Winter maintenance - spreaders, mowers and vacuums to get through a freeze

Those in charge of grounds, estates and sports facilities have a vast range of kit available to cope with the worst that winter can throw at them, Sally Drury reports.

Wiedenmann: firm offers Vario Flex snow blade for heavy-duty winter operations - image: Wiedenmann
Wiedenmann: firm offers Vario Flex snow blade for heavy-duty winter operations - image: Wiedenmann

Picture a cold, dark December night. You are driving along the motorway. In front, a flashing yellow beacon light hogs the middle lane. Then the rattle of mixed grit and salt deafens your ears as it hits the windscreen. The Highways Agency is working round the clock to keep the roads clear of ice and snow, to keep the country moving and keep you safe as you drive between home and work, school, shops or leisure pursuits.

But it is not just the motorways and trunk roads that need attention in winter. If you are in charge of school grounds, a campus, business park, housing estate, country hotel or sporting facility, it is your responsibility to keep it operational and the visiting public safe. There is a huge selection of kit available to help you to do just that — not large gritting lorries but tractor- or vehicle-mounted blades, salt spreaders and de-icer sprayers, along with attachments for two-wheel tractors and mowers as well as the vast range of pedestrian equipment.

High-performance kit

Should this coming winter be particularly harsh, then Wiedenmann has a reputation for some of the best high-performance snow-clearance kit. The German manufacturer is based about an hour from the Bavarian Alps, which means it sometimes gets to test its technology in the summer months. For this season Wiedenmann has 19 separate Snow Master blades. That is three up on last year, with sizes from 1.25m to 2.12m at just about every 10cm interval.

The Snow Master brand is renowned for being robust and reliable. Each powder-coated blade is designed either to fold or with spring flaps. When ramming obstacles, either the entire blade or the single spring flap will fold down, making operator safety paramount.

Last year’s mild winter here in the UK meant that Wiedenmann’s most recent blade development, the Vario Flex (main picture), did not get the chance to prove itself. 

Designed for car parks and pedestrian areas, it has a fully adjustable blade with a chameleon quality of readily changing its working shape. 

This versatile kit can operate in a straight line to the left or right, in a V shape or in an arrowhead formation. Available in four widths, it has a tilting capacity of 30° to left or right, helping with close-up work or at an edge. The operator simply makes the adjustment from the cabin.

Aside from the blades, Wiedenmann’s most popular snow and dirt machine is the Ice Master, a combined box spreader/gritter. This dual spreader is sufficiently compact to negotiate pathways and pedestrian routes, yet it can also spin grit to clear parks. 

At 1.2m wide, the Ice Master can be driven by a power take-off (PTO) or hydraulically mounted. It can spread salt, sand or grit, via either a drop spread or spinner system. Settings can be changed at the flick of a switch without the operator having to leave the seat.

Years of experience

With many years’ experience in snow and ice management, DMMP is able to offer customers products and advice on managing the winter stuff. The company, based in Leicestershire, imports a wide range of pedestrian and vehicle-mounted salt spreaders, along with sprayers and snow shovels, all with confidence-boosting warranties.

"We want to help our customers in preparing for the winter weather and help to reduce the number of slips and accidents on snow and ice," says DMMP business development director Jacques Shelton. "Our range of high-quality commercial-use spreaders, sprayers and tools are predominantly built in the US snow belt, where winters are harsher."

For small commercial areas, pathways and drives, DMMP offers the EarthWay EV-N-SPRED 2040Pi+ high-output spreader. Designed specifically for spreading ice melt, rock salt and other poor-flowing materials, its high-output shut-off system enables large-gauge materials to be spread more evenly.

The Flex Select Spreader, also from DMMP, has been designed with maximum user comfort and durability in mind. With its tray system, it can apply a wider range of materials and now also features a new form of vertical agitation plus a two-hole drop system to deliver material more consistently and evenly across a 180° spread. Pedestrian spreaders from DMMP are backed by a five-year warranty.

Magnum spreaders, imported by DMMP and carrying a three-year warranty, offer a number of vehicle-mounted solutions for a wide range of users covering larger areas, including car parks and roadways. Hoper capacities span from 105kg to 2,500kg. They are either 12V or petrol-driven and can be fully controlled from the cab, remotely or via a wiring harness. To increase the versatility of these spreaders, DMMP has designed custom-built trailers and a variety of vehicle mounts to enable the units to be used on tractors, forklifts and other vehicles.

EarthWay and Magnum products designed for liquid ice-melt products, and offered in knapsack and pedestrian models, are also available from DMMP. The firm also stocks a wide range of shovels and scrapers designed to make clearing by hand easier and quicker. Its best-seller is the Penguin SnoBoss with 504mm blade, while the BustR snow shovel incorporates a metal blade capable of chipping ice as well as clearing snow. The Polar Tuff Snow Plough is a hand tool designed to quickly remove fresh snow from walkways.

Mower attachments

For large areas, it is sensible to make use of tractors, forklifts and other kit that might otherwise be redundant when there is snow on the ground. But what about using your mower? A number of manufacturers offer snow-clearance attachments and Kersten UK, in addition to supplying Meyer spreaders and ploughs, has attachments for a wide range of ride-ons from AL-KO to Wisconsin.

Gianni Ferrari also has attachments for its mower models. "One of the Gianni Ferrari range key advantages is the front-mounted deck, which means it is incredibly versatile — essential for local authorities, greenkeepers and parks managers who have to manage the landscape all year round," points out managing director Claudio Ferrari. 

"In our development programmes we have striven to ensure that all Gianni Ferrari models, except the mid-mounted deck machine, can be fitted with accessories for multi-function use," he adds.

"In fact, having linkage and PTO on the front allows us to fit the machines with a wide range of equipment. This includes winter clearance such as snow chains, snow blades, snow thrower, rotary brooms and salt spreaders. Some of our machines can also be fitted with soft cab or heated comfort cab to keep the operator in a comfortable environment even during winter. Heated seats are also available."


Billy Goat QuietVac

Vacuums for autumn/winter leaf clearance

Snow and ice are not the only slippery hazards to be avoided in winter. A late fall of leaves in the autumn can quickly become compacted, wet, then frost, and can be as dangerous to pedestrians as snow and ice. 

Early removal of leaves on hard surfaces should be considered  and it must be remembered that a layer of leaves on lawns and other grassed areas is an open invitation for turf diseases.

A wide range of wheeled vacuums, including Billy Goat units from Henton & Chattell, is available for fast and efficient leaf removal from residential, commercial and municipal property. 

Suitable for use on both hard surfaces and lawned areas, Billy Goat vacuums offer portable solutions starting with the 20in-wide Little Billy with 105-litre collection bag. For some commercial situations there is the 27in-wide KV Series with five-blade impeller and on-board 2in chipper, but on the professional side it is to the 29in MV series to which the likes of councils turn.

By their nature, vacuums tend to be noisy machines. The Control of Noise at Work Regulations stipulate that hearing protection is mandatory for equipment over 85 decibels. That is where the Billy Goat QuietVac wins. At just 77 decibels, this machine is believed to be the quietest 33in vacuum on the market. 

Available in push and self-propelled versions, the QV has a 136-litre collection bag. The self-propelled model utilises hydro drive transmission with forward and reverse speeds up to 3mph. Prices start from £1,889.99 including VAT. Optional hose kits are available.

Amazone Groundcare E+S spreader

E+S spreader upgrade

From 2016, all Amazone Groundcare E+S spreaders are equipped with a new rustproof stainless steel hopper tip and new finger agitation system designed to operate more intensively than before yet at the same time provide gentle treatment of the spreading material.

For operator comfort, the new EasySet operating terminal is designed to offer complete electric actuation. Via the new terminal, the opening and closing of the shutter is done electrically at the press of a button. An LED shows shutter status. During operation it is also possible to match the shutter aperture size.

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