Tim Frizzel, Sturminster Newton, Dorset, UK, (HD62VFR)

Tim Frizzel was adamant – he was not going back to using a tractor hedge cutter that required him to spend all his time looking over his left shoulder.With that proviso registered, when his Econ mid-mounted machine had reached the age and condition when the word ‘tired’ was the polite way of describing it, he was keen to replace it with a hedge cutter that could place the flail head where he could see it.

undefinedBased at Sturminster Newton in Dorset, Mr Frizzel has been cutting hedges for more years than he says he cares to remember – and clearly long enough to remember the aching necks that occur when operating a rear mounted machine. All of which is now history because his latest hedge cutter is a Shelbourne Reynolds Powerblade 6.2m VFR – variable forward reach.
He says he had heard about the VFR machine and contacted Shelbourne to put his name down for one – if he liked it he said he would buy it.

"It turned up in October last year and we fitted to my John Deere 6820 and I gave it a go." Mr Frizzel draws breath. "Well, it was just so different from the Econ in the way it was controlled, cut and every other way. I was very impressed and told them to leave it with me."

Of course, the biggest feature that appeals to him is the variable forward reach system which, through a parallel linkage can move the flail head forward so that it is in line with cab, so no ‘neck stretching’ is required, as he calls it.

undefined"The system really is so good," he insists. "The point is that it is not a swing forwards – that would alter the angle of the flail head. It just moves forward, or backwards, retaining the head in a square-on position."

He also points out that, with the flail head in its forward position it follows the tractor, rather than looping out from the rear of the tractor with every slight turn of the steering wheel.

And while we are discussing the flail head, Mr Frizzel pays tribute to its roller that can be raised or lowered hydraulically. "This is a very useful feature that allows me to set a cutting height when cutting verges and not worry about digging into the ground," he explains. "For hedge cutting, I have the roller lifted out of the way."

In the actual cutting department the head has been fitted with T-flails. When cutting verges the flails cut downwards and for hedges the rotation is reversed to cut upwards.

This arrangement means that he can keep the ‘hedge’ side blades sharp so they cut efficiently while the ‘grass’ side blades can become dull – their duties not being so demanding. With a pretty full order book of hedges to cut, Mr Frizzel has been pretty busy since the Powerblade arrived yet he reports that operating stress levels are remarkably low.

undefined"The digital controls are logical and are proportional so you can speed up or slow down a movement with the result that the overall operation of the machine is very undemanding," he comments. "I’ve even set up some lights so I can operate it into the evening and beyond." He adds that an increasing amount of his work is now on hedges that have a two-year growth although roadside hedges and those that are in the public eye generally get trimmed every year.

The two year growth, he reports, does require more effort to cut, as one would expect, but do not represent any particular problems for the Powerblade. "I am a little concerned that people will leave their hedges for a few years between cuts," he says. "Not for the machine’s sake but more for the hedge itself which can end up as a row of stalks with no side growth."

That is perhaps something for the future but for now at least, he says he is more than pleased with the Shelbourne Powerblade.
"It’s a contractor’s machine – one which has a lot of metal in it and can be used day in day out. Apart from a routine greasing, it just keeps on going."

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