Logging in Italy.
An idyllic weekend playing on an Italian hillside in his 1948 Land Rover.
Propped up against the wing of an old Land Rover drinking coffee at Alldrive recently, John Carroll, Tony Sinclair and I were discussing the ability of our old Land Rovers to haul vast loads of stuff around at a minimum cost and with great efficiency and just how useful they were when clearing houses, gardens and garages of the accumulated junk of ages. In contrast to vans and trailers they even slip under the radar at the local tip by not incurring a tipping fee. John revealed that a load he had taken to the tip in his 90 pickup would have been subject to a fee, yet transferred to his Series One was free!
I have always resisted restoring the bodywork on my 1948 Land Rover because I often use it to carry scrap engines, piles of building materials and ever growing loads from the local garden centre. But amongst the myriad loads, one remains the Land Rover’s crowning glory. Back in 2004 I drove the old girl 900 miles south to my friends, Leigh and Maura, in Italy, to help Leigh collect a stash of logs for winter. I wrote about the trip in Land Rover World early in 2005, but did not have room to describe the actual logging experience.
Neither Leigh or I can claim to be logging experts, but what fun we had! The setting was their own deep wooded valley occupying about 40 acres of south facing Piedmonte hillside. The weather was distinctly autumnal with soft reds and browns as a backdrop and a distinct dampness in the air. To ease loading we removed the roof, doors and screen in a matter of minutes and my trans-european cruiser became a farm truck ready for hard work. From the garden we took an old donkey track down to the valley floor. This had never been driven before and involved the Land Rover pushing the foliage aside to get down. The slope itself was about 30º and a little wet, following rain the previous night and there was a real concern that once down there we may not be able to drive back out again. It would have been many hours work with the old capstan winch to get both Land Rover and load back up the hill, but fortunately the sun came out and dried the hillside in a couple of hours.
While we were comparatively fresh we opted to tackle the heaviest logs first and heaved them into the back of the 80 inch using the tailgate as extra load space. The rear springs soon went flat and pretty soon the axles were sitting comfortably on the bump stops! With possibly half a ton on board we attempted to climb back up to the area designated for the log pile. Our first attempt was unsuccessful. My old Range Rover 205 - 16 tyres lacked grip on the damp surface. I had a couple of metre long steel ramps with me which we put near the top to provide a bit of grip for the last few metres and then attempted the same climb in reverse. With an ambitious and dangerously fast run up through trees, the rear wheels just made it to the grip of the steel ramps and we were up, to a loud cheer from each of us. This worked well, as reversing up ensured that the Land Rover’s load bay was now at the log pile reducing the carrying of the heavy logs.
With three loads under our belts a distant cry from the house heralded lunch. Being Italy this was not a thing to be taken lightly and we sat down at a loaded table on the south facing patio and saw off four courses and a chilled bottle of local white wine. A short snooze was deemed essential and by 3.00 pm we were ready to start again. Our track was clearly defined by now, but the last few loads were up a different section of hillside and involved a spirited run up a stony slope a little steeper than we had so far experienced. I felt it prudent to go a little higher than the area of interest, do a 180º turn, as if on the Wall of Death and come back down the hill to a level next to the logs. This was great fun with their dog, Lucky, barking encouragement.
Over the course of a weekend we shifted about 4 tons of timber from the valley floor up to the house. Certainly enough to last through the cold winter they were to experience in their hill top idyll. The old Land Rover, then celebrating it’s 56th birthday was in it’s element and when I eventually drove it back to England, seemed none the worse for it’s hard work.
Toby 1. The first few loads were very heavy logs and had Toby’s 80 inch down on it’s bump stops.
Toby 2. Leigh looks on as the last few branches are ready to be driven back up to the house from the stony hillside.
Toby 3. Ducking and weaving as a route is found down a previously un-driven donkey track.