Yorks smallholder keeps the days of horse power alive

He could have been another James Herriot, but Max Hardcastle swapped writing for restoring bygone horse-drawn vehicles and farm implements.

He and his wife, Sandra, have brought back to life many gigs, phaetons, floats, caravans and carts at their smallholding near Leyburn in North Yorks.

Old agricultural equipment – scufflers, ploughs, turnip choppers, fiddle drills – have also been rescued, cleaned and painted up, with some finding their way to America.

Max has just finished restoring a 1930s Burton travellers’ caravan.

He removed the roof and sides then rebuilt it, with bed, stove and lamps, and painted it green, with red and yellow decorative work.

Another eye-catching piece of work is a vintage milk float used in the hit television series All Creatures Great and Small.

Max found it abandoned and buried in thistles with its elm floor, yellow pine sideboards and ash shafts rotted.

But the metalwork and wheels were sound, enabling him to rebuild it.

Sandra approached the Wensleydale Ice Cream Company and asked them if they would like to be part of the project.

To the float’s purple livery has now been added the firm’s name, which gives an authentic touch when Max and Sandra compete in the tradesmen’s turnout classes at local agricultural shows.

“Keeping the paint warm so it flows without any streaking is the secret of a good finish,” says Max.

“We have given some carts as many as 14 coats.”

The couple have always been interested in antiques, an area almost as rich in characters as country life.

Their association with both worlds has provided a wealth of stories which Max has drawn on in his three books: A Countryman’s Lot, The Luck of the Countryman and This Country Business.

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