World's Largest Spider roams the grounds at Critchlow in Dumfries

Peter Driverin Industry News

Crichton 0039.jpgThe Crichton Development Co., responsible for the estate and buildings management at the Crichton in Dumfries, have taken delivery of a Ransomes Spider slope mower from local Ransomes Jacobsen dealer, Rickerby Ltd of Carlisle. Ransomes Jacobsen is a Textron Inc (NYSE:TXT) company.

The Crichton, formerly a psychiatric hospital built between 1839 and 1938 is now home to a modern business park located in over 34 hectares of parkland and offers high quality office. Easterbrook Hall, one of Scotland's premier events and conference facilities, is situated within the business park, together with the Crichton University Campus.

The Ransomes Spider is a specialist remote controlled mower and has been purchased for maintaining the steep slopes and banks within the 85 acres of park and grounds occupied by the campus. It has been specially adapted to maintain a height of cut of 75mm, the ideal length to provide a pristine finish.

Gary McCormick is the head gardener and manages a team of four who maintain all of the hard and soft landscaping at the campus.
"We have steep banks surrounding our grassed sports facilities that are around six metres high and over a kilometre in length," he said. "We also have various other large grass mounds across the business park and all were previously maintained by a team of three using hover mowers.

"Health and Safety legislation has moved on and as responsible employers we have a duty for the well-being of our team. Hand and arm vibration is a particularly important issue and the Spider, being remotely operated, alleviates this. Also, it removes the stress on hips, knees, ankles and spine associated with using hover mowers."

Chargehand Roy Kerr is the main operator of the Spider and commented, "The Spider is a great piece of equipment and climbs our banks with ease, while at the same time leaving a very good finish. The remote control is intuitive and easy to use and it doesn't take long to feel really comfortable operating it.

Apart from the health and safety aspects, the other huge benefit is the manpower and time savings that we've achieved. It used to take three days to cut all the slopes on campus using a team of three. We've now got that down to half a day, using just two people. That's one working day instead of nine!

Rickerby have also supplied another item of equipment, which really comes into its own in the autumn. It's a compact ride-on mower with a high-lift collector, an Iseki SXG19, which is used by the team for leaf collection.

"We've had this for three years now and it still impresses me every year when we have to deal with the huge amount of leaves," Gary McCormick added. "We have many mature deciduous trees, so we use a team of two, one who is responsible for the tractor and trailer and blowing the leaves and small twigs away from the base of the trees, and the other on the Iseki, who collects them and then with the aid of the high-lift collector, dumps them in the trailer. It works really well for us."

The Crichton can trace its origins back to 1834 when Elizabeth Crichton, inheriting a fortune amassed by her husband Dr James Crichton from his dealings with the East India Company, began the development the psychiatric hospital. Mrs Crichton had originally intended to found a university, but her attempt failed due to lack of support from the establishment of the day.

Over the next 100 years Crichton Royal Hospital, as it came to be known, developed into a centre of excellence for psychiatric care and became a self supporting community with patients employed in domestic, farming and gardening work.

In the 1980s advances in treatments and policy changes saw a dramatic reduction in patient numbers and the hospital was faced with gradual closure. In 1995 recognising the need to protect the estate, Dumfries and Galloway Council purchased the majority of the site for the benefit of the local community.

Today, fulfilling the original vision of Elizabeth Crichton, the Crichton is now home to the University of Glasgow and the University of West Scotland. The new Dumfries and Galloway College campus is also linked to the business park, which creates a combined centre of learning for some 8,500 students.

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