The National Trust has appointed John Deere as one of its official preferred suppliers of grounds maintenance equipment for all of its 300 plus properties nationwide. Because of its environmental advantages, in terms of reducing both noise and fuel consumption, use of the company's electric Gator utility vehicles is now particularly advocated across the Trust.
Neil Cook, head gardener at the Trust's Hanbury Hall near Droitwich Spa in Worcestershire, was one of the UK's first users of the E-Gator, having bought two in 2000 when they were first launched. One of these machines has recently been replaced by a new TE Gator model, equipped with optional electric tipping kit and tow hook, also supplied by local dealer Parks & Grounds Machinery of Bidford on Avon in Warwickshire.
The 18th century house has 20 acres of gardens - including around 10 acres of amenity grass and lawns, a formal wilderness and a restored 18th century bowling green - as well as 400 acres of parkland, so general run-around vehicles are an absolute necessity, says Neil Cook. The Gators are used with a Logic trailer to tow walk-behind mowers, and carry strimmers, grass clippings, compost, wood, waste bags and just about anything else that needs fetching and carrying.
"I originally wanted to replace a different petrol vehicle and was looking at a number of battery powered alternatives, although most were not really suited to the park and all the various jobs they would have to cope with," he explains. "I then read about the new electric Gator in one of the trade magazines, and since I already had an established relationship with the dealer, I asked for a demonstration.
"It proved to be just perfect, exactly what I was looking for, with the right type of turf tyres, good suspension and good load carrying capacity. For an electric vehicle it also towed brilliantly, and the tipping load bed was an excellent feature too. We have a number of width and height restrictions in the park and gardens, but the E-Gator fitted through everything we needed it to without any modifications, unlike our previous machine, and we've been delighted with it ever since.
"It's only two wheel drive, but it goes anywhere. Hand on heart I can honestly say we've never got it stuck, which is surprising as we're on quite heavy clay soil and some parts of the park can get very wet and sticky, especially in winter. It has a nice torquey motor, which produces enough power for what we need, and all the weight is really low down, so you get a very good, safe ride - it's also a lot quicker and more comfortable than driving a tractor and trailer around.
"However, the best thing for me is how quiet it is - this is the one thing I really wanted from a working vehicle, as we're open to the public. Sometimes you only want to move a few yards, and an electric vehicle lets you do that silently without disturbing visitors with the sound of engines stopping and starting the whole time. We generally only need to charge the Gators overnight once a week or sometimes even every other week, depending on workloads.
"When we needed a replacement machine, I went straight for the new TE Gator - I didn't consider buying anything else, as we've been so pleased with the older models," adds Neil. "The E-Gator we traded in also held its value well."
For further details and/or photographs, please contact:
John Deere Limited
Tel: 01949 860491
Fax: 01949 860490