Faster operation that means a 20 per cent reduction in the time taken to complete some tasks, plus significantly less strain easier on the hand and arm over the long days, weeks and months that make up a hedge-trimming and verge-mowing season. Those are some of the key benefits of the new Shelbourne Reynolds S-Touch hedge trimmer operating system, according to a user who evaluated a pre-production unit ahead of the system’s full launch this year.
Based at Hemblington, east of Norwich on the Norfolk Broads, contractor Darrell Starkings spends around two-thirds of the year focused on hedge trimming and verge mowing, so has a high-hour workload, which begins around the second week of May with verge mowing.
“I run one machine for this alongside a friend with another hedge trimmer, doing about 1,600km between the two of us across the local area,” explains Darrell.
“That keeps us busy into June, and by July the councils are wanting second cuts. Then, once the schools have broken up, I move into school work, cutting hedges on playing fields. I also have a contract with Great Yarmouth borough council for hedge cutting and flail mowing. Once that’s complete, there are fields clear and farmers wanting hedges cut, particularly if they have a derogation to trim hedges in August ahead of oilseed rape drilling.
“From September I’m then busy with farm work on hedges and verges right through until the end of the season, often with a big rush right to the end of February.”
Such a workload made Darrell an ideal candidate to test a development unit of Shelbourne Reynolds’ recently-introduced S-Touch Compact control system when he purchased one of the new range of 8000 series hedge trimmers that has been introduced to succeed the 800 series. He operates his Shelbourne Reynolds 8075 VFRT, the flagship model in the range, on a Massey Ferguson 6480 Dyna-6.
“This is my second Shelbourne hedge trimmer, after I was initially impressed by the build quality of a model I had on demonstration, and bought a 767 VFR to replace another make. Having purchased the machine, it was then the level of back-up from Shelbourne and help with any small issues that reassured me I’d made the right decision to switch. The staff knowledge and support is something I haven’t experienced from other manufacturers whose machines I’ve run previously.”
When he upgraded to the 8075 VFRT, the new machine not only gave Darrell telescopic capability in addition to variable forward reach, but he was also asked if he would try a pre-production version of the new S-Touch Compact joystick/touchscreen controller Shelbourne Reynolds had developed for the 8000 series, in place of the standard controller with the bigger proportional joystick and LCD screen on his previous machine.
“I was expecting the trimmer to come with the old-style system with buttons and larger joystick, but once the order had been placed I was asked if I’d assess one of the new S-Touch Compact units instead. While I was cautious at first, I now wouldn’t want anything different.”
Darrell suggests one of the main benefits of the S-Touch Compact system, which combines a touchscreen and a small fingertip-operated joystick, is that it eliminates the repetitive strain imposed on the operator’s left forearm and wrist.
“Because everything is operated with the fingertips, from tapping the screen to controlling the compact joystick, I don’t get the same wrist pain that I used to after long hours of work. The two components of the system are an ideal combination.
“Once I’ve used the touchscreen to fix the settings I want for hedge and for verge work, such as lift heights, reach and other parameters, everything is stored, and I just flick between hedge and verge settings.
“In the 13 months since the machine was delivered, I’ve had very few issues, which has reassured me concerning reliability, particularly as this is one of the first S-Touch Compact units. I can’t fault the controller. The memory functions are easy to set and it’s really handy to have them stored for future use. And as I do a lot of verge mowing as well as hedge trimming, the fact I can tap on one screen icon to switch instantly between settings for the two is really useful.
“As for the machine itself, I can’t fault it. I found the variable forward reach on my 767 VFR really handy for banks and verges, and the telescopic capability I’ve got on top of that with this new 8075 VFRT is good to have for extending the reach without repositioning the tractor.
“By taking over some of the repetitive operations and movements, the new S-Touch system makes long days of hedge trimming and verge mowing easier. Although farming margins are getting tighter, jobs like hedge trimming still have to be done. With more longer-term growth to cut, anything that helps ease the work and make operation more efficient is welcome. By allowing me to make settings and return instantly to them at the touch of an icon on the screen, I reckon the S-Touch controller has made some jobs 20 per cent quicker, and that’s worth a lot over the course of a day.”