Thursday 25 March, just after 10am, I pull into the car park at Hillier Garden Centre in Mappleborough Green outside Redditch.
It is a whole week before Easter, but the car park is full. Creating my own space between tubs of polyanthus, I leave the car and venture inside. I cannot remember the last time I saw so many people in a garden centre without there being a craft fair, the arrival of Santa Claus or some other event taking place.
Over at the trolley point there is a good selection of trolleys and carts. A man selects a low flatbed and heads off to the stacks of bagged compost. An elderly couple tests several trolleys before settling on one that seems easier to push.
But it is not just in garden centres that trolleys, trucks and barrows find a home. Later that day, calling in at the World of Paving exhibition in the Hard Landscaping Show at Coventry's Ricoh Arena, I find them being used to wheel paving materials around the demonstration area.
Wherever there are goods and materials to be moved - in sites from production nurseries to parks and gardens and even cemeteries - you will find wheeled trolleys. To satisfy this massively diverse demand, designers and manufacturers have come up with a huge variety of units to match the range of tasks.
There are designs and styles to suit all situations and purposes. Choosing the right one can make all the difference to the operation and also to the image and profit margins of your business.
A priority when choosing new trolleys and barrows is to ensure they are capable for the loads to be carried. Consider the load capacities in terms of weight and volume. Construction needs to be strong to cope with an outdoor environment, with all steel parts well protected.
Wheel type should be selected to reflect the ground conditions - small castor wheels will be fine for the internal areas of a garden centre or hardware store, but outdoors where the ground is bumpy or where the loads are likely to be heavy, you should opt for larger-diameter wheels with pneumatic tyres.
It is also wise to check that the loading height suits the requirements of the operator and handles should be at a convenient height for pushing or pulling. You should think about the storage of the units when not in use. If you have a lot of trolleys, as at a garden centre, you will want to "nest" them together, while solid barrows and carts need standing upright to avoid filling with rainwater.
In some situations, such as parks and nurseries, you may consider it useful to be able to link trolleys together for towing behind a small tractor.
Here we look at the range of prod- ucts available from some of the major suppliers specialising in units for horticultural use.
Specialising in the design, manufacture and supply of staff barrows, customer trolleys, benching and trailers to soft fruit growers, garden centres and nurseries, Castlefield Products continues to introduce new products to meet the changing needs of customers.
The Gainsborough MKII nesting trolley, introduced last year, is reportedly proving popular with garden centre customers. New for 2010 is the Kingston E balancing trolley, introduced as a high-quality, low-cost option.
This British manufacturer specialises in trolleys for garden centres, nurseries and DIY and hardware stores.
The company's range includes sprung loaded flatbeds, trolleys and carts suitable for customer use, nursery trolleys, cage trolleys, picking trailers, wheelbarrows and units for moving fencing and sheds.
The finish on all of the trolleys is galvanised and their wheels have roller bearings. Bespoke fabrication is undertaken.
Roll Containers Handling
A wide range of customer garden centre trolleys, shopping trolleys and nursery barrows - all zinc-plated and featuring warm-touch handles - is manufactured in the UK by Roll Containers Handling and supplied direct to the industry.
The company also offers a vast selec- tion of roll pallets, stillage and trolleys - both new from stock and used.
The heavy-duty, non-corrosive polyethylene tub on the Loadumper Garden Cart is capable of holding 170 litres or 180kg of material.
The chassis is made of power-coated rust-resistant steel tubing and the flat-free tyres are 36cm in diameter. A hinged mechanism lets the entire barrow be tipped or just the tub. The B-Tidy Garden Trolley is also available.
Specialising in the supply and installation of a whole range of storage and materials-handling equipment, Lon- don-based Techniform now has an online shop.
The new website sells sack trucks, tray trolleys, pallet trucks, cash and carry trucks, wheelbarrows, balance and turntable trucks, shelf trolleys and platform units.
A leading manufacturer of materials-handling equipment, Gloucestershire-based Partington supplies trollys for cash and carries, sack trucks, garden centre trolleys and warehouse solutions throughout the country.
The company's extensive range of trucks and trolleys are all manufactured at its Cinderford factory in the Forest of Dean.
The multi-terrain, multi-purpose, heavy-duty Busy Barrow has a skip that pivots to keep loads level. The skip detaches for easy loading and unloading.
In use, the kid pivots over the axle to reduce weight on the operator's arms and make the barrow easy to push. The skip-bucket is made from galvanised steel. A perforated skip is offered for carrying wet loads.
A comprehensive range of trolleys and trucks is offered for use in nursery production. Included are a Danish trolley with optional jackets and wood or plastic shelves and a singleor double-wheeled heavy-duty truck with adjustable axle.
The range also caters for garden centre customers by way of a drop-sided trolley and galvanised steel truck.
Fargro supplies a diverse range of nursery and garden centre trolleys and trucks designed with economy and reliability in mind. Included in the line-up are the Garden Centre Trolley with pneumatic tyres, and the 100x65x18cm Basket-Size Trolley with solid tyres.
The range is complemented by robust Italian-made heavy-duty trolleys for moving large tree containers. In- cluded in the line-up of handling products are sack trucks, turntable trolleys and mesh carts. Products are available through Fargro's distributor network.
Container Centralen supplies the CC Container - the European standard trolley for the transportation and display of pot plants.
Especially suited to small outlets is the CC 1/2 container, while the CC Eurocontainer is a versatile flower and plant trolley in standard European dimensions.
All trolleys are maintained within a pool system and can be exchanged full for empty and vice-versa.
For use as a wheelbarrow or as a trailer behind a ride-on mower or small tractor, the MRM Multi-Purpose trailer is manufactured from lightweight materials.
It has a double skin to form a tank for transporting up to 85 litres of water while retaining space for carry- ing items such as tools, sand, clippings or leaves.
Designed for professional gardeners and groundsmen, the MRM has a skip capacity of 180 litres and a tool rack for long-handled rakes and brushes.
Barrett of Boston
Offering a wide range of UK-made trucks, trolleys and equipment for garden centres and nurseries, Barrett of Boston also has its own design service and the company will also undertake bespoke fabrication.
Barrett of Boston's portfolio includes garden centre trolleys and carts, flower trolleys as well as galvanised mesh-decked trucks in various sizes and wheel variance.
Also available are turntable trucks, caged or multi-shelved, in a range of sizes. The company additionally supplies rotary cleaning units, glasshouse maintenance frames, hoppers, conveyors and harvesting systems for use with flowers and lettuce.