They’re up

It’s been a hard slog for me and the volunteers, but finally “they’re up”

So, since the last blog post i left it where the gathering of the team to help install these behemoths was about to start.

As the summer months progressed and annual holidays for everyone passed by, the weather didn’t favour the installation at all. It just seemed to rain and rain and then rain on top of the other rain that fell earlier!! Even the day we took the poles to site it was foul weather. .

But come September and there was a break in the weather, so the totem avengers assembled. First on the job was Shaun Rogerson who runs his own excavation business with his wife Helen. SHR excavations is his pride and joy and has been THE mainstay of the whole installation.

Shaun and Steve (his helper for the day) landed on site to remove the old stumps

and investigate the ground beneath them. He had borrowed a case back hoe loader from one of my good neighbour’s.

Nicky and Amy clark who run clarks tippers, another big sponsor for the installation.

Anyway, my mission for the start of this was to go to to Langley Park in Durham to collect the water main donated by northumbria water that was to act as collars. By the time I’d returned to site it was 10am and the lads had removed the three old stumps and had dug down to bedrock.

This was supposed to be as far as we could go but, because the break in the weather was like an Indian summer we decided to push the project forward…. With that decision it was decided to install the receivers and concrete them in line with my wind turbine base.

The base spec sheet was exceeded by adding a further half a cubic metre of concrete and using rebar drilled and resin anchored into the bedrock.

Considering the fact that my turbine is situated on the top of a hill and is 6 meters tall with a blade span of 12 foot and has considerable lateral force’s during spells of high wind, this base would be more than enough to hold a wooden pole that would have minimal lateral force acting upon it.

Anyway, we bashed on and sorted this out.

To my amazement and all of our astonishment, the forestry commission shut the job down declaring that the forestry engineers hadn’t passed this and that it was deemed not substantial enough!!!!!

We where all shocked by this, but to be totally honest…. the pace of the job had jumped 3 days ahead and I’d not put the method statement and spec sheets across to them….we really didn’t expect to be that advanced.. my bad.

Our thoughts turned to “how do we get them lifted into place” as we kicked our heels and generally felt a bit sheepish.

The answer, a helicopter lift, Something spectacular was our plan, so with that i started another mission, this time to blag a helicopter lift.

First port of call was RAF Spadeadam where i hoped to find answers. The very helpful crew across in Cumbria but also our neighbour’s where really up for the challenge, they scoured the rosters and squadrons to see if it could be done by the 20th of September. Alas to no avail, all the chinook helicopters where either on exercise or on deployment elsewhere, otherwise they would have added this to a training exercise and made this project happen within the good weather window.

What a spectacular experience for the village that would have been! Next up was a contact that I’d gathered while watching the flying Christmas tree! These guys from heli-lift services do a lot of jobs that require lifting of items to and from remote spots.

I thought, “worth a phone call” any way, it turned out that they remembered me and as luck had it they had a bell Huey helicopter that was on a job in Scotland.

The job was close to completion and… they had to reposition the helicopter to Yorkshire after that. They said yes they would love to be involved with the project and would do it on the flight to Yorkshire.

After filling them in on size and weight and grid reference they promptly had all the documents in place to do this. However the date would have to be around the 10th of October.

So armed with the info i informed the parish council meeting and the residents to much excitement. This meant that the opening day would have to be put back (again).

Time ticked on until the week of the 10th, the weather was unkind to the site but that week it cleared with zero wind and some actual heat to the sunshine. I waited and waited and waited just to get the confirmation of “right we are on our way” sadly an email pinged through, the helicopter lift was off, they had to go early to Yorkshire as the helicopter that was on a contract there had broken down. To say we where disappointed was an understatement…. however, we weren’t going to be beaten.

Shaun had a contact that could do the job, so we all met on site to discuss and set out a method statement and lift plan.

Alistair knowles uses a Merlo 14 ton 360 degree telehandler to install roof trusses and erect steel frame farm buildings. An absolutely ideal piece of kit for this task.

He also has a huge amount of topsoil that he was willing to donate to the landscaping.

So we arranged to get Shaun’s 12ton 360 excavator to site using Nicky Clarks lowloader with the help of scotty from R&H Scott timber haulage who have been instrumental in all things haulage for this. The 360 was there for two reasons, firstly to dig out between the already over engineered foundations so that we could over engineer more by tying the 3 foundations into one large one by pouring a further 4 cubic meters of concrete between them with more resin bonded rebar between the 3 foundations!!

Just because the commission engineer had thought what we did wasn’t going to be strong enough ffs… so we poured 36 ton of concrete and anchored that to bedrock, then placed 80 ton of topsoil over the whole lot! …. i think they will stay in place!!!!

It’s second purpose was to firstly strip of the grass close to the lift point to make a solid base for the Merlo to work from.

The grass was going to be placed around the receivers to landscape that part of the job and then it was to use the 80 tonne of donated topsoil to landscape the rest of the working area.

So, the week before the opening day was a rather frantic affair,

Day 1, Tuesday, submit documents to the forestry, excavate make ready and pour the overkill concrete and make ready an area to receive the new topsoil. Make a hard stand and Transport Merlo to site ready for Day 2.

However, best laid plans and all that…. As we busied ourselves with foundations and so on,
an email pinged to us, “we are not to use the Merlo” we all just sunk, WTAF was the general disgusted feeling of those involved not to mention the whole plan was now turned totally upside down.

It turns out that there had been a similar but smaller manitou had tipped over while undertaking a lift in kielder.

We asked for photos to see what failure had occurred and we deduced from them how it happened. Now, our more robust plans would have worked as we’d factored in “soft ground” and the weight bearing and stability of a 10 metre outrigger’s of this Merlo machine.

But, after discussion we still weren’t allowed and where told that a roadside crane lift was the option.

So with this in mind i started to gather info and contacts to see if this was feasible, it’s not. The reach from the road is 35 meters the lift is 2 tonne max, the crane needed would not get to site because of the roads, the road would be closed for a day, they would need an extra hard stand placed at each outrigger consisting of 200 tonne of hard core compacted at every 150mm…. the list goes on. Then say if it was possible the cost gets into 10k plus, no crane company could do this on good will for the community!!!!!

Once again….. A BRICK WALL.

Day 2, (2 days before the opening day) we decided to landscape the area as the concrete was set and promptly had 80 tonne of topsoil delivered by Clarks tippers donated by Alistair knowles.

That night we all went home happy in the fact that at least the site was tidy and although we hadn’t been able to get the totems erected, there was still the possibility of the helicopter coming back to lift them into place.

This meant that the village would have an open day and a lifting day, we took a positive approach on that.

Day 3, (the day before the opening day) I was woken up by a WhatsApp message at 6am, one of the village giants (as in respected mainstay of the community) had said “I’m sure that the hire company has a grapple handler that would fit the. 12ton JCB that we had on site” Jimmy, your a star.

We then started to see if this was available and if it was then I’d go and get it from Carlisle. It turned out that it was for a different machine and wouldn’t fit however, at Howford quarry, there was a machine that had one fitted.

So, on the phone Shaun went, but found out that this one wouldn’t be fitting the JCB either. This time though, they said you can borrow the machine if you want, what a result.

Then followed much frantic organizing of lowloader and unit to get this 18 tonne doosan 360 with a grapple handler to site. Once again R&H Scott and Nick Clark stepped up to the mark and donated more time and money towards this project.

The machine landed on site by lunchtime and the lads had the poles installed into the receivers before i had finished writing the method statement.

It was so quick that the last pole was going in the ground as i pinged off the email.

So, it took everyone by surprise, the pictures ended up on Facebook within hours by someone who was passing. Then came the comments “They’re up”

Day 4, last minute tidy up and set the legend board up so that it could be unveiled.


The day started early and by 11am we had the forestry at the picnic site with 50 hardwood trees to plant by anyone who wished to. This was done as part of the 100 years of forestry celebrations, they also planted a scots pine and had a commemorative stone erected.

Up at the hall, the community helped by the coop and Egger had organised a fantastic spread of food, also a display of old forestry vans and equipment outside.

Inside was a display of forestry photos depicting the timeline of forestry in the area. They also had a photo lineage of the totems.

The Northumberland national park authority had a stand with give away bits and bobs.

After the tree planting was done and the crowd meandered up the hill to the village, the legend board was unveiled.

The unveiling of the board was done by the 3 original carvers of the first poles to be installed. We all then made our way to the hall for tea coffee and stronger stuff. It was then that one or two said a few words and the villagers where presented with the original plan of what the forestry intended to build back in 1954.

The plan was impressive and is going to be displayed in the community hall.

The day ended with much ale and a sense of achievement. Anyway, apart from the main sponsors who initially paid for the carving of these monster totems, Egger uk ltd, Forestry England.. and Northumberland national park authority.

I and the community of Stonehaugh would like to really thank all the people who actually made this project possible.

So in order,

Firstly, Dean Dockray and Matty of Dockray forestry who felled and dressed the 4 forestry England donated larch trees, (one had rot) and Paul Tierney Allen from forestry England for identifying and selecting the best possible trees.

Simon Jackson of Wood actually for agreeing to carve these monsters and support any running repairs in case of damage during the handling process. Also for carving the support for the legend board that should be installed in the new year. Mike Jackson, for the totem information and RW sign and design for the layout and manufacture of the board.

Wark first school for the drawings and inspiration for the forestry totems.

R&H Scott timber haulage for all things related to transportation including getting them down onto site. Without these guys nothing would move.

A massive thank you goes to Shaun Rogerson, SHR excavations, this man has been messed about in the installation process and really deserves the most credit for sticking with it and eventually making the day. Also Alistair knowles, who was royally messed about and donated the good topsoil despite all that happened.

Nick and Amy Clark of Clark brother tipper hire who have given over there time and transport to support us all, without the tippers and the lowloader and the use of the case. This project would have stalled.

I must mention heli-lift services who wanted to be involved but circumstances knocked them back. Also, Northumbria water for donating the water main that was set upright as receivers.

Also, a massive thank you must go to Blaster at Howford quarry in Acomb for the last minute use of the machine that finally saw these poles installed, also Matt Robson for organizing the concrete.

Lastly but by no means least, the village and the campsite.

Firstly, the ladies of the village who took over the setting up of the opening day, Brenda and the team did a fantastic job and Michael did a great job of the displays, credit to you all.

Thank you to the campsite, your donation has been put to good use, we will sow wildflower seeds in the spring with the money you donated.

All of the people above have given up their own time and money to be part of this for no more than a mention in the press. They all really deserve more.