A John Deere 2653B triplex cylinder mower is making life a lot easier for head groundsman Ben Connell and his team at St Joseph's College in Ispwich, a co-educational independent day school for 2 to 18 year olds.
Ben won the use of the mower for the 2009 season after entering a Cricket World website competition. It is used across the college's 56 acre site, which includes four rugby and three cricket pitches, a small five-a-side football pitch, plus extensive gardens and areas of amenity grass.
"We had been using a 42in walk-behind cylinder mower on the sports pitches," says Ben. "It used to take us around five hours to cut our two main rugby pitches, for example - about 5 acres - but with the 2653B it now takes less than half the time."
The college already runs a few John Deere machines, supplied by local dealers P Tuckwell and Tomlinson Groundcare. In 2004 they bought a 4410 compact tractor and a Gator utility vehicle, then added a second Gator and a GX355 lawn tractor, which was upgraded last year to an X740, but they've never had a ride-on cylinder mower before.
"Last year it was a real push to try and stay on top of the grass cutting, in particular," Ben explains. "I was looking to put together an equipment wish list and doing some research over the winter, just to see what might be the best machine for us to use. I Googled the 2653B, as I'd seen and heard some good reports from other groundsmen about it, and top of the search list was the Cricket World competition.
"To be honest, I entered and then forgot all about it, until they rang to tell me I'd won. It's certainly taken a big weight off my shoulders, knowing we can now get round when we need to and get the jobs done a lot quicker. It frees me and the other grounds staff to concentrate on other areas of the site that we now wish to develop to a similar high standard.
"Having a cylinder mower also means it not only covers the ground, it gives a really good finish as well. If the option is there to buy one at the end of the loan period, we would definitely love to have it!"
Image: St Joseph's College head groundsman Ben Connell (front) with the John Deere 2653B mower, with (left to right) Tony Baker on the X740 lawn tractor, Ray Squirrel standing, and Karl 'Buster' Bentman on the Gator 6x4 utility vehicle.