Last month, Treeline took its Malwa 560F and 560C combi on tour across the UK to show off their benefits for low-impact forestry. We joined them at the first event in Angus. 

EVEN by the standards of that part of the world, the Kinnordy Estate really is something. An impressive mixture of species – mostly made up of beech, pine and a smattering of spruce – reaches up into the heavens and as far as the eye can see. Kirriemuir locals stroll by, hoisting up their collars to protect themselves from the early May chill, casting a curious glance our way. 

What’s caught their eye on this particular Monday morning isn’t just the trees. It’s two Malwa machines and the fanfare around them, as they snake their way through the Angus forest without the usual crash, bang, and wallop one might expect from high-performing harvesting machinery. 

Forestry Journal: The tour would also visit England and Wales, before returning to Scotland. The tour would also visit England and Wales, before returning to Scotland. (Image: FJ)

This was day one of Treeline’s demo tour across the UK, arranged to show foresters, operators and landowners just what Malwa’s 560F and 560C combi could do. As far as locations go, they’d picked the perfect one, Kinnordy’s mix of the productive and the recreational – dog walkers a penny a dozen most of the time – is the sort of site the Swedish manufacturer had in mind when designing its machines. When clearfell just won’t do, Malwas really come into their own.

READ MORE: What I learned from my first time operating a Malwa 560F

“Forestry is an incredibly harsh environment to work in,” said Treeline director Nick Marshall. “But that doesn’t mean we just throw bigger and heavier kit at it. If you can do the same job while protecting the landscape, I think that’s a win-win.

“We are hearing more and more people talk about low-impact machinery. There is much more talk about environmental benefits, ecological benefits, looking after wildlife and the carbon in soils. 

Forestry Journal: Foresters, landowners, and contractors were among the guests on the open day.Foresters, landowners, and contractors were among the guests on the open day. (Image: FJ)

“There’s a real drive at the moment for using machinery that’s more sensitive on the environment.”

Kinnordy – once owned by the late conservative peer Lord Lyell but now in the hands of his cousin, Patrick Gifford – is the kind of landscape where sensitivity is crucial. While clearfell used to be the way of things, its estate manager, Patrick’s son Anthony, has prioritised thoughtful thinning, with much of the timber being turned into firewood.

Experienced forestry advisor Stephen Liddle, of Greenbeard Forestry, is a relatively recent addition to the team, preferring the lighter touch. Aptly, that was what the Malwas were doing as part of the demo tour, removing beech to allow more natural light to reach the forest floor. 

And the two machines did exactly what was asked of them without much fuss, the 560F shifting logs with its Cranab FC45DT crane in a flash. Over the course of the day, several operators – including Tom Moore of Treewise Forestry – had a go behind the controls, each of them seamlessly getting to grips with it in no time at all. Even FJ got in on the action. 

Forestry Journal: The 560C was fitted with a LogMax 2000 harvesting head The 560C was fitted with a LogMax 2000 harvesting head (Image: FJ)

As much as the 560F is a familiar beast (so to speak), the 560C is something entirely different. It might not be the only forwarder/harvester combi on the market – Konrad, for instance, unveiled one at last year’s Interforst – but Nick and his colleagues believe Malwa’s is the best. First released in 2014, Treeline’s particular 560C was fitted with the LogMax 2000 harvesting head and chewed through the beech like it was cardboard.

When in forwarder mode, it can store loads of up to 5.5 tonnes, with conversion between the two programmes taking around 20 minutes, although there was no need for that on the day due to the 560F’s presence. 

While the crane may take a little getting used to, having been designed for a forwarder, when it gets into the swing of things, the difference between it and a dedicated harvester – it can cut up to 42 cm – is negligible. 

“There is no better combi machine on the market,” said experienced operator and senior technical sales for Malwa, Samuel Oestling, who had journeyed from Sweden for the UK tour. “There are a few around, but this one is extremely well thought out. The thing that is different is the crane; you’re two metres back on a normal harvester. But other than that, it’s the same; same power, same everything.” 

For the tour, Felasto Pur plastic tracks had been fitted onto the 560C. “Those are ideal, especially on a site like this,” Samuel, experienced with driving the likes of John Deere and Rottne machines, added. “They are really popular on the Combi. They are really lovely.”

Treeline’s relationship with Malwa began in 2014 when it was looking for a small, purpose-built forwarder to carry out thinning operations for its estate clients. The local contracting resource was ill equipped to carry out sensitive operations with minimal ground damage, so the decision was made to purchase its own smaller-scale equipment and operate a harvesting squad that could carry out operations to a high standard. 

You can watch footage from the demo day on our YouTube channel 

Following a visit to Sweden’s Elmia Wood show to look at options, and a follow-up visit to the Malwa factory, the first Malwa forwarder arrived in the UK. Delivered to the 2014 APF, it was shown working to thousands of forestry professionals. This machine was then put to work while being available for further demonstrations, with Treeline continuing to promote the brand on an informal basis (and a formal one, too). 

What, then, does Nick see as the major benefits in using Malwa’s low-impact machines, such as the 560C? 

“Lack of ground damage is a big one, and the small size; they are only two metres wide, so you don’t have to remove as many trees to gain access to the wood. They are nimble, so you can snake through the wood.

Forestry Journal:  Nick Marshall explained how demand was on the rise for small-scale machinery. Nick Marshall explained how demand was on the rise for small-scale machinery. (Image: FJ)

“You don’t have to cut as much in order to move the trees you want to. So, you can be more selective in your thinning and look after the ground while you’re doing it.” 

As well as the forwarder and combi, the 560 range includes a harvester (560H), and there’s a larger, eight-wheeled one (the 980) for handling heftier jobs. The line-up could even one day be complemented by a battery-powered combi machine that was shown off for the first time at last year’s Elmia Wood, turning more than a few heads in the process. Called a world first, the fully-electric vehicle has the urban forestry market in its sights, but it could be some time before one is seen working on these shores. 
Nick and his Treeline colleague Andrew Cook did try to get a 980 over for the tour, but just couldn’t quite cross the Ts and dot the Is in time. 

“Thereis  a 560C down in Devon. It’s run by a company that does a lot of ecological restoration,” Nick said. “For a landowner, it’s a great option because it allows them to have one machine that can genuinely do everything.

Forestry Journal: Contractor Tom Moore had a go inside the 560F.Contractor Tom Moore had a go inside the 560F. (Image: FJ)

“When it’s in forwarder mode, you lose no capacity at all. When it’s in harvester mode, you lose a little bit compared to a dedicated harvester, because you’re using a forwarder crane, rather than a parallel lift crane. But it can still be highly effective.” 

For now, some remain unconvinced by the benefits of going small scale. One attendee admitted he was hoping a local contractor would stump up the cash rather than having to buy one himself, such is the outlay. 

When asked about the challenges Treeline faces, Nick said: “There’s always an idea that you have to be cheaper, more productive, and everything has got to be bigger. There is a bit of a fight against that. But with the right kit, the job doesn’t have to be that much more expensive.

“Sometimes there is a bigger cost on day one, but when you look at reinstatement costs etc, it balances out. Absolutely, there is a hesitation – I would say more from the old school in forestry. It is seen as a bit of a new idea in this country.

Forestry Journal: Nick Ironside, Andrew Cook, Nick Marshall and Samuel Oestling. Nick Ironside, Andrew Cook, Nick Marshall and Samuel Oestling. (Image: FJ)

“But in other countries and parts of Europe like Scandinavia, there is nothing new about it. We’re just catching up.” 

With the tour heading to Wales before stopping across England and later returning back to Scotland, Treeline certainly had the chance to make its case. Leaving the wonderful surroundings of Kinnordy, it was hard not to feel Nick and Andrew had a strong one. 

“If you are not damaging the ground so badly, you are always going to have a healthier stand,” Andrew said. “You are always going to have a better quality of timber to pass on.

“There will always be a need for large-scale machinery, there’s no getting around that. But not as early and not the way we do it; it needs to get held back and let these things in first.”