This year, Raymond Pile celebrates 40 years of working with Greendale and the Carter family. A valued and greatly respected member of the Greendale team, Raymond was present from the very beginning of Greendale’s haulage and storage business, and he has remained key to the success of its operations ever since. As such, he is able to provide a wealth of insight into the evolution of the business over the years, remembering the highs, the lows, the (sometimes hard) realities and the rewards of four decades of hard work. Raymond is always busy, but we managed to persuade him to take five minutes’ break to tell us about his working life (and his fantastic collection of classic tractors!).
A local lad from a farming family, Raymond was born and raised at Pinn Barton Farm in East Devon, between Otterton village and the town of Sidmouth. Raymond’s father rented land adjacent to Sea View, the Carter family farm, so the two families were already acquainted from Raymond’s early days. After attending Bicton Agricultural College - where he gained a distinction - Raymond left Devon for the Midlands, where he worked on his uncle’s farm for ten years. General farm labouring meant 6am starts to get the cows in for milking, followed by a full day’s work for as long as the light lasted – at harvest time, this could mean carrying on well into the night. Eventually returning to Devon, Raymond worked for Clinton Devon Estates for seven years. In 1978, Raymond’s career took a new direction when he met up with Robin and Rowan Carter and their father. The Carters wanted to set up a new company, Greendale Haulage and Storage, and as a licensed lorry driver, holding the ‘A’ and ‘B’ licences which were required to operate lorries at the time, Raymond was ideally placed to help. Initially a small operation, the new company at first owned one 32-tonne lorry, which transported animal feed from Exmouth Docks up to the warehouses at Greendale for storage. Things went well, and within six months the company bought a second lorry. In the mid-1980s, the Carter family purchased Exmouth Docks, and Raymond remembers how the haulage business really took off; shipping into the dock trebled within two years, and Greendale Haulage and Storage grew to include five lorries, transporting animal feed to Greendale’s storage facilities and also further afield, to animal-feed mills in Devon, Cornwall, Dorset and Somerset.
As the 1980s progressed, more warehouses were built at Greendale Business Park, along with new grain silos designed to hold home-grown grain, including wheat, barley and oil-seed rape. Most of the grain was transported to local mills, though some of it was also exported out of Exmouth Docks. Following this early success, Raymond recalls how the outbreak of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE, or ‘mad cow disease’) led to the introduction of strict controls on the contents of animal feed, including a ban on the use of animal proteins. This reduced the activity for the haulage and storage operations at that time which was a challenging time for all businesses involved in the agricultural industry or in businesses linked to agriculture in the UK.
Over the years since, Greendale’s haulage business survived through various hurdles thrown in its way, including more recently, the Foot and Mouth crisis. Raymond remembers that Greendale Haulage and Storage changed quite dramatically at this juncture; the business diversified into recycling, becoming one of the first companies in the Westcountry to purchase special walking floor trailers designed to transport paper, cardboard and woodchip in bulk. The new venture was a success, with Greendale Haulage eventually operating more than thirty non-tipping walking -floor trailers, transporting recyclable goods efficiently to local and national recycling facilities.
Many of the trailers were ultimately sold to a large Westcountry-based haulage firm, which was keen to break into the recyclables market, and Greendale Haulage scaled back its recyclables operations to a more local level. Today, the company uses ten walking floor lorries to transport recyclables, including cardboard, plastics and woodchip. Still very much part of the team, Raymond is aware how much the industry has changed during his working life; haulage operations are now faster and larger than ever before, thanks to steadily increasing haulage weights and lorries with ever-greater horsepower and fuel efficiency. He remembers with a smile that when Greendale Haulage first started, they’d have been ‘lucky to get four miles to the gallon!’
Not content with spending his working day around specialist vehicles, in his free time Raymond has built up a unique collection of his own machines. The proud owner of several beautiful classic tractors, Raymond says he has always had ‘a bit of a bug’ for tractors and farm machinery; he began collecting his favourites about 25 years ago. Today, he admits that his ‘bug’ is ‘not quite out of hand - but nearly!’, so perhaps it’s just as well that the shed housing his collection is too full to admit any further additions. Raymond’s favourite tractor is his International 614, which he has had for more than 20 years. He explains that few were ever produced, as the model was not particularly popular at the time – ironically, this initial unpopularity means that the tractor has now become a valuable rarity.
Fittingly, the tractors outside Greendale Farm Shop were originally part of Raymond’s collection. The green tractor - a Fordson N - is very similar to the tractor used on the Carter family farm during the 1940s. The two blue tractors, one a Fordson E27 N and the other a Fordson Major Diesel also date from the mid-20th century, and are both great examples of the type of tractor used on the Carter farm during that era. In quiet celebration of this link to their farming heritage, Rowan and Mat Carter bought the tractors from Raymond, with the idea of siting them permanently outside Greendale Farm Shop; their idea worked well, with the iconic machines becoming an attraction in their own right. Raymond says he likes to see the tractors bringing pleasure to Greendale customers; ‘kids love old tractors… whenever I go to the Farm Shop, winter or summer, they’re always playing on them’.
Just like his beloved tractors, Raymond is reliable, hard-working and definitely a ‘classic’. Truly one of a kind, he is much appreciated. Cheers, Raymond!