Growing demand for grounds care and amenity equipment training courses has resulted in a rapid expansion of the machinery fleet used by Littlefield Manor Training Services Limited, located at Littlefield Common, near Guildford, Surrey.
Owned and managed by former Agricultural Training Board instructor, John Tangye, Littlefield Manor Training Services was established in the 1990s as a provider of general agricultural and horticultural short training courses.
Around 60 per cent of all courses are staged at the company's base with the remainder taking place on-site at the premises of businesses, colleges and organisations throughout Surrey, Kent, Sussex, Berkshire and north-east Hampshire.
Although farm tractors, implements and hand-held equipment remain very much in evidence at the company's headquarters, they have been joined in the past year by a 32hp Massey Ferguson compact tractor and a number of matching attachments including a 400-litre mounted sprayer.
The result has enabled Littlefield Manor to extend its range of National Proficiency Tests Council (NPTC) sprayer courses to include staff employed by golf courses, local authorities, landscape contractors, plant nurseries and public and private gardens, among others.
All of the tractors used by Littlefield Manor for training purposes are Massey Ferguson models, supplied and maintained by local dealer, Sendmarsh Tractors Limited, who also installed the company's new MF1531 compact tractor in summer 2006. The tractor's arrival maintained a long association with Massey Ferguson that stretches back to the 1950s when John's father ran a Guernsey milking herd on the 52-ha (130 acre) Littlefield Manor estate.
Although farming continues on much of the land today, Littlefield's listed Tudor and Jacobean manor house and garden now welcome bed and breakfast guests and wedding receptions while the farm buildings and surrounding paddocks are home to a livery yard, summer equestrian events and year-round professional operator and owner training courses.
Among John Tangye's clients are the Surrey Horticultural Training Group, RHS Wisley and the Guildford College of Further and Higher Education's Merrist Wood Campus for whom he provides a range of short courses including basic tractor driving and maintenance and the safe and proper use of hand-held and vehicle sprayers, quad bikes, utility vehicles, brushcutters, strimmers, hedgecutters and mowing equipment.
"We are training close to 400 people a year and virtually all of our courses lead to trainees being assessed for an NPTC certificate of competence," explained John who, as the Surrey agent for the NPTC, is responsible also for organising independent assessments throughout the county. "Having a range of relevant up-to-date equipment is a key factor in the success and popularity of our courses and we own the majority of the kit that is used for training purposes."
John pointed out that the MF1531 tractor was purchased specifically to enable Littlefield Manor Training Services to extend its range of courses to meet rising demand from the turf-care, landscaping and amenity sectors. Although the sprayer was top of his attachments' shopping list, John is looking to build the inventory of grounds care equipment that can be used with the MF tractor.
"Many of the people we have trained previously on hand-held equipment now run a compact tractor and are asking us to provide appropriate tractor and implement training courses," he said. "Modern compact tractors share a host of common features so our primary selection requirements were for a reliable, easy to use, well-known brand with good manufacturer and dealer support.
"Having had Massey Ferguson and Ferguson tractors on the farm for more than 50 years, I had no hesitation in selecting the MF compact recommended by Sendmarsh Tractors. The MF1531 meets our training requirements perfectly and is also well liked by trainees."
John Tangye (wearing red overalls) of Littlefield Manor Training Services guides horticultural students through basic tractor operation and maintenance procedures with the help of his MF1531 compact tractor.