Arwyn Morgan was recently welcomed to D. A. Hughes Forestry’s base in Powys, North Wales, to see a number of the equipment dealer and contractor’s flagship machinery brands.

LOVE them or loathe them, machinery dealers are an essential part of our industry. Very often it isn’t just cost and service which count – trust is an important factor. But, on one of those rare occasions that you meet a dealer who is also a contractor that operates his machines continually, you can’t help but have your sense of trust strengthened.

One such example is Alan Hughes of D. A. Hughes Forestry. For most of his life, he has been involved with forestry – since his early youth helping his father with the horses he used for extraction work and starting out with his first chainsaw. He regularly purchases standing timber all over Wales and the Marches, and does contract forestry and site preparation as far as the west coast of Scotland. But that is not all.

Around 20 years ago he needed a chipper for some of the trees he was asked to dismantle. At the time, chippers were far less common and difficult to hire, thus the search was started for a chipper, and not one of those which has been built too weakly, but a solid long-lasting piece of kit. That search took him to an Italian forestry show where it was Pezzolato which drew his attention.

Pezzolato’s range of machinery was vast, including chippers, splitters, firewood processors and sawmills, and Alan decided a visit to the manufacturer’s factory was in order. What impressed Alan was the product build quality, with good welded joints and heavy sections of steel designed for continual use. He ordered his first chipper at a cost of £14,000. It wasn’t cheap, but over the years it provided excellent service.

Forestry Journal: The 16,500 kg Pezzolato PTH 1000/1000 chipper is fixed to a large trailer.The 16,500 kg Pezzolato PTH 1000/1000 chipper is fixed to a large trailer.

Alan became Pezzolato’s UK dealer, so here the scene was set, and no doubt those of you who attended the APF last year will recall seeing the 1,150 hp CAT-engined PTH 1200/1000 on the D.A. Hughes stand.

For the last five years, D. A. Hughes has operated a Pezzolato PTH 1000/1000 chipper, and it was this I was fortunate to see working some time back. It can potentially chip up to 300+ tonnes per day, but on this site production was down, as will become apparent. The chipper itself is fixed on a large trailer and has its own crane, with the operator seated in a comfortable cab/workstation up above, with a clear view of the infeed. From here, the operator – in this case, Gwyn – would crane-feed the timber. I have to say that the site was a nightmare. The developer had the site felled, then all the trees were mounded using an excavator and all the roots were taken out. Considering the constant rain and numerous springs which had sprung out of nowhere, the site was like a mass of brown porridge – ideal for a World War I movie set!

Alan drove a Valmet 376 forwarder, bringing out the ash, rhododendron, birch, willow and some ugly squirrel-vandalised sycamore. Some of the stems were up to 400 mm in diameter, but the Pezzolato just chomped away. The chipper was powered by a Massey Ferguson 8480 tractor, which was more than enough to drive it, yet as the timber was very dirty it did take its toll. The blades, which should have lasted two days, needed resharpening after five to six hours.

The PTH 1000/1000 easily filled up the lorries as they arrived; quite impressive, especially considering that it is five years old and has done a considerable amount of chipping throughout its life. Not only does the chipper go out on site for clients, but it chips for D. A. Hughes’ woodchip clients at its yard in Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant.

Forestry Journal: With a 1,000 mm feeding mouth and a large 1,000 mm diameter solid drum, the chipper makes short work of thick stems.With a 1,000 mm feeding mouth and a large 1,000 mm diameter solid drum, the chipper makes short work of thick stems.

Today’s chipper model is redesigned with a different shaped in-feed and a totally lifting upper roller (no fixed bar). Also, the heavy drum is weightier, with staggered blades to improve efficiency and productivity. It seems that currently Pezzolato produces the largest mobile chipper in Europe – the PTH 1300/1500.

Forestry Journal: The elevated cab offers the operator a clear view when feeding the chipper by crane.The elevated cab offers the operator a clear view when feeding the chipper by crane.

In one of its buildings, D. A. Hughes has set up the Pezzolato Mini-Profi Bandsawmill. It was interesting to talk to Gwyn, as over the years he’s had quite a bit of experience milling on a range of vertical and horizontal bandmills. The Mini-Profi with its labour-saving attachments greatly eases its operation, with various attachments added as needed, so a mill can be made for your particular need. This particular mill could handle logs up to 9.6 m long. Alan mentioned quite a few customers had been to see it working, even having a go, just to get a feel for the mill prior to ordering one.

As timber harvesting has been at the heart of D. A. Hughes Forestry, some years back while at a forestry show in Austria, Alan saw his first Pfanzelt winch and was impressed by its build quality; not just folded and fabricated metal, but incorporating heavy cast and machined components.
D. A. Hughes would go on to become the first dealer for Pfanzelt in the UK.

It seems that due to their high build quality, they are not the cheapest on the market, but there have been no complaints or need for any repairs. So far, D. A. Hughes has mostly sold Pfanzelt winches and forwarding trailers, but it has also sold the UK’s first Pfanzelt Moritz tracked winch. It looks like a baby T-winch; really it is a remote-controlled carrier base, which can carry a range of implements, including a winch, mulcher, etc. It is quite an impressive piece of kit.

Forestry Journal: The compact TWFH 120 is suitable for mounting on excavators, harvesters, forwarders, skidders, tractors and crawlers.The compact TWFH 120 is suitable for mounting on excavators, harvesters, forwarders, skidders, tractors and crawlers.

As D. A. Hughes Forestry specialises in skyline extraction it has tried out a whole range of such specialist equipment, once again preferring machinery which can not only do the job, but also provide good service for its operators. The firm uses and supplies Franz Hochleitner assist winches and skyline carriages. Once again, Alan decided on the range after seeing the equipment working with large timber on proper steep ground in the Alps.

Several assist winches have gone out, basically installed via a quick-hitch system onto excavator booms. Multiple winches and a tower can be added onto an excavator base to provide an adaptable and highly efficient skylining unit. Currently, D. A. Hughes has ordered a new Sunward excavator to serve as the base unit for such a set-up, the idea being to have one machine on site instead of two. As the North Wales dealer for Sunward, it will be interesting to see the completed unit in operation, yet for those that require a standalone skyline unit, D. A. Hughes can supply the proven, Italian-made Valentini skylines.

Over the past year or two, the firm has enjoyed considerable success with the Turkish-made Armatrac tractors. Although a bit small for the forestry market, going up to 120 hp, they have started getting in on the arb market and are gaining ground with the agri community.

Alan mentioned that his aim has always been to provide a one-stop shop of proven machinery.

Over the past few years, considerable work has been done to improve the facilities at the station yard. Looking at the very large woodchip drying and storage shed, perhaps it would be more apt to call it an aircraft hangar, with it being tall enough for a forwarder to work in with no danger of the crane and its load hitting the roof. Its system can dry a shedload of chip in a few days; the only problem which can arise if the drying isn’t monitored is that it can dry too much, so once the moisture level is reached, the chip is transferred to the store, thus ensuring a constant supply of fuel throughout mid and North Wales.

It was good to see that, in times of such uncertainty, not only has D. A. Hughes moved positively with its own contracting business, it has invested heavily to help other contractors get the kit needed to improve their operations.