• Trimmer

Mark Harvey, Hinton St Mary Estate

There are over 36 miles of hedges to cut each year on the land which forms Hinton St Mary Estate in Dorset. And the intention is to cut every mile, every year.

undefinedManaged by Velcourt under the guidance of farm manager Mark Harvey, the farmed area at Hinton St Mary Estate runs to some 1750 acres of which 1000 acres is down to arable cropping with the remainder under grass and forage maize for the Estate’s 400-cow dairy herd and its 225 followers.

"With that distance of hedge row, you can imagine that our field sizes are not that big," says Mr Harvey. "The average is about 22 acres which is a bit on the tight side for some of the larger cultivators and combines we operate." On the heavy land that dominates the area, cropping is oilseed rape, winter wheat and winter oats – he says he does not begin to even think about planting any spring sown crops.

A generous field boundary means that, apart from the environmental advantages this achieves, it also allows access for hedge trimming. "When we first came here about five years ago, the hedges were getting tall and wide and many needed a saw to get them down to size," he explains. "But since then we have made the time to trim all the hedges each year."

Mr Harvey makes the point that in this particular area – the Blackmore Vale as it is known – hedgerows manage to put on an incredible amount of growth each year. "It’s quite alarming just how much they can grow within just 12 months," he says.
"I really would not like to leave them for two years before we trimmed them."

The demands on the hedge trimmer then could be judged, quite correctly, to be pretty high. Until last year a Bomford machine was employed but its reach was not considered to be long enough.

undefinedAccording to Mr Harvey, the profusion of wide ditches on the farm meant that some hedges could not be cut properly which meant that they would have soon reverted to the condition they were in before.

"We clearly needed a larger machine with more reach – and a high degree of reliability," he says. "And after looking what the market had to offer it was the Shelbourne Reynolds Powerblade tractor hedge cutter HD70T with its telescoping seven metre reach that offered not only the best value in terms of specification, but also in my opinion, the best control system."

He adds that the clinching factor was that his tractor driver liked the hydraulically height adjusted roller on the flail head – something that he had never experienced before and was clearly going to help him achieve some tidy work.
The new trimmer turned up in the autumn of last year and was put to work almost immediately attached to a Case CVX 195, operated by Dave Stevens.

"The first detail I noted was the proportional digital control system which makes the positioning of the head so much easier," says Dave. "The ability to just tweak the head’s position or alternatively, if required move it quickly is a big plus." The telescopic action also means that there is little need to steer the tractor to or from the hedge which also makes life easier.

"The other point to note is that while this machine can operate across ditches and cut the far side of hedges with little problem, it can also operate in the narrowest of lanes," says Dave. "If there’s room to drive the tractor down the lane, there’s room to cut the hedge."

undefinedA feature of the 1.2m Shelbourne flail head which appears to find favour with all who use it is the hydraulically raised or lowered rear roller that can be set down when cutting verges or raised clear when trimming hedges. "It really is a very useful feature," he says. "Other systems which have bolts to loosen or pins to move so that the roller height can be adjusted just results in the roller never being moved."

Dave also makes the point that by using ‘T’ flails he can reverse the flail rotation so that it cuts ‘down’ when cutting the vegetation at the bottom the hedge and ‘up’ when trimming hedges." He adds that the 65hp hydraulic motor on the flail head means that it powers its way through material without losing speed or momentum.

"There is nothing worse than an underpowered flail," he says. "The limit on output should be mainly on travelling conditions – not just the ability of the flails to cut."

So far, Dave has clocked up over 450 hours trimming with the new Powerblade tractor hedge cutter HD70T and, apart from a few teething problems, all has been well.

As Mark Harvey comments that the amount of metal built into the design of the machine should ensure more than a few years of trouble-free operation. "I really believe Shelbourne has gone to town on the design and build of this machine," he says. "I’m trying to avoid having to say it’s over engineered, but I can’t think of a better way of describing it."

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