A 1600ha (3500-acre) annual mowing workload would be pretty impressive for any number of decent-sized silage-making contractor. But when it involves jobs as diverse as topping paddocks and putting an elegant striped finish to a formal lawn, it takes on an altogether different dimension.
Geoff Taylor’s Estate & Field Management contracting service aims to provide a complete package for landowners who want to improve the amenity and environment value of their properties, or who simply want to keep them in good fettle and have neither the time nor resources to do it themselves.
“I’m fortunate that in this area there are people willing and able to invest money in their properties to ensure they’re maintained to the highest standard,” he explains. “I’ve developed a range of services and a flexible approach to working that meets their lifestyle, property maintenance needs and quality standards.”
Geoff Taylor: “We’ll tackle just about anything but recognise that we’re in a quality-led business – everything has to be done to a high standard.”
From his base on the outskirts of Tonbridge, Mr Taylor’s full-time staff of six, plus the five or six additional employees needed to cope with the summer workload, will tackle anything from all manner of spraying jobs and mowing big areas of formal lawns to fencing, ditching, planting trees and dredging silted ponds.
Recent projects include clearing scrub and saplings to restore neglected paddocks, helping with hard landscaping works around the headquarters offices of a large corporation and opening up an overgrown Victorian country house garden for the residents of a new and very select housing development.
“There are other contractors who individually could tackle some of these jobs but I think we’re unusual in being able to work across the board, mowing the lawns in front of a large residence one day, then clearing an overgrown field hedge and putting up new fencing the next,” says Geoff Taylor. “I’ve a great team of multi-skilled and fully trained men who are prepared to tackle just about anything and also recognise that we’re in a quality-led business – everything has to be done to a high standard.”
Tracked boom-type access platform – here with Estate & Field Management foreman Peter Clark wielding the hedge trimmer – makes working at height a whole lot safer. It runs outside using a diesel engine or indoors on an electric motor and is plumbed to deliver hydraulic power and water to the basket. It will lift to 12.2m (40ft) or reach out to 6.8m (22ft), yet is only 0.85m (2ft 9in) wide when on the move.
Just as important, he adds, is having the right equipment. Currently, it is all small scale, from the fleet of four 50hp to 60hp compact tractors plus ride-on mowers to the rotary, flail and cylinder cutting decks that go on them.
“We do have a 5.5m (18ft) triple flail mower but any other big equipment is hired in from local farmers, usually through the RAMSAK machinery ring, and we also hire out our kit when farmers need something we use,” says Mr Taylor. “Also, we’re always looking ways of bringing farming practices to the amenity field and vice versa – for example, using a Verti-Drainer “walking spike” deep aeration machine in orchards to remove compaction.”
A recent purchase to comply with new safety requirements when working at height is a tracked boom-type access platform. Estate and Field Management operators use it instead of ladders wherever they have to work at heights over 2m (6ft 6in).
“Once you’ve got one of these machines, you find all sorts of uses for it,” says Geoff Taylor. “It can go just about anywhere, runs on electric power or a diesel engine and with a near-360deg rotating and telescopic boom, you can reach anything safely too.”
A pair of mini excavators has been added to the fleet to save the money being spent on hiring them in. They are used on light ditching work, digging gate post holes and driving fence posts but also are hired out to tackle emergency works such as blocked drains, general repairs and light building projects on client properties.
“Being prepared to do just about anything and having the right men and equipment to do each job properly are the cornerstones of this business,” says Geoff Taylor. “That and maintaining first-class relations with clients while being able to organise what can be a horrendous logistics exercise at times.”