Sudeley Castle invests in Husqvarna

Husqvarna robots cut the man hours

It’s 5pm and the final visitors are drifting homewards through the gates at the end of another glorious day at Sudeley Castle in the Cotswolds hills. If you listen hard, there’s just a faint hum on each of the three large lawns as the night shift ‘clocks in’ at the beginning of a potential 17-hour trimming session. Robot mowing has arrived in one of Britain’s most historic settings.

Neither darkness nor light rain will stop a process that has now been handed over to a crew of six Husqvarna Pro Automowers supplied by Lister Wilder from its nearby Bibury branch. There will be no tea breaks or time off sick – just the occasional trip back to base where each of the mowers can pick up a recharge before carrying on its relentless consumption of grass.

Located on the edge of the medieval market town of Winchcombe, Sudeley Castle has ten notable gardens covering some 15 acres within a 1,200-acre estate. It was famously the home of King Henry VIII’s last surviving wife, Queen Katherine Parr, who lived and died there and is buried in the grounds. It is now the home of Elizabeth, Lady Ashcombe, and her family. They remain committed to the continued preservation of the castle and the ongoing restoration of the gardens.

The fact that the Automowers can work seven nights a week (or days if it suits your routine) means that the lawns always look good and are a constant length. Such is the fineness of the grass taken off in each pass that the turf never appears untidy, and there is no waste to remove since the clippings are micro-mulched back into the surface.

“The ‘Huskys’ have been absolutely fantastic – the lawns haven’t looked this good for years.”

The Husqvarna team reports to Sudeley’s Head of Security and Maintenance, Ryan Dearnaley who explored the potential for robots after tackling the lawn mowing single-handed during lockdown. “I did some research on the different options and chose the Husqvarnas because the brand is a good one and range of professional mowers fits our needs,” says Ryan.

“We originally thought that it might save us one member of staff but what we have actually done is to redeploy the time that was spent on grass cutting. We used to spend four man days a week cutting grass and, given that we still need to hand cut some narrower areas, it now takes just one day. It is an absolute no brainer!”

He adds: “The ‘Huskys’ have been absolutely fantastic – the lawns haven’t looked this good for years. Given the fineness of the cut there is no thatch and the moss is reduced because it never takes hold. The other key factor for us is that we are not burning fossils fuels so it’s helping us to reduce our carbon footprint.”

The Sudeley fleet consists of three Husqvarna Pro Automower 550s and three 535s. The 550s are capable of covering an area of around 5,000m² and working on inclines of up to 24°. Their typical mow time on one charge is 270 minutes, with a charge time of about 60 minutes. The 535s have a working area capacity of around  3,500m² at a rate of 146m² per hour. Equipped with all-wheel drive, they can also handle a slope of 35°. 

Lister Wilder’s Parts Manager Mark Quartermain scheduled the free-of-charge installation of 13-amp sockets and boundary wires within which the mowers operate. Much like a central heating system, each mower is programmed to operate reliably around Sudeley’s requirements . A year later, the lines left by insertion of the wires  are invisible. “Lister Wilder have been brilliant all round on the installation and all other aspects,” says Ryan. “At the end of the season they come and collect them for servicing, store them over-winter and bring them back in good order for the next season.”

Much like a central heating system, the mower is programmed to operate reliably around your own needs and requirements. Once finished, it will return of its own accord to its charging station, to ready itself for it’s next mow. Control can, if wish, be via Husqvarna Fleet Services – a digital tool that allows you to monitor and control them easily from your smartphone, tablet or laptop.

But for Mark the benefits are much more down to earth. The Husqvarnas are, he says, ‘a real game changer’ in delivering fine lawns in significantly reduced hours.