Quietly getting on with things

Charles Rodriguez established Garden Thyme Limited, a grounds maintenance business, to service the Hampshire, Surrey, Berkshire, Middlesex and South West London areas twenty years ago. Initially contracts were confined simply to grass cutting and maintenance on the many housing estates that were springing up in the South of England.

Council housing’s grassy surrounds provide a major source of business and as a result Garden Thyme’s involvement in keeping estates green amenities ship-shape has continued to grow. Grounds maintenance remains the core of the business, but in general the associated disciplines include; arboriculture, park patrol, sports field management and planting and designing new borders.

Charles says that there has always been a pride in minimising the intrusive side of the work that they do: “Most of the sites where we work are sensitive in one way or another. As we work in predominantly residential areas, the sound of petrol machines is not necessarily welcome”.

For weeks on end Charles and his team have the daily task of seeing that not only are the residential areas as leaf and litter-free as possible, but that the surrounds of the play areas are safe from fallen leaf hazards and always look in tip-top order.

Charles’ dilemma had always been keeping a balance between controlling debris accumulation and minimising disruptive noise, so much of the work was previously done by hand. When a petrol blower could be used, the operatives needed air defenders, and so residents did not welcome leaf blowing.

Around three years ago he first saw Pellenc lithium-battery equipment at IOG SALTEX and bought his first piece of equipment – two Helion hedgecutters along with battery pack from his machinery dealer, Richmonds Groundcare of Esher. After the launch of the Airion blower last year, Charles thought this could be the answer his problems.

Weighing only 2.6 kg and with a noise level of just 80 db, it is the lightest and quietest professional blower on the market and can be used near sensitive areas such as hospitals and schools. It is very comfortable to hold owing to the soft touch new generation handgrip and is optimally balanced for natural tilting towards the ground.

The Airion has 4 speeds which easily enable the operator to effortlessly optimise and adjust the speed of the air expelled according to its working environment and the site to be cleaned. Keeping the speed selector button pressed instantly selects the booster mode, giving a maximum power of 750 Watts. This function is especially useful for picking up wet vegetation or heavy waste matter.

“At first, one of the residents at one of our sites thought that the blower was actually broken because it was so quiet!  We can now start work on site earlier which also enables us to get on with other tasks.

“All of the operatives like using the equipment because they are light, quiet and are very low vibration compared to the petrol equivalents. Because the machines are battery powered, we know that they will ‘start’ first time, every time with no risk of the plugs fouling or the pull-start breaking.

“The other advantage is that we no longer have to mix 2-stroke fuel and carry petrol cans with us. The reduction in fuel expenditure is a big factor for us. In a single year we must have saved hundreds of pounds”.

Let it snow. Marwell is ready for it.

One of the South of England’s major year-round attractions, Marwell Wildlife in Hampshire, is poised ready to deal with a repeat of last year’s record breaking winter. The 140-acre site, which is home to more than 180 different species and acclaimed for its conservation work, welcomes nearly half a million visitors each year. It managed to stay operational throughout weeks of snow and ice 12 months ago thanks very largely to the acquisition of a snow blade attachment to one of its mowers.

Lance Ingram, Head of Grounds and Plants for the charity, says M & S Turf Maintenance Machinery of Southampton supplied them with a snow blade to fit its Etesia 124D ride-on mower at very short notice when the weather took a hold last year.

“It did a really good job – absolutely brilliant,” said Lance, whose department looks after Marwell’s Landscape and Grounds maintenance.

“We were able to keep much of our pedestrian areas and car parks pretty clear. Visitors were able to get around the park safely, even when the snow was at its worst. Visitor income is vital to Marwell’s conservation work both here in the UK and abroad, so we wanted to be absolutely ready for any sudden cold snap by fitting our Etesia snow blade ahead of the busy school holiday period. We do now have another larger vehicle -mounted snow plough, but the Etesia is one that is so useful in clearing the tighter areas close to visitor facilities.  

Marwell has two Etesia 124D mowers and they are on duty around the calendar – snow or no snow – fine cutting lawns and amenity grass areas. One of the mowers is also appropriately fitted with an all-weather cab. Lance says that grass cutting at Marwell is carried out either before opening at 10.00am. His team of seven ground persons work in close collaboration with the keepers to ensure the maximum welfare of the 1200 plus animals.

Lance, who has been at Marwell for five years, says he is looking to add at some point in the future of other Etesia attachments and was particularly impressed by the scarifying heads he saw demonstrated at SALTEX in September last year.