29 September 1995

Mule proves versatile workhorse

WHEN Kawasaki dealer Jim Price recently delivered a new 600cc Mule 2510 to the Downton Estates he knew its potential would be severely tested, writes Robert Davies.

The £6300 machine replaced a lower powered model, which assistant gamekeeper Keith Scotland admits had been "worked to death under very difficult conditions" over the previous three years.

Used every day as the main workhorse for managing the commercial shoot on the 1818ha (4500-acre) estate, the original Mule stood up well to humping 0.5t loads of feed across rough terrain, through woodland and up slippery slopes.

"It was very stable, and reached places that a Land Rover could not," Mr Scotland says. "It also proved to be very robust, did far less ground damage than other vehicles, and was great for rabbit shooting."

Douglas Mackellar, of Chris-topher Lyons in Association with Savills, is assistant agent for the estate, which straddles the Herefordshire-Shropshire border near Bromfield. He says that unlike the six more conventional Kawasaki ATVs operated by other estate departments, the Mule is regarded as a spare Land Rover.

"As there is very little road work involved, it is more versatile, especially for work in woodland, and cheaper to run," Mr Mackellar claims. "The best recommendation must be the fact we had no hesitation about buying another one in a deal which cost us £4000, which is not a bad rate of depreciation over more than three years, considering the amount of work achieved."

The new machine is an uprated version of the old 500cc model, which can be operated in two or 4×4 drive. It has a high and low ratio gearbox, and is fitted with low ground pressure tyres. This time the estate decided to spend an extra £715 on a windscreen and wiper for the bright red machine, which has led to Mr Scotland being dubbed Postman Pat by co-workers.

Within days of delivery, the Mule was put through its paces during a sales demonstration by Logic MH, Cheltenham, Glouces-ter, a firm of specialist ATV equipment makers, which was attempting to sell one of their 6 KAW flail mowers to the estate.

Some of the main tasks for the £2475 machine will be to mow vegetation on confined woodland bird rearing sites, and to cut rides through cover crops like kale, which are strawed down and used as pheasant feeding areas. The estates high capacity scrub clearing Bushwhacker could be used, but is too wide, and cannot be used behind an ATV.

Logics Pete Chanin said the mowers 36 pairs of flails could be set at the height required, and the swivel hitch made it very manoeuverable on awkward sites. On the day, the Mule, and 16hp petrol engine driven mower made light work of cutting 1.2m (4ft) wide rides through a well grown crop of flourishing kale. &#42

Versatility of the Mule 2510 means it has become the main workhorse for managing the commercial shoot on Downton Estates 1818ha (4500 acres).