For around about 8 years, I’ve had a perpetual new years resolution : “This year, I want to drive a tractor”. As a kid, growing up in part in a village where my bezzy mates were farmers lads, tractors were kind of a big deal. I think I’ve travelled in the cab of a tractor before – certainly in the trailer as a kid, and I think this ‘close, but no cigar’ tractor experience spurred on my desire through a lot of my adult life to have an actual go at driving one.
When I first through of this as a ‘bucket list’ style item, I envisaged a nice big safe field, where I’d get to drive a tractor a bit, perhaps swing it round if I was lucky, then drive it back before climbing down. What I got today was totally different – I got the real deal. I got to do some actual work in one – for about 3 hours!
Amongst the many people I’ve mentioned my new years resolution oddity to who have even a tenuous connection to tractors with, one came through with the goods. This was an absolute top fella, old friend and highly skilled tree surgeon, Al. (or ‘Scottish Al’ as he’s often known as, owning to the fact he’s called Al and from Scotland, in case you hadn’t guessed). Al came up absolute trumps today. He contact me last night and mentioned that I could give him a hand on something involving tractors he was on with today. A project that involved clearing out a whole load of rhododendron tree waste from some pine forests (as per pic below). A charity called the Harrogate Pine Woods Group spearheaded the project and gained support and resource from a bunch of their own volunteers, as well as Scottish Al, about 30 young cadets from the Army Foundation College.. and me.
My Steed for the day was a New Holland tn75s. A 3.9L powerhouse on a 4WD monster of a thing, with a hydraulic Front End Loaders bucket attachment on the front. After a ‘crash’ course in how it all worked, I got to try it out in a yard for a bit. Shovelling up a bucket load of logs to add to the already substantial pile. After this, the real fun started. In the pine forest, around 30 cadets were assigned to the task of gathering up big piles of logs. My job was to negotiate my way through a tricky slalom of trees (some of which only afforded a cementer or two clearance) then reverse up to a choke chained pile of logs – then drag it out using the brute force of a the tractor. I got to do this about 10 times, with a bit of shuffling and lifting at the dumping site.
What got me was – even though the tractor more than demonstrated infallible power and brute force they are surprisingly agile and nimble. I wasn’t aware of how much steering lock they have and how sensitive and delicate you can be with them to get the results you want. An odd set up in the cab – alarmingly complicated looking at first glance, then simple and totally logical once you’d got used to it. The oddest bit was a small peg like think on the floor just to the right of the massive double turning break pedals. This was the accelerator. It made total sense, when you considered that typically, the driver (pilot?) would have heavy, muddy boots on when using it and it was the perfect design for this. By the end of it, I was so comfortable, that I actually fiddled with the radio.
I’ve now got tractor withdrawal. I’m also wondering what’s going to replace this perennial new years resolution. Tractors are brilliant.
Right, I’m now going to log into LinkedIn and add the skill ‘Tractor Driving’.