The challenge of keeping grass and undergrowth in trim around graves and memorials is a sensitive one – both in terms of maintaining the plots to the standards that families of the deceased rightly expect, as well as avoiding damage to the memorials and mowing equipment when working in tight spaces.
Coventry City Council manages six cemeteries, ranging from a vast and magnificent 19th century burial ground to more modern plots catering for today’s interments and cremations. Responsibility for keeping everything in trim rests with Estate Manager for the Council’s Bereavement Services, Brian Tranter.
“When I started my job three years ago the mower fleet was showing its age,” said Brian. “They were out-front mowers which are not ideal for manoeuvring in the awkward spaces between the headstones, but budgetary considerations meant that we had to extend their working life as long as possible so we purchased new cutting decks as an interim measure.
“When the opportunity came earlier this year to replace the mowers we took a lot of care in making our choice. In fact we had spent almost two years looking at the market and involving the operators who would use the machines in the selection process. After quite a few demonstrations there was a clear winner – the Ferris zero turn range.
“The mid-mounted cutting deck makes these machines far more manoeuvrable than the out-front design we had been using before and they also feature rear discharge which helps to keep the cut grass off the memorials. The size to power ratio is exactly right for our needs.
COMFORT IN USE
“The real winner as far as our team was concerned is the level of comfort. Ferris makes the only zero-turn mowers with independent suspension. As you can imagine, the ground we work on is subject to quite a bit of settlement, resulting in an undulating, uneven surface, and the suspension makes a huge difference over a long working day. The Ferris machines are also the only ones we saw with seat adjustment too – can you believe it?”
With the decision made, five Ferris mowers were ordered from T H White – four of the popular IS®600Z compact models and a larger IS®2100Z with a 28hp fuel-injected Vanguard engine. This machine is also fitted with the Vanguard Oil Guard System – a large oil reservoir and dry sump replaces the usual arrangement. That makes servicing easier and also extends oil change intervals to 500 hours.
“A big benefit to us is dealing with T H WHITE and Lee Miles who operates from the Redditch branch,” Brian added. “When we need support I know I can call Lee and he will pull out all the stops to get us what we need. It’s great to have that sort of back up from a local dealer who will always go the extra mile.”
So how have the Ferris machines performed during their first few months in service? “What you need to understand,” Brian explains, “is that our grass is nothing like you might find on a golf course. In the newer cemeteries where graves have been recently turfed the Ferris mowers deliver exactly what you would expect from a quality machine – a fine cut and a tidy finish. But in our London Road Cemetery – which dates back to 1847 and was designed by Joseph Paxton of Chatsworth and Crystal Palace fame – we have to contend not only with very rough ground but also scrub that grows up among the grass and around the stones. The Ferris machines take all this in their stride – for example the IS®2100Z has a cutting deck with adjustment from 3.8 to 12.7cm, meaning that any kind of cut can be achieved. The manoeuvrability makes it possible to work carefully around historic monuments, resulting in one of the best preserved Victorian cemeteries in the country. We like to think we contribute to the very special atmosphere in this cemetery which attracts visitors from all over the world.”
T H WHITE Groundcare is a Ferris dealer and any of our Groundcare branches will be pleased to provide you with more information on the Ferris range or arrange a demonstration. Ferris mowers are also imported from the USA by T H WHITE Machinery Imports – if you are interested in becoming a Ferris dealer please contact our Stockbridge branch on 01264 811260.