Hendra Holiday Park near Newquay, Britain's surf capital in Cornwall, welcomes more than 370,000 visitors each year, and is often full to its 4500 capacity during the peak season. The park pays great attention to detail to help make a memorable stay for its guests, and has picked up numerous awards as a result.
The park offers accommodation in 300 static luxury caravans along with space for a further 600 caravans and tents on its touring pitches. It has invested heavily - more than £7 million in the past five years - and has been awarded many industry accolades including finalist in Holiday Park of the Year, The David Bellamy Conservation Award right through to Loo of the Year!
Overall appearance is key to customer satisfaction. The park has about 90 acres of grass around the accommodation, alongside the open areas and games pitches. As well as this large area to mow and maintain, Hendra's groundsmen also have to cover the ground more often than may be the case in other counties.
"Here in Cornwall the mild, wetter climate stimulates grass growth over a longer season," explains head groundsman Graham Lavin. "The grass can grow about two inches in a week, which means we need to cut it all at least once a week and, at the height of the season, we are mowing every day. We can usually manage to do about 20 acres a day, depending on other work commitments."
For this major job Hendra has invested in a John Deere 24hp X495 diesel lawn tractor and a 32hp 4310 compact utility tractor, respectively equipped with 48in and 54in wide mulching rotary mower decks. The equipment is supplied and serviced by local John Deere commercial & consumer equipment dealer Cornwall Farmers Ltd of Roche, near St Austell.
Mulching is important because it improves safety and saves time. "Visitor safety is a key consideration," explains Mr Lavin. "We have no option but to mow while there are people around. But the mulching decks contain all the material and there is no chance of cuttings or debris flying out.
"We simply don't have the time or the resources to collect all the grass. Also this would entail at least one more tractor and trailer, which is not acceptable when we are trying to minimise machinery movements around the park."
Prior to buying the John Deere mowers the park was using other machines with enclosed, but not proper, mulching decks. While these contained the material within the cutting units, they could leave swaths and lumps of cut grass. This was not only unsightly but meant it would catch on visitors' shoes and, inevitably, children would play with the grass and make even more of a mess.
"We noticed the difference with the new mowers straight away," adds Hendra Holiday Park manager Matt Way. "Now there is now no cut grass being walked into the caravans. This has helped to reduce cleaning costs in the caravans, toilet blocks and other buildings. As well as improving the appearance in those particular areas, the grass and the whole site simply look much better. Now I would not have it any other way."
The grass is all sown with a general paddock mix, which is mown to about 1½in long throughout the summer. Over the years this height has proved the best for longevity and appearance. Although the grass does have regular maintenance and reseeding on patches damaged by tents and awnings, it does not receive any regular fertiliser applications.
"We have noticed, however, that the sward has improved with the mulching," says Mr Lavin. "The grass is cut and chopped by the decks and is then blown downwards into the base. This helps to provide nutrients for the grass, as well as containing the cuttings."
The X495, fitted with standard tyres, is operated by Terry Glanville and Paul Blake. Equipped with the narrower deck, this machine is usually used in and around the static caravans. Mr Glanville finds the 24hp diesel engine is economical and offers plenty of power for the work. He also praises the easy to use hydrostatic transmission, which is operated with individual pedals for forwards and reverse, making the machine very manoeuvrable.
He also likes the standard safety features, such as the engine stopping when he leaves the seat -in any case, it is Hendra's policy to always stop engines and remove the key when getting off a vehicle. The X495 is also fitted with a flashing beacon and roll-bar.
Head groundsman Graham Lavin operates the larger 4310 compact tractor. This four wheel drive model came as an ex-demonstrator and is fitted with wide turf tyres. He finds the hydrostatic transmission makes the machine easy and comfortable to use. This is a good thing, he adds, "…because I spend so much time in the seat in the summer I think I might take root!"
While used primarily for mowing, the compact tractor also has a three-point linkage and is equipped to take a front loader, and carries out other work around the site as required.
For further details of John Deere's full range of commercial & consumer equipment, visit our website at www.johndeere.co.uk
Photo 1: Head groundsman Graham Lavin, left, on the John Deere 4310 with colleague Terry Glanville operating the X495.
Photo 2: Head groundsman Graham Lavin says he is pleased with the tractor's comfort, because he spends so much time on its seat in the summer.
Photo 3: Terry Glanville operates the X495. This smaller machine is used around the static caravans because it is so manoeuvrable.