• Trimmer

Huw Lincoln, Haywards Heath, Sussex (HD70T)

Tractor hedge trimming may be a necessary chore if a farm is to remain tidy and businesslike but for a chosen few it is also a chance to demonstrate an ability to operate machinery at a level that most can only dream about and having the right machinery to do it with is essential, it seems.

undefinedThere was a time when many key jobs in agriculture called for a specific skill – an even furrow when ploughing, a well stacked straw rick, arrow straight drilling, and so on and with such skills came a large chunk of pride and no small amount of competitiveness as workers vied with each other to be the best.  Much, if not all of this, has now passed into history – the emphasis now being more on output/hour rather any leaning towards producing what may be considered to be a skilled performance, but all is not totally lost. There are still just a few disciplines in which skilled application is appreciated and acknowledged by the industry. While most readers will immediately think of match ploughing, which retains a keen and voluminous following, there may not be so many who suggest hedge trimming. There is however, a keen and competitive following for the art of tractor blade hedge trimming with regular competitions held in several parts of the UK and one of the country’s keenest competitors is Huw Lincoln who, with his brother Simon, runs a general agricultural contracting business near Haywards Heath in West Sussex.

He is the first to admit he has an absolute passion for neat, well trimmed, well shaped and level hedges and, as a result, will go to virtually untold lengths to ensure the job he makes is the best possible.

"I know I’m a bit of stickler for perfection when it comes to hedge trimming, but when you do the job for a living the finished hedge becomes your shop window,” he explains. Such dedication to the craft has brought its successes over the years – Mr Lincoln has won numerous competitions including three consecutive first prizes in the annual hedge trimming contest run by his South East Agricultural Contractors’ Group.

undefinedA key factor, he says, is having the right sort of machinery and, on this score, Mr. Lincoln invested in a Shelbourne Reynolds PowerBlade tractor hedge cutter having a telescopic dipper arm to provide a 7m reach. “I became interested in the Shelbourne trimmer when I spotted it three years ago at the last Smithfield Show,” he says. “Although only a prototype at that stage I could see it had a fair bit going for it in its geometry and overall design.”

Mr. Lincoln agreed to have one on trial and work together with the manufacturer’s designers to see what changes needed to be made before production of the trimmer started. “The machine worked very well but there were a few strength issues which had to be resolved which Shelbourne took on board,” he says. “The result was a trimmer that is certainly earning it's keep in my business. ”Linked up to a Massey Ferguson 6290 tractor the PowerBlade tractor hedge cutter, clocks up over 1000 hours each year, trimming hedges within a 15 mile radius of Haywards Heath.  A 1.2 reversible flail head, complete with hydraulically controlled rear roller, forms the active end of the unit with its positioning performed by a combination of, crowd ram, telescoping dipper arm and main lift boom. “The control system with its proportional electronic joystick system works very well,” he insists. “It is possible to set the response speed to suit personal requirements – I prefer it so the lift and extension rams have a gentle start and then become progressively quicker as the joystick is moved further away.”  When hedge trimming the flails are set to run so that they meet the material to be cut on the up cut with the rear roller raised, but for verge trimming, they run the other way with the roller down. The controls are set to float position to allow the head to follow ground contours when verge mowing.“A feature I find particularly useful is the rubber flaps on the flail head which prevent debris being thrown all over the road,” he says. “This really helps to create a tidy job.”

So, given that Mr .Lincoln considers the Shelbourne Reynolds PowerBlade to be a first class machine, what are his top tips for using it to create a prize winning performance? “The first point to remember is that no two hedges are ever the same,” he explains. “While most hedges will have a high percentage of blackthorn in them there can be varying amounts of other species such as willow, ash or elder. These tend not to grow very tidily and can create problems when trying to maintain the shape of a hedge.” Mr. Lincoln says he normally likes to give the hedge an initial trim at the top, about four inches above finished level, to give some idea of how the hedge will cut and provide him with a picture of how the finished hedge should look.  “Having made that pass, I usually make another with the flail head on the side of the hedge angled slightly to the top,” he says. “If that pass is satisfactory, the next cut is made to create a narrow flat top and then, to finish it off,  just take the edge off the other side. A trimmed out verge helps to set off the completed work.  ”He adds that it is possible to keep tweaking a hedge for ever and a day but the overall aim should be to create an evenly shaped hedge that is level on the top and sides with the minimum of passes.  “You really have to live with the hedge trimmer and become almost an integral part of it to really maximise performance,” he says and looking at some of the hedges cut by this master craftsman, you have to concede that when it comes to hedge trimming at least, it’s good news to know that the skill factor is still alive and well.

Huw Lincoln with his Shelbourne Reynolds PowerBlade:

“I know I’m a bit of stickler for perfection when it comes to hedge trimming, but when you do the job for a living the finished hedge becomes your shop window.”  Sharp blades are considered to be important by Mr. Lincoln if good clean cuts are to be made. The blade is sharpened from the curved top side.

Mr. Lincoln says  "Proportional electronic controls help to turn in prize-winning performances."

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