high order. You must keep the Client and the Public on your side.

Well done, the Lenihan Family and their Horses!

Big Logs at Tarn Hows

Spotlight On: Livestock

Ayrshire Ambassadors Cooperative

Ayrshire Ambassadors Cooperative

The Ayrshire Ambassadors Cooperative was founded in 2016 by a group of dairymen who want to be outspoken advocates of the Ayrshire breed. Ayrshires are one of the most cost-effective breeds for dairy farmers, as the breed is known for efficiently producing large quantities of high-quality milk, primarily on a forage diet. These vigorous and hardy cows can be found grazing in the sun, rain, and cold while other breeds often seek shelter.

Changing of Seasons

LittleField Notes: Changing of Seasons

by:
from issue:

We are blessed who are active participants in the life of soil and weather, crops and critters, living a life grounded in seasonal change. This talk of human connection to land and season is not just the rambling romantic musing of an agrarian ideologue. It is rather the result of participating in the deeply vital vocation that is farming and knowing its fruits first hand.

Interpreting Your Horse's Body Language

Interpreting Your Horse’s Body Language

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from issue:

The person who works closely with horses usually develops an intuitive feel for their well-being, and is able to sense when one of them is sick, by picking up the subtle clues from the horse’s body language. A good rider can tell when his mount is having an off day, just by small differences in how the horse travels or carries himself, or responds to things happening around him. And when at rest, in stall or pasture, the horse can also give you clues as to his mental and physical state.

The Broodmare in Fall

The Broodmare in Fall

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from issue:

Mares are not the major emphasis in the fall since they have performed their task of foaling, lactating and being re-bred. After foals are weaned, most breeders tend to focus on weanlings and yearlings that are being prepared for shows, sales and/or performance in the case of long yearlings. Fall management of broodmares is far more critical than some breeders realize and can directly impact foaling and re-breeding successes next year.

Littlefield Notes Making Your Horses Work For You

LittleField Notes: Making Your Horses Work For You Part 1

by:
from issue:

The practical everyday working of horses and mules in harness has always been at the heart of what the Small Farmer’s Journal is about. And like the Journal, a good horse powered farm keeps the horses at the center: the working nucleus of the farm. All the tractive effort for the pulling of machines, hauling in of crops, hauling out of manures, harvesting and planting is done as much as is practicable with the horses.

Collar Hames and Harness Fitting

Collars, Hames and Harness Fitting

Farmers who are good horsemen know everything that is presented here: yet even they will welcome this leaflet because it will refresh their memories and make easier their task when they have to show hired men or boys how to adjust equipment properly. Good horsemen know from long experience that sore necks or sore shoulders on work stock are due to ignorance or carelessness of men in charge, and are inexcusable.

Plant Poisoning in Horses & Cattle

Plant Poisoning in Horses & Cattle

by:
from issue:

There are hundreds of plants that can be toxic to livestock. Some grow in specific regions while others are more widespread. Some are always a serious danger and others only under certain conditions. Poisoning of livestock depends on several factors, including palatability of the plant, stage of development, conditions in which they grew, moisture content of the plant and the part eaten.

Work Horse Handbook

The Work Horse Handbook

The decision to depend on horses or mules in harness for farm work, logging, or highway work is an important one and should not be taken lightly. Aside from romantic notions of involvement in a picturesque scene, most of the considerations are serious.

Cattle Handling Part 2 Use Good Cow Sense When Handling Cattle

Cattle Handling Part 2: Use Good Cow Sense When Handling Cattle

by:
from issue:

Cattle are very intelligent, and are just as “trainable” as horses. Like horses, they “reason” differently than humans. Understanding the way cattle think and why they react to you the way they do can enable you handle them in ways that will help rather than hinder your purposes. If you can “think like a cow” you can more readily predict what cattle will do in various situations and be able to handle them with fewer problems.

Shoeing Stocks

An article from the out-of-print Winter 1982 Issue of SFJ.

Work Bridle Styles

Work Bridle Styles

Here are fourteen work bridle styles taken from a 1920’s era harness catalog. Regional variants came with different names and configurations, so much so that we have elected to identify these images by letter instead of name so you may reference these pictures directly when ordering harness or talking about repairs or fit concerns with trainers or harness makers. In one region some were know as pigeon wing and others referred to them as batwing or mule bridles.

Living With Dairy Goats

Living With Dairy Goats

by:
from issue:

Dairy goats are different than other types of livestock, even Angora goats. They are independent, unimpressed by efforts to thwart their supremacy of the barnyard (or your garden), and like to survey the world from an elevated perch. Though creatures of habit, they will usually pull off some quite unexpected performance the minute you “expect” them to do their usual routine. For the herdsperson who can keep one step ahead of them, they are one of the most enjoyable species of livestock to raise and ideal to small farms.

Types and Breeds of Poultry

From Dusty Shelves: A 1924 article on chicken breeds.

Portable Poultry

Portable Poultry

An important feature of the range shelter described in this circular is that it is portable. Two men by inserting 2x4s through the holes located just below the roost supports and next to the center uprights can easily pick up and move it from one location to another. Frequent moving of the shelter prevents excessive accumulation of droppings in its vicinity which are a menace to the health of the birds. Better use will be made by the birds of the natural green feed produced on the range if the houses are moved often.

Fjordworks: Horse Powered Potatoes

Fjordworks: Horse Powered Potatoes

This is the account of how one farm put more horse power into the planting, cultivation, and harvesting of its potato crop. Ever since we began farming on our own in 1994 one of our principle aims has been the conversion of our farm operation to live horse power wherever feasible. This has meant replacing mechanized tools such as tractors and rototillers and figuring out how to reduce human labor as we expanded upon the labor capacity of our work horses.

Words for the Novice Teamster

Words for the Novice Teamster

by:
from issue:

Many people who are new to the world of draft horses are intimidated by what seems to them to be a foreign language. This “workhorse language” can be frustrating for novices who would like to use draft horses, or who would just like to understand what people who do use them are talking about. The knowledge of some basic draft horse terminology can end most of the beginner’s confusion about the special jargon used in this trade.

Mini Horse Haying

Mini Horse Haying

by:
from issue:

The first mini I bought was a three year old gelding named Casper. He taught me a lot about what a 38 inch mini could do just by driving me around the neighborhood. He didn’t cover the miles fast, but he did get me there! It wasn’t long before several more 38 inch tall minis found their way home. I presently have four minis that are relatively quiet, responsive to the bit, and can work without a lot of drama.

Developing Draft Colts

Developing Draft Colts

During October, 1910, The Pennsylvania State College and Experiment Station purchased a group of ten grade Belgian and Percheron colts and one pure bred Percheron for use in live stock judging classes. An accurate record of the initial cost, feeds consumed and changes in form has been kept in order that some definite information as to the cost of developing draft colts from weaning to maturity might be available for farmers, investigators and students.

Small Farmer's Journal

Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT