There are many good reasons why we let the grass grow. Perhaps environmental, financial or manpower arguments are behind the decision to let a previously tended area grow wild, or perhaps a change of use or landscape style has required a "more natural" look. Whatever the reason, the site is still likely to require attention from time to time to maintain access and thoroughfares or to promote the favoured species of plants. And that might mean dramatically lowering the height of vegetation.
In such situations, and when land is cleared for development, the brushcutter is often the first choice of machine. We just love the brushcutter — it’s a low-cost, manoeuvrable, go-anywhere tool that is easy to transport and use. But for larger sites it makes sense to use walk-behind or ride-on brushcutters, which are all too often overlooked.
Walk-behind and ride-on brushcutters are capable of doing much the same job as their hand-held counterparts but for larger sites can be effort-saving and more productive. The choice of machine will depend on the site size, its topography and obstacles, access, the nature of the vegetation, frequency of cut and whether the job is a quick trim or a complete mow. Transporting the machine between sites is another consideration for those maintaining several locations.
Walk-behind brushcutters are particularly appropriate for those difficult-to-access and hard-to-reach areas. They are available in two distinct versions. The trimmer-type typically has "pram" wheels and a nylon-line cutting head. It is especially suited to cutting vegetation around obstacles, grave stones, tree trunks and fence posts. This is also the preferred option where bricks, boulders and tree stumps are likely to be hidden in the undergrowth.
The other type is modelled on the rotary mower but has a heavy-duty blade designed to cut more than just grass. With plenty of power to drive the blade, which may have swinging tips, this type of wheeled brushcutter will tackle dense vegetation and brushwood and is particularly good for maintaining woodland rides and mowing scrub.
The next consideration is whether you require pushed or self-propelled equipment. Machines that have drive to the wheels as well as the cutting mechanism will have a bigger price tag, but they do mean less effort is required and can increase productivity where large sites need mowing.
Ride-on brushcutters are an even more expensive option but their efficiency means they are well worth considering for large areas of rough vegetation. Again featuring heavy-duty metal blades, the machines are usually constructed to have a low centre of gravity to give them hill-climbing ability.
Brushcutters are usually required to do tough work in harsh conditions, so it is important to choose one that is robust and has sufficient power to do the job. And, as the cutting mechanism on these machines rotates at high speed, it is also important to investigate the safety features and check that the guarding is appropriate. By law, there has to be an operator presence control (OPC), but check just how fast this brings the mechanism to a halt.
As you are likely to be working in areas under trees, or that are overgrown with saplings or brambles, all cabling on the equipment should be clipped neatly out of the way so as not to get snagged.
Operator comfort is also an important element to be investigated. On all machines it is good idea to look for the hot spots — like the exhaust — and check that they are not positioned where they will cause the user discomfort. Adjustable handlebars on walk-behind machines and comfortable, adjustable seats on ride-on machines can help reduce operator fatigue and thus increase productivity.
And check out the vibration figures as these will affect the number of hours for which the machine can be used. Noise levels should also be investigated.