Can you recommend a flail collector?

A: When budgets are tight it is a good idea to look at equipment that can perform more than one task. Flail collectors are versatile grass cutting machines.

Many of them have the capability to cut long grass and remove the debris as it is mown - particularly useful for the annual maintenance of meadows. Equally, a lot of the machines are at home mowing sports pitches.

But it's not just mowing and the removal of clippings which makes these machines a good buy. Most of them can be used for scarification - removing the thatch and moss from a sward and collecting it at the same time. The large-capacity hoppers of flail/collectors make these machines especially effective for this purpose and, with so many manufacturers offering a choice of ground or high-tipping, you can opt for a system that suits your needs.

In addition to mowing and scarifying, some of the flail collectors are also good at removing leaves and litter from grassed areas. If your facility is surrounded by deciduous trees, or if you are in charge of playing fields that double as sites for rallies or fetes, the flail collector could be perfect for cleaning up.

There are many makes and models on the market - choosing the right one will be a reflection of your priorities, the size and nature of your site, dump facilities, inter-site travel requirements and the specifications of available tractors.

If you are looking to cut golf course roughs and fairways, scarify sports fields and clear away the autumn leaves, be sure to look at the Wessex STC machines and the Wessx Proline HTC-18 multifunction collector. The HTC-18 only requires a tractor of 30hp. An optional suction kit with a 6m wonder hose is available for collecting leaves and debris from flowerbeds and areas that are inaccessible to the machine.

Ryetc Industries offers a wide range of machines from the Mini flail collector with 1m cutting width and 0.6m3 hopper through to the C2000CHS contractor's machine at 2m wide, with 2cu m hopper capacity. Some of the models have extraordinary emptying heights, so tipping into a lorry or on to a high pile should not present a problem.

Wiedenmann's Super 500 has been around for a few years now and is useful as a verticutter, mower or turf sweeper.

The speed and manoeuvrability of this model is impressive, plus it "vacuum packs" the grass and debris into the 2,500-litre hopper.

A machine that really impresses me for its performance in tackling rough vegetation is the Omarv mower collector from Campey Turfcare. This is a robust piece of kit. I've also heard of it being used as an economic, one-man alternative to fraise mowing, but you can use it for ordinary mowing and collection or scarification.

A big choice of models comes from Amazone in the form of the Groundkeeper range. Units are available as ground-tip or high-tip and in widths of 1.2m, 1.35m, 1.5m, 1.8m and 2.1m. Hopper capacity goes up to 3,500 litres. Watching the Groundkeeper working on a rugby pitch, I was particularly impressed by its scarification performance.

You might also look at the Major 2000 with 2m working width, 3cu m hopper capacity and 2m tipping height. Major's MT20 flail mower with collector is smaller, with 1.5m wide cut and 0.82cu m collector.

Sally Drury has reported for HW and its forerunner GC&HTJ for 28 years and has spent more than five years testing machinery for HW and What Kit? The advice in this helpline is independent.

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