Highfield & Brookham Schools Invests in Baroness and Trilo

With 175 acres of glorious South Downs countryside to look after, the grounds team at Highfield and Brookam Schools has to be flexible to ever changing demands. Routines often need to change around school events, and that means the grass cutting frequency can sometimes be variable. 

Blessed with sports fields, a nine-hole golf course and large ornamental gardens, the school’s grass challenge is substantial. For Grounds Manager Jasper Marks, it makes good sense of investment in a five-unit Baroness GM2810 Baroness ride-on mower from Lister Wilder that swallows up the ground while also providing an exceptionally good quality of cut.

Highfield and Brookham are independent pre-prep and prep schools for boys aged all the way from two to 13. It’s site at Liphook is set in leafy countryside at the point where West Sussex, Surrey and Hampshire all meet. The estate’s total land ownership of more than 500 acres also includes much forest, making good sense of a biomass energy system that provides around 85% of the school’s heating and hot water needs.

While the grounds team may occasionally contribute fallen timber to the contractor-run system, its main focus is on ensuring that pupils can enjoy sport on fine surfaces while also enhancing and protecting the wider parkland environment. 

“We need to be jacks of all trades and there is little that we as a team wouldn’t turn our hands to,” says Jasper, who is supported by two grounds staff, an apprentice gardener and part-time gardener.

With around 100 acres of sports turf to look after, that is the big commitment and is the reason for a large mower as a pivot. “We previously had a mower on a similar scale but it had come to the end of its life and what it had to offer wasn’t enough for what we needed,” Jasper explains. 

“I did a lot research in the big ride-on mower industry and was initially drawn to Baroness by word of mouth recommendations. I heard that they had created a very good product at a highly competitive price so I included them in our demos. The outcome of that process was that I recognised that the Baroness could do everything the more familiar brands could but much more cost-effectively, allowing me to put much more into my machinery programme.”

He added: “It really is such a brilliant mower in terms of the sheer quality of the cut – the blades themselves are incredible and my experience has been that they stay sharp almost three times longer than a normal mower blade. I liked the fact that the metals are much stronger and more reliable than on other machines because one of our main pitches is surrounded by a shingle path, so quite a lot of gravel finds its way onto the grass. 

“When you get into the depths of the machine you have something that is simple and isn’t just a mobile computer that you have no idea how to operate. It is very user-friendly and the day-to-day maintenance is easy and quick – the little grease points for the bearings are very accessible.”

Jasper is also happy with the support he gets from Lister Wilder and from Area Sales Manager Mark Carter in particular. “Mark has always gone above and beyond for us – he is on the end of a phone when we need him and if he hasn’t got an immediate answer to our questions he comes back very quickly.”

The Baroness GM2810 was designed to deliver the sort of high work-rates needed by Highfield and Brookham. Its five independently mounted cutting decks stick tight to the contours and the cutting height can be adjusted in minutes. The rear cutting decks swing out for ease of service access. On-demand four-wheel drive and diff-lock make it comfortable and safe to use on the most demanding slopes and turns.

Keeping the grass under control is the big challenge for the schools’ grounds team, but with so many trees making up its glorious landscape, it does also have a good few leaves to worry about in the autumn. Lister Wilder also helped with that one, supplying a Trilo BL960 leaf blower to mechanise a big job. Hydraulically operated from a tractor PTO shaft, it is compact and light but  enormously powerful.