Groundsman James Adamopoulos cuts the surrounds on Northam Farm Park's fishing lake with one of the 2653B cylinder mowers.
The 997 ZTR zero-turn mower, driven by groundsman Ellis Cook, has saved a lot of time due its speed, manoeuvrability and ability to handle wet grass.
Transporting the equipment the groundsmen need for winter maintenance operations is just one of the jobs for the HPX Gator utility vehicle.
Not the kitchen sink but the bathroom suite! James Amadopoulus loads up the HPX Gator with fittings from a wash house being refurbished.
During the season, maintaining the grass at Northam Farm Holiday Park is similar to painting the Forth Road Bridge: the ground staff go round the 70 acres of grass on the site with their John Deere mowers and when they get back to the starting point, it's time to go around again.
Located in the village of Brean on the Somerset coast, Northam Farm Park is owned by the Scott family and covers a total of 87 acres, its comprehensive facilities catering for static home owners, seasonal visitors with both caravans and motorhomes, and campers. There are also large areas of grass allocated to a playing field and a dog exercise field, and a fishing lake. The Scotts also have a 3-acre caravan park nearby.
“Maintaining the grass areas is hard work on the mowers and we change them every three years due to the hours they do,” says David Scott. Earlier last year John Deere dealer BS Mowers in Bristol delivered three new mowers to Northam Farm – two 2653B utility triplex cylinder mowers and a 997 ZTR zero-turn rotary mower.
The 2653Bs, direct replacements for the previous model, are cutting flat out from April to the end of October maintaining the grass areas around the static homes, the grass pitches and the grassed areas around the hard standings. By the beginning of October 2014 one 2653B had already clocked up 250 hours, and the other 120 hours.
“We've always used cylinder mowers in these areas for the finish they provide, and we've been using John Deeres for the past 15 years,” says David. Groundsman James Adamopoulos adds: “They are sturdier and better built than a lot of the triplex mowers I've used, and the single point height of cut and blade to cylinder adjustment saves a lot of time. They give a good cut and they spread the grass evenly. The Yanmar diesel engine is really good too – at times we've pushed our luck cutting thicker grass and the mowers power through it, while the diesel tank allows a good six hours cutting, running flat out.”
The zero-turn 997 ZTR, which has clocked up 290 hours and is a new design for the park’s fleet, is used on the larger grass areas from late spring through to autumn, and across the complex early and late in the year. It is also used at the caravan park, where it maintains the landscaped areas on the sand dunes. “The season is getting longer, and we'd been looking for a machine to help out with the grass situation,” says David. “The zero-turn has saved us a lot of time due its speed and manoeuvrability, and ability to handle wet grass.
“We used to cut the whole area with the triples and it was time consuming having to adjust the cylinders, which were always blocking up in wet grass – it wasn't fair on the mowers. The 997 ZTR has made life a lot easier but you have to have a conscientious driver, which we have in our grounds staff Michela Richardson, Ellis Cook and James Adamopoulos.”
From the operator's side, James says visibility on the zero-turn mower is very good and that they prefer the machine’s lever steering to a conventional steering wheel, as it allows the driver more precise control.
BS Mowers' machinery package also included a road-legal Gator HPX four-wheel drive diesel utility vehicle, which joined a 10-year old TX two-wheel drive petrol model and an XUV 850D four-wheel drive Gator. These are Northam Farm's workhorses and are used throughout the year on jobs ranging from taking visitors to their static pitches if required, to transporting woodchips, servicing the static pitches with gas bottles and towing a bowser for watering the flower beds and pots. During the winter they are loaded up with the tools needed for hedgecutting and maintaining the site’s 6000 trees, and with soil, seed and fertiliser for small patching operations.
“We bought the TX at a clearance sale and immediately realised the Gator's value,” says David. “The 2653Bs are the fourth set of triples we've bought from BS Mowers, whose service is very good, and dealer Colin Noade has always looked after us. As to the 997 ZTR, it has taken a long time to get the mower we want and I can highly recommend the zero-turn for our type of work, it is the best mower for the job.”