Use it to mow grass when the grass is growing, scarify when the thatch and moss need bringing under control, collect leaves in the autumn and pick litter after the party in the park. This is a true four-season machine and that should appeal to local authorities, contractors, golf courses and estate managers who are currently feeling the effects of difficult financial times.
We are impressed by its versatility. This is a machine that can cut grass once a week or once a year and will cut and drop or cut and collect as required. What is more, by mowing, scarifying and collecting in a single pass, there is a saving to be gained in terms of time, tractor use and diesel.
Whatever you decide you need to do with a Groundkeeper, the secret to success is using the right blades. They are simple to change - unhook one set from the rotor, hook on another set and away you go.
As standard, the Groundkeeper comes with 50 per cent cutting blades and 50 per cent H77 wing blades for cutting and collecting in all conditions. A combination of short H60 wing blades and 3mm scarifying blades allows leaves, cut grass and other debris to be collected - with the H60 wings helping to generate airflow and aid pick-up while the scarifying blades rip through moss and thatch.
Fitted with 2mm or 3mm scarifying knives, the Groundkeeper can be used for verticutting. Aggressiveness is determined by the position of the blades on the rotor.
The machine we borrow has been preset and has pairs of winged blades, with scarifying blades in between each pair so that some dead grass and moss should be removed at the same time as we mow. Alternate rows of blades are made up of back-to-back cutting blades and winged blades to give a flat finish. Changing the height of cut requires a ratchet to raise or lower the height of the rear roller. The front of the machine is dropped via the castor wheels on the front.
There are more than 25 different combinations and sizes of Groundkeeper - from 1.2m to 2.1m in mounted, semi-trailed and trailed versions. Hopper capacities range from 1,200 litres to 3,500 litres. Then there is a choice of ground level tipping or high-tipping to 1.8m, 1.9m, 2.2m or an astonishing 2.3m.
There is also a 40kmph model, suited to those contractors and public authorities that need a machine to travel quickly between sites. We use the 1.5m GHL-T semi-trailed with tipping to 1.8m. It has an adjustable chain so when the unit is working it will follow contours with a floating action. Tyrrell takes it for a run.
"It's good on the presentation. You can see the stripes from halfway across the golf course - being able to mow in a straight line is a must," he says, and laughs when he has completed four runs. "I am impressed with the cut and the ability to pick up clippings and debris. The grass here is long and juicy at the moment, so it has done really well to leave the surface looking so neat."
It may not be the sexiest looking machine in the line-up - the Groundkeeper is distinctly utility rather than stylish - but construction appears sound and there are some nice touches, such as the gauge that indicates when the hopper is full and requires emptying.
We find collection of cut grass to be efficient, thanks to the airflow created by the blades and the large-diameter rotor turning at 2,650rpm. An airflow deflector expels the air, as well as any dust disturbed by the mowing or scarifying operation, from the back of the machine. Cleverly, when the hopper is emptied and reset in the collecting position, it automatically opens the chute ready to receive more cut grass. A handle allows the operator to override the system and close the chute for cut-and-drop mode, if preferred.
Tyrrell can see a cross section of areas for using the machine, from cricket outfields through to pitches and parkland to golf fairways. But after the performance of rotaries earlier in the day, and especially the speed of the ProLine, Gardner is left undecided about using flail mowers on pitches and amenity areas. However, he admits: "If you are on a limited budget, you could get one machine and do a lot of different tasks with it."
We are all impressed by the price of just £12,045 + VAT (as used in the test). But we are using the high-tip model. You can buy a ground-tip - the same 150cm cutting width - for just £7,935 + VAT. That has to be worth another look.
Working width: 1.5m
Overall width: (transport) 1.9m
Cutting height: 0-100mm
Hopper capacity: 1,550 litres
Tractor requirement: 34hp with doubleand single-acting spool valves
List price: £12,045 + VAT
Tel: Amazone Groundcare - 01302 751200
Tested This Week
Wessex ProLine RMX180
Major 4200 Roller Mower
Major 8400GR-T Roller Mower
Amazone GHL-T 150
The Review Panel
Andre Gardner, grounds manager, Cannington Campus, Bridgwater College
Mark Tyrrell, gardener, Cannington Campus, Bridgwater College
Need to cut grass fast? You could opt for a ride-on mower and, if the area to be cut is large, go for a batwing. You will be spending £20k, £30k, perhaps more.
What if you have a tractor? There are so many mowers for use on the back, front and middle of a tractor that it is hard to know where to start. Perhaps you want the quality cut of a cylinder mower. Gangs "zinging" up and down sports fields were once the norm. Now, with purse-holders looking at every penny, you are just as likely to see a low-maintenance rotary or even flail collector doing the job.
In this review, we look at three rotary mowers - each reputedly leaving a high-quality finish. We also inspect a flail collector to see whether it is worthwhile removing the clippings. In this instance, the flail mower offers more than just grass cutting.
The test took place at the Cannington Land-based Studies Centre of Bridgwater College in Somerset. Conditions on the day were dry and sunny but the grass had been left to grow prior to the test. Long and dense, the grass was also lush when the mowers arrived.