Keeping the paths open and well maintained is one of the jobs of the East Sussex County Council's Economy Transport and Environment Department.
Seen here, Countryside Maintenance Ranger Alistair Wallis is clearing an important public footpath link to the Cuckoo Trail near Heathfield using a Ferrari Cobram tractor and Seppi offset mulcher both acquired recently by the County Council from nearby Lamberhurst Engineering, specialists in the supply of groundcare and horticultural machinery and exclusive UK importers and distributors for these two Italian manufacturers.
Alistair leads one of four teams of two across the county whose job it is to keep public paths open and in good order throughout the year. During the summer months their work involves a lot of clearance of ground and hedgerow undergrowth. In Alistair's territory alone he is responsible for maintenance of around 800 miles of paths, at least 20 kilometres of which require intensive summer clearance.
The Ferrari Cobram 4-wheel drive compact tractor was purchased for its manoeuvrability in tight areas and its stability on uneven ground. The low profile vehicle has a tight turning radius and is specifically designed for confined space work like this. This particular model is the Cobram 65RS, powered by a 49hp VM emission controlled engine and with front wheel steering and 12 forward and 12 reverse gears. Also available are 46hp and 56hp along with articulated versions and the option of reverse direction drive.
The one being used in East Sussex is fitted with a fold-down protective roll bar, which meets stringent EU standards. Its chassis, and that of all Cobram models, oscillates front to back about 15 degrees, so work on uncertain terrain like the Heathfield footpath is made all the more easier and maximum traction maintained at all times. The driver's seat and steering column can be adjusted to suit the operator.
Alistair says that previously this work was done using a less stable tractor with a flail unit in a fixed position rigidly behind the vehicle. It meant that passes had to be made exactly over uncut material with the consequence of regular punctures. Behind the new Ferrari Cobram by 3-point linkage is an offset mulching unit, the Seppi SMWA specifically designed for awkward undulating, winding or sloping areas.
Alistair says the job of tackling brambles, nettles and general excess undergrowth is now much easier and the risk of punctures gone. There is ample side shift to the right - with a maximum of 144cm - and together with independent hydraulic angling from 90° up to 50° down the mulcher can cope with every type of terrain and undergrowth encountered on countryside pathways. Maximum working speed is 5km/h. and features include front and rear protection, anti-shock device, and a support roller adjustable in height by 5cm.