First impressions count, and a new fleet of John Deere compact utility tractors and diesel lawn tractors supplied by dealer Ben Burgess GroundsCare of Norwich is ensuring that visitors to Gresham's School in Holt, Norfolk are impressed by the high standards of the grounds.
"Gresham's is a great school and we wanted the best groundscare machinery. John Deere is a well-respected make and it has always been my aim to get their tractors here, and this year we finally got them," says Gresham's School service manager David Olby, after the school took delivery of the fleet this spring.
The machines are central to maintaining and improving the presentation of Gresham's grounds and lawns as well the playing fields, which cater for rugby, football, hockey, cricket and rounders. There are also grass and hard surface tennis courts, and two Astroturf pitches.
Machine reliability was a key factor in the change to John Deere. "Our previous tractors were old and very tired," says David. "They were unreliable and maintenance costs were high. John Deere has an excellent reputation for reliability and, with Ben Burgess, we have good access to aftersales back-up and parts. When it came to the fleet, we explained our requirements to Stuart Edge of Ben Burgess, who is John Deere through and through. He then identified the best tractor models for our needs. The service from Ben Burgess in supplying demonstration machines was also excellent."
A 'horses for courses' analysis saw the arrival of five new tractors: two 4R Series compact models, a 49hp 4049R and a 66hp 4066R fitted with an H180 front loader, and three sub-compact tractors, a 32hp 2032R and two 26hp 1026Rs. All are high specification machines, with rear three-point linkages and ptos as standard equipment, while the 1026Rs are also equipped with 1.37m (54in) mid-mounted rotary cutting decks. The package also included two X950R diesel lawn tractors with the same size decks.
The tractors are employed in all aspects of grounds maintenance at the school. "The 4066R powers a 3.5m (11.5ft) Trimax Snake rotary roller mower which we use on the outfields," says David. "This replaced a set of cylinder mowers and although the grass looked untidy initially as the mower took the thatch out, these areas now look great. The 4066R and Snake combination also allows us to cut in damper conditions."
The rotary mower was part of the overall dealer package, as was a McConnel reach arm hedgecutter used on the 4049R compact tractor. This model also pulls trailers and powers slitters and aerators. The H180 front loader is used for operations such as moving materials during autumn renovation work and loading top dressers.
Commenting on the performance of the 1026Rs, which are used to mow areas such as the cricket outfields and to rake the Astroturf pitches, and the diesel lawn tractors, David Olby says: "They are great machines and leave a lovely finish. The benefit of the X950R mowers is that they enable us to take the lawns down to a fine finish if the grass gets away from the hand mowers, which we use to provide the stripes." The larger 2032R tractor is used primarily for trailer work.
"Productivity has increased through the use of modern machinery, and we are very pleased with our John Deere equipment," says David. He adds that in addition to enabling Gresham's grounds to be maintained to a high standard, the new fleet has been a morale booster for the school's 10 grounds staff. "The tractors are comfortable and easy to operate and the staff are extremely proud of their new machines."
Photo caption: (Left to right) Gresham's School headmaster Douglas Robb, Stuart Edge of dealer Ben Burgess GroundsCare and the school's service manager David Olby, with the new John Deere tractor fleet.