Why Kubota is an inspired choice
Wellington College opts for a new fleet
‘Inspirational’ is a word you hear a lot about around Wellington College. The famous old Berkshire school owes its name to one of the most inspirational of Britain’s past leaders, and the characteristic also very much underpins its approach to education.
It’s a principle that similarly applies to its 420 acres of diverse grounds and the way in which they are managed and maintained. The machinery chosen to support that work must be similarly dynamic, so the decisions that went with replacing key elements of the fleet over recent months was not one that was taken lightly.
Wellington’s Head of Gardens and Countryside Mark Dodd did not, however, have a moment’s hesitation in recommitting to Kubota machines sourced from Lister Wilder’s Reading branch. He applied just the odd tweak here and there to the previous specifications for tractors, RTVs mowers and more.
“Kubota ticks all the right boxes for us in terms of reliability, power and punch,” says Mark. “It has all the right shapes and sizes to fit in with what we need on an estate of this size and complexity. Coupled with that are long periods between services and the peace of mind you get from the service schedules and agreements available from Lister Wilder. There are rarely any issues, but if there are we know we can get them dealt with the same day if it’s an emergency and on the next day if it’s not.”
Mark is particularly enthusiastic about the G23 low-dump ride-on mower with its its powerful 23.3hp diesel engine, 48-inch cutting width and 150mm maximum lift height giving it excellent ground clearance for kerbs and other obstacles. “It is so good at getting into tight spaces,” says Mark. “It has a great flow of air through it which means that it picks up a lot of both grass and leaf debris very cleanly. It also has superb fuel consumption, using so little that I at first thought the gauge must be faulty!”
He is similarly happy with the Kubota RTV X1110 utility vehicles, which serve as go-anywhere workhorses. The new more powerful diesel engine produces 24.8hp and the vehicle also has improved transmission for easy hill climbing, load carrying and towing performance. “We use it to spread salt in winter and in summer as a daily towing vehicle,” says Mark. “We also use it to travel around the wilder parts of the site, through the woodland and up onto the heathland – it is very sure footed.
“We have the road legal package so we can go into the village. It’s important to us that Kubotas always look smart and give the right impression of the college given our local profile. Image really does matter for us in our community.”
In the tractor department, the college has moved up the power range to 50hp, with two L2501 tractors, one of them with loader. “It gives us more useful oomph,” says Mark. They do everything we ask of them and the controls are easy to understand for people who don’t use them every day. They are also very comfortable and stable, plus we have opted for cabs this time and the guys really do appreciate that extra protection plus the heater in winter and air conditioning in summer.”
Mark has led his team of seven multi-talented gardeners and horticulturists for the past six years tackling a diversity of projects seen in very few schools. “We maintain formal gardens and cut lawns and hedges, but we also have to manage lakes and water courses, woodlands and heathland. I might be working on a planting scheme in the morning and then meeting other stakeholders like Natural England in the afternoon to talk about habitat management in the SSSI.”
Key projects over the coming months include clearing reeds and devising a management plan for lakes that the local council has struggled with due to shortage of resources. On these and other projects, the school’s gardens and countryside team works collaboratively with local rangers and other skilled stakeholders.
The job also often involves students. “As a team we really enjoy working with them on things like garden and habitat management,” says Mark. “They are the next generation of land owners and the conservationists of the future so it’s really important that they recognise sustainability as a key issue.”