Cornwall's award-winning The Lost Gardens of Heligan estate has re-established a working partnership with John Deere and local professional turf equipment dealer Masons Kings after more than 20 years.
The 200-plus acre estate at Pentewan near St Austell has invested in a new fleet of 10 machines plus ancillary equipment valued at over £200,000, in a John Deere Financial five-year lease hire deal including PowerGard protection. Its first John Deere machine, an 855 compact tractor, was provided in 1995 by the previous dealer, Cornwall Farmers, to help in the restoration of The Lost Gardens after their rediscovery in 1990.
This year The Lost Gardens of Heligan celebrates the 25th anniversary of its official opening. Director of gardens, estate & maintenance Iain Davies acknowledged the historic link with John Deere at a special training day organised by Masons Kings group turf sales manager Andy Bowey.
Over 40 services, events, maintenance, gardens and landscapes staff were assessed and marked on training and operating procedures for each new machine, to qualify for BAGMA certification. The product training stations covered John Deere's latest diesel and electric Gator utility vehicles, compact tractors and a commercial lawn tractor. A new Tango robotic lawnmower will also be installed in the gardens this spring.
"The relationship we are reigniting began right when the restoration of The Lost Gardens was started," said Iain Davies. "Not only do we share this history with John Deere, we also share a similar ethos with Masons Kings, as we are both family-run businesses.
"While this deal is admittedly a big cost to us, it's clear evidence of an investment in the whole of the staff as a team, and puts us up another level. Not only do the new machines look very professional, they will help make us more efficient, so it's a very good start to the partnership we were looking for.
"We recognise that John Deere makes top quality equipment and offers excellent dealer and manufacturer backup - the servicing and aftersales support was one of the main reasons we went with the brand and Masons Kings. Training is also a very important part of this - two of our maintenance staff will be undergoing further instruction with the dealer and at John Deere's own training centre. We will then have the ability to manage our own servicing and maintenance on-site, and Masons Kings will be there for us when we need them."
Iain Davies' deputy Phil Oldham arrived at Heligan in 2016, having worked in other historic gardens. "I've always bought John Deere equipment wherever I've been," he says. "When I looked at the old machinery and realised an update was required, it made sense to see if we could establish a new partnership to help move us forward.
"With the range of tractors and Gator UTVs available plus the new X950R rear discharge/rear collect diesel lawn tractor, which John Deere didn't have before, the company can offer us everything we need. Heligan is a historic garden dating back to the 19th century where everything was done by hand, and that's what we still put into practice in the gardens today. However, on the wider estate where we don't have so many people, we need the support kit otherwise we'd never be able to farm and manage the land in the most effective and efficient way.
"We intend Heligan to remain a living and working example of the best of past practice, offering public access into the heart of what we do. The new John Deere fleet from Masons Kings will help us work towards our goals for the third decade of this historic estate."