Two Massey Ferguson compact tractors and a dedicated MF ride-on mower are helping keep in trim a high profile visitor attraction that made its name as a major British naval shipbuilding centre during the 18th and first half of the 19th centuries.
Buckler's Hard, located in the heart of the New Forest in Hampshire, is managed and maintained by the Beaulieu Estate, which has owned the land and the adjoining Beaulieu River since 1538. Several of the timber ships built at Buckler's Hard saw service with Nelson and the British fleet during the Napoleonic Wars.
In addition to its beautifully-preserved 18th century village, Buckler's Hard has a maritime museum with extensive historical displays, a cafe, canoeing and kayaking centre, a 110 berth marina and around 300 yacht moorings. The entire area from the marina out to the mouth of the Beaulieu River is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a National Nature Reserve.
Responsibility for looking after the 6ha (15 acres) of grounds and buildings within Buckler's Hard village and the surrounding area lies with head groundsman, John Schofield, and his two assistants.
"The majority of the regularly-maintained outdoor grass is used for car parking and for picnics and events such as caravan rallies," explained John. "We also look after the formal grass close to the museum, alongside the river bank and within the historical village itself, which has been closed to cars since the late 1960s when visitor numbers grew rapidly."
Today, the continuing high level of visitors and daily activities at Buckler's Hard means that John and his team are engaged constantly on some important maintenance task, indoors and out. "It's vital that the entire site looks at its very best at all times," commented John. "Fortunately, the Beaulieu Estate recognises the demands of the job and makes sure that we get the right tools to carry out the work cost-effectively and speedily."
The two Massey Ferguson compact tractors used by the Buckler's Hard grounds maintenance team are a 35hp MF1235 and a 46hp MF1547, arriving new in September 2005 and October 2006 respectively. Both tractors came with folding roll-bars, hydrostatic transmission and turf tyres.
Employed primarily for paddock, lawn and general grounds maintenance, the MF1235 tractor is used with a wide range of matching attachments including a front-end loader with bucket, a flail hedger, turf slitter, grass harrow, paddock sweeper/collector, rear-mounted backhoe and a 1.5m rear-mounted rotary mower with collector.
John Schofield pointed out that all grass clippings are collected during mowing to ensure a neatly-groomed appearance and also to avoid wet grass being carried on feet into buildings, particularly the museum, cafe and the reconstructed 18th century cottage interiors that are open to the public.
The combination responsible for maintaining all of the larger open grass areas at Buckler's Hard is the MF1547 tractor equipped with a 1.8m front-mounted rotary mower deck linked to a 1,400 litre rear collector by a grass transfer pipe running the length of the tractor. Both the mower and collector have fan assistance to aid grass movement and collection.
"The tractor's hydrostatic drive makes mowing a real pleasure," said John, "Other notable points are its excellent all-round visibility, low noise and light tread, aided by the wide turf tyres. We could have had a cab on the tractor but I opted for a folding roll-bar to allow uninterrupted working beneath low tree branches."
All smaller areas of grass and those inaccessible to either of the two compact tractors are dealt with by an MF2420XL ride-on mid mower with 1.02m cutter deck and rear collector.
"All three machines were supplied by local Massey Ferguson dealer, Romsey Agricultural Machinery Ltd, who quoted a keen price," commented John. "Both service and parts support are spot-on, as I've come to expect over the years from MF dealers. No machine gets an easy life at Buckler's Hard so it's a great feeling when purchase decisions prove themselves absolutely right for the job from day one."
● For further information on Buckler's Hard, visit http://www.bucklershard.co.uk
Photo 1: The MF1547 tractor with front mower and rear collector trimming the grass within the 18th century village at Buckler's Hard, located on the Beaulieu River.
Photo 2: Head groundsman, John Schofield (far right), with his two assistants and the three Massey Ferguson machines that carry out the lion's share of the grass and grounds maintenance work at Buckler's Hard.