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Hedgetrimming contractor provides stern test for new Powerblade HD800

One of the first of the new contractor-targeted Shelbourne Reynolds Powerblade HD800 range of hedge trimmers to go to work has been given a thorough test during the 2015-16 season in the hands of its new owners, one of eastern England’s largest specialist contractors in field boundary and verge maintenance.

MJ Wright and Son runs a trio of trimmers to cover 2,800ha (7,000ac) of farmland, plus roadside work and contracts for bodies including Anglian Water across a radius of 40 miles from its base at Walton Highway, near Wisbech on the Norfolk/Cambs border. Five years ago the business bought its first Shelbourne trimmer, based on both a desire to switch makes following dissatisfaction with manufacturer back-up for its previous machine, and good initial impressions of the way the Powerblade models are designed and built.

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“We’d looked over Shelbourne machines before, and were impressed by their features and engineering,” says Mick Wright, who runs the business with his son, Peter, and two operators, carrying out a range of agricultural, municipal and construction services.  

“At that point we weren’t ready to change, but later we had the opportunity to take a Powerblade HD700 series machine on a week’s demo, and put it up against a model from another maker. That did enough to impress us, and while we’d previously bought good secondhand machines, following a visit to the Shelbourne factory we placed an order for a HD770T, our first new trimmer.”

Performance and reliability more than met the Wrights’ expectations, but Mick says that what impressed him just as much was the back-up received directly from Shelbourne Reynolds on the odd occasion when it was required.

“Being able to speak directly to the people who designed and built the machine is very handy, with someone always on the end of the phone if we had an issue, and on the one occasion we had a rotor balance problem on a Friday, factory support came out and sorted it by the next working day. We cannot afford long periods of downtime in the hedgetrimming season, especially now it has been shortened, so this sort of back-up is invaluable.” 

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The 770 completed five years’ work with the business, totting up over 3,500hrs during that time. When it came due for renewal, its design, reliability and the support provided by Shelbourne Reynolds, plus the firm’s responsiveness to feedback, meant Mick was keen to replace it with a similar machine.  

“However, at that point Shelbourne asked if we would like the opportunity to take on a pre-production version of one of the new HD800 models it was developing specifically for the contractor market. We’d provided pointers on HD700 design, and I was keen to see what had been developed on the HD800 range to create a contractor machine, and help with final feedback.

Delivered at the end of October 2015, the pre-production HD870 Tele was one of a small batch of machines built in the run-up to full manufacturing and the range’s launch at LAMMA 2016. Among other upgrades the range incorporates a new mainframe design, greater slew arc and uprated oil and cooling capacities, and Mick’s early experience suggests the new trimmers are more than up to the job of coping with contractor demands.  

“On verge work we like to operate at 12-13km/hr, for the best combination of finish and output, and had worked with Shelbourne to improve the head float response at these speeds on the HD700s, to ensure they could respond quickly without losing sequence,” explains Peter Wright, who has done a lot of the work with the machine.

“With the HD870, float response is excellent – it’s so smooth that you would barely know the head is down in the working position. The increase in oil cooler and fan size, and the reversing fan feature, have helped overcome any issues with power loss on hot days, while the service access is much better, with the removable oil cooler tap screen and better radiator access, plus the protection of the whole service area under the new top cover.

“We have again specified competition flails, which we find give a good clean finish, but we have a bigger 1.5m head on this machine, rather than the 1.2m unit on our old HD770T, which helps reduce passes. Controlling it and the boom is much easier with the Shelbourne joystick design than that on our old machines.”

With individual farms taking on more land, contracts are getting bigger, while the later start to the trimming season means the job is under greater pressure, points out Mick.

“We’re also now travelling across an area covering Norfolk and Cambridgeshire up into south Lincolnshire and Rutland. All of this means we need a strong, reliable machine, and it looks like the Powerblade HD should give us that.”

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