1. Electric mowers (Bosch) are they as good as I’m being told?
  2. Electric utility vehicles (not John Deere gator) Has anyone purchased one recently for portering/refuse collection tasks?
  3. Has anyone purchased or currently running a compact sweeper (cabbed)? I’m trying to put a business case together.
  4. We are having a new 532 bedroom accommodation block being built and the refuge solution is a room the tenants put the bin bags in loose that are then collected and taken to a central collection point. I’d like there to be bins in the store to contain/separate the waste which are then towed away? Anyone have a similar issue?

Tom Vasey – Newcastle University

  1. I assume you mean battery powered mowers but unfortunately battery power (of any equipment) is not something that we are currently embracing at Newcastle, mainly due to concerns over performance as well as battery life not just in terms of can it be used for a full days cutting but how long before they need replacing entirely and how much would that cost? Can the team be relied upon to religiously charge the batteries after each use so they’re good to go the next morning? If they forget one evening you could be down for a few hours whilst they charge. I’m not sure what the initial outlay is for one of these machines but we have a fleet of circa 15 pedestrian cutters which we would replace roughly every 5 years so if it’s about £1500 per machine it would be quite a significant expense to us.
  2. We only use John Deere Gators 1 electric and 1 diesel‚ the electric one is used for refuse collection and has a small trailer on the back.
  3. We are currently on our 2nd “cabbed” road sweeper and have used an Applied 636HS sweeper from Tennant on both occasions, the first one was 2nd hand‚ the most recent (last year) was brand new. Use of these machines has contributed massively to the cleanliness of our campus and there is a marked difference
    when the sweeper is not in use‚ particularly road/path edges. Prior to that we relied upon broom power‚ the occasional contractor sweep and an Applied Green machine some sort of 3 wheel pedestrian or ride–on machine which proved to be fairly ineffective with anything more than crisp bags and created a lot of dust for the operator. The “cabbed” 636 with wanderhose and pressure washer comes well recommended from us.
  4. We currently have a mixture of rooms within buildings and wooden bin stores with green roofs on each of the latter each of them are central collection points so we don’t have them scattered all over the site‚ just in key locations. We then have numerous 1100 litre contractor wheelie bins within each of these stores‚ in any case‚ the staff/students are required to put their own litter in the bins.

Jane Barker – Keele University

  1. I’m just ordering a suite of Pellanc battery equipment  – mainly they will be used so that we can continue work whilst exams are happening on campus as we’re constantly being stopped due to the noise of the mowers at the height of our growing season
  2. Its a very compact area of the campus where we plan to use them and when we trialled them the battery lasted fine for all the tasks we made it do so I’m optimistic they should be fine here at Keele but not sure they’re yet robust enough on a larger more dispersed campus
  3. They are expensive to buy but I’ve balanced that against all the overtime I’d have to authorise as we can’t operate our usual machinery  at all between 7am – 7pm Mon – Fri for the whole of June and parts of July.
  4. I’m happy to let you all know how we get on with them if you’re interested and if it will help you chose equipment in the future

Jim Moffat – University of Strathclyde

  1. Electric mowers (bosch) are they as good as I’m being told ?– We currently don’t use any electric mowers‚ but do use a range of battery powered stihl blowers and hedge cutters which assist in noise pollution and HAV’s.
  2. 2–Electric utility vehicles (not John deere gator) Has anyone purchased one recently for portering/refuse collection tasks? We only have one and it is a John Deere Gator we have had to remove it from the main campus as due to site being hilly and carrying loads we had to continue charging throughout the day.
  3. Has anyone purchased or currently running a compact sweeper (cabbed)? I’m trying to put a business case together.– We currently have a applied sweeper which as Tom has said has limited usage‚ put good for narrow paths and areas throughout the campus not so good for large carparks etc.
  4. We are having a new 532 bedroom accommodation block being built and the refuge solution is a room the tenants put the bin bags in loose that are then collected and taken to a central collection point. I’d like there to be bins in the store to contain/separate the waste which are then towed away? Anyone have a similar issue ?–Joe due to health and safety reasons (sharps etc with bags and liquids)and pest control we have tried to ensure all waste is contained in central bin stores to reduce multiple handling.

Nigel Hodge – University of Surr

  1. Here at Surrey my teams experience and assessment has the exactly the same as Toms reply above. We currently do not use any electric powered equipment. I did try them (Pellanc) for a weeks trial and the operators were not that impressed. Added to Tom’s comments (battery life‚ cost etc‚ etc) we found the cable length from the battery pack to the actual machine was very short especially for getting the tops of hedge cut. Sadly if the cables were any longer they would have been easily cut so a no win situation as far as I could see.
  2. I do not have any of these types of vehicles on the grounds section. Some of the other estates staff do and I know they are going away from them due to costs of maintenance particularly battery issues‚ initial purchase cost‚ and poor road speed when on the general roads. This is because of our split campus site. We use to have some John Deere E Gators but they have been replaced by TX Gators as they are cheaper to initially purchase‚ have proved to be less problematic and long term are better suited to the work load we expect from the machine.
  3. We have not gone down this route because when our Johnston machine died we the University felt it was not cost effective to replace it. I have a contractor now come in on a monthly – six week basis depending on time of year and how dirty the site gets.
  4. We have refuse stores outside accommodation and academic blocks that have recycling bins in and general refuse contractor wheelie bins. The students and staff then put all their rubbish in the bins. We have now installed bait boxes in each of these stores to keep down any rat and mice problems.

Paul – University of Kent

  1. We actually hosted a “Green day” for Godfreys in October. There was some useful stuff but we haven’t committed to this yet. However‚ as some colleagues have already said‚ the electric kit would be great around teaching rooms and at exam time.
  2. We have a 1 x e gator and a diesel gator‚ potentially buying an XUV for the newly appointed woodsman.
  3. We don’t deal with road sweepers sorry !!
  4. Again I don’t deal with rubbish however there are compounds around the accommodation sites‚ which a contractor collects once a week

Ian Sturzaker – Lancaster University

  1. At the moment not gone fully down the battery route however we did purchase a Pellenc battery set and hedge cutter a few years ago. The lads really like it due to the weight of the hedge cutter (we initially went through 2 cables quite quickly with cuts but have it now encased in armoured protection). We have looked at other implements for it which look really useful. As everybody else we do struggle through the exam period so any feedback on battery powered mowers would be really useful.
  2. We have an old John Deere E–Gator which is useful as a general run–about‚ and I have looked at vehicles from a company called Alke which seems quite good http://www.alke.com/ although no purchase as yet
  3. We purchased a Johnson 101 last year after various demo’s our 636 sweeper gave up a couple of years ago and this seemed a good fit. Large initial outlay (60k) but managed to reduce the maintenance contract based on the number of hours‚ although it has a dedicated driver and its out four days a week. We also looked at the 201 but slightly too big for what we needed. Makes a big difference and when not in use over the last couple of years there was a big increase in weed growth
  4. We have dedicated bin stores located close to all residencies which contain 100ltrs Euro bins. Students take both their rubbish and recycling to this bin stores‚ the bins are then emptied by the local authority on contract with most bin stores emptied daily

Jane Marriott – Glasgow University

  1. We have had a Johnston CN200 for the last 10yrs we use it all year round very handy for lifting leaves and power washing hard standing areas as well as all pavements roads car parks etc
  2. It cost £68000 and we have 3 assistant gardeners trained operators‚ it assists the gardeners a lot with lifting grass cuttings‚ weeds leaves etc. We have STIHL battery machinery very handy at exam times and the gardeners favour the hedgecutters.
  3. The battery last 2 hrs unless we use the back pack battery that lasts 8 hrs also the blowers and chainsaw and pole saw are good. The lawn mower is a Viking and although it does a good cut the battery only last 30mins. We also have dedicated bin stores with 110l bins that the students use and are serviced by our waste contractor.

Jim Swan – Heriot Watt University

  1. We would not consider using an electric mower for various reasons‚ battery “staying” power and battery cost being the main one. We have trialled various types of battery powered equipment‚ namely Pellanc and Stihl makes‚ these were blowers‚ strimmers and hedge cutters‚ my guys thought they were very underpowered‚ particularly the hedge rimmers etc‚ so in essence‚ I tend to keep away from battery powered kit. I must admit though‚ we do have a Stihl Short Pole hedge trimmer and ordinary hedge cutter‚ not favourits by any means‚ but useful in emergency situations where noise is an issue for short periods. So doubtful if a mower would be any better or usefull.
  2. Our waste collection team trialled electric buggies of various types for waste collection‚ this was to pull a trailer (no heavy loads)‚ but they could not do the job the same as the Kubota RTV900 as presently used. It was calculated that the cost to replace the batteries every two or three years actually cost more that it would to buy diesel over the same period could for the environment‚ but not the purse.
  3. Sorry‚ don’t use compact road sweepers‚ although hire in the service as required‚ that said‚ it would be good to have one for paths etc. (one for Nigel H ..only thing missing here!)
  4. We have big lorry lifted bins outside the residences‚ that the cleaners and students deposit the rubbish into in black bags. The main problem we have is that these bins sit fairly close to the buildings‚ and have to be accessible by a large eight wheeled lorry‚ the bins have also to be within reasonable carrying distance (manual handling) from the building to the bin‚ so are a bit obvious and not easily hidden from view an eyesore to be precise‚ this is an ongoing problem when new residences are being built‚ and cause more than a few headaches for the designers. There are recycling bins all over the campus and inside buildings‚ which are collected by the waste team and recycled accordingly.

Iain Park – University of Exeter

A happy‚ if very wet‚ New Year to all colleagues.

Grass cutting is a nightmare at the moment unless they invent something that can attach a cutting unit to a hovercraft it just can’t be done down here a worry with bulbs well up and winter Grad at the end of the month.

  1. Our staff did not favour any of the Electric or batter powered equipment we have trialled. Although lighter‚ it did not achieve the standard or work rate they were looking for. We will persevere and continue trials. We also work flexibly by starting earlier during exams‚ trying to carry out “Noisy tasks” before exams start. (Our colleagues give us good notice of the exam times and venues to permit this work planning).
  2. We do use Electric Vehicles now make and comments attached “Make and model = Nissan e–NV200. The electric van is brilliant‚ we do have to keep it topped up but it’s much more practical for what we need it for.”
  3. Like others we hire in sweepers as and when. We did have our own Gianni Ferrari‚ with a cab but it did give us “issues” which were not fully resolved and so we sold it.
  4. All our new build and residences have purpose built bin stores Bulk wheeled containers are supplied as part of a service contract with a third party. The only problems we get with these is spillage‚ if they are over full or scattering by wind/Wildlife for the same reasons. Colleagues in Residences and FM work on the presentation issues with students. It is standard practice in the design brief to include bulk bin stores. We still get litter drop but it is manageable.

Russ Bissett – University of Portsmouth

Hi All‚

I may be the last to wish you all a Happy New Year‚ and I am glad to see that 2016 has kicked off with a bit of networking!

I was the fish out of water at the conference‚ and take my hat off to all of you horticultural types (heavy on the cultural). Being the only one with a contractor to do all the heavy lifting with regards to ground maintenance I feel I am not best placed to answer any of the questions except for number 4.

We too have 1100 litre wheelie bins for both recycling and general waste‚ which are chipped to record recycling and general waste data‚ which are placed in central locations. We do have one Halls building with waste chutes‚ and although the building is not that old it is just old tech. All of the rooms have recycling bins in them and the kitchens have food caddies. The Halls’ recycling rates are up about 80–90%‚ academic and support buildings are in the 70% area‚ and if you need any more information on how this was achieved‚ then let me know.

Maurice James – University of Winchester

With regards to electric mowers‚ at Winchester I purchased a Viking battery powered one due to one particular area where access to grass was down a series of steps. In the past 2 people had to safely carry a petrol mower down. Now because of the reduced weight‚ 1 person can manage. I was told that the battery would give approx. 40 mins operating time‚ which for the job was enough. In reality it is 20 mins. Having initially purchased the quick charging system with 1 battery‚ I subsequently bought another battery so as one is being used the other is charging. This method does work. The cut of the machine is good and its use is favoured by our female members of staff due to weight. It is relatively quite as well‚ with vibration and noise well within the limits. I myself do use it on our sloping areas of grass on occasion. Down side you can’t be too far away from charging point as it could be a long walk! Conclusion I like it for the small areas.

We also run Pellenc machinery (blowers‚ hedge cutters‚ strimmers‚ brushcutter) which the University bought into before my time. Because of the expense I need to stay with it. Overall they work well and the team are happy with them apart from the strimmers (Excellion). Have had issues with the first batch of batteries which were purchased in 2011 they began shutting off prematurely. Upshot was that the first lot of batteries were not man enough to run the blowers and therefore compromised the cells. Our batteries were purchased before the blowers were on the market and were only to be used with the hedge cutters. Of course they were out of warranty etc.‚ etc.‚ etc. Have since added more higher rated batteries to our collection. Stimmers are regarded by the team as useless‚ but the brushcutter works well. Will be trialling the new mower at some point soon.

Hope this helps even though it is a bit long winded.

Cannot really comment on the other points.

Thomas Everett – University of East Anglia

  1. We currently don’t use electric mowers but do use Pellenc battery operated blowers and hedge cutters. The blowers are really effective and are used in sensitive areas such as around teaching blocks where noise pollution must be at a minimum. The hedge cutter attachment for the Pellenc is also very effective but only used for prolonged fine hedge cutting as the vibration is reduced compared to that of our petrol counterparts. The downside of the battery operated equipment is that staff sometimes forget to recharge the battery packs and the price of the Pellenc is triple the amount of its petrol equivalents.
  2. For some time we ran an Alke ATX220E electric truck. This in our opinion was not suitable to our environment. It was not robust and battery life was minimal. Parts for this vehicle had to be shipped in from Italy which did take time. John Deere electric gators will be our next port of call for UEA grounds.
  3. I am currently looking at replacing are compact Egholm City Ranger sweeper machine with a Hako City Master 1250. These machines are great for the more refined street cleaning (cigarette butts and small detritus) in social areas. For the main roadways I use an external contractor with a truck mounted gully sucking sweeping machine.
  4. Each residency on site has external wooden cladded bin stores that house the large contractual wheeled bins. These are used by cleaning staff to dispose of waste‚ then emptied by a waste disposal firm with their refuge truck.

Toby Nenning – Falmouth Exeter Plus

Happy New Year everyone

I would just like to say how great it is to see this level of response‚ the replies have been a real help to me as well.

We don’t use any electric machinery so I have been interested to hear your views.

We did use an electric Kubota but due to the topography of our site here in Cornwall it really struggled and was not fit for purpose‚ we now have the petrol version which performs much better and has caused us no problems over the last year even with a trailer attached.

We have a full time waste operative on site‚ the students take their waste to a large wheelie bin in separate bin stores for each of the bocks. They are then collected and towed in a convoy‚ three at a time in his Kubota to a waste compound where it is compacted ready for collection. Compostable material and recycling is removed separately buy an interim sustainability officer and student lead project.

Dave O–Driscoll – University of Birmingham

  1. Hadn’t been impressed with battery powered mowers‚ although we do have the hand tools. We had a demo‚ though‚ of the Pellenc and the team were very impressed with the quality of build and cut but suggested improvements to the wheels to better enable bank mowing (a major issue for us). I’m also concerned over battery life and was planning another demo in Spring so we can test one in real life. Jane‚ I’d be very interested in how you get on if you wouldn’t mind? It seems like a big outlay but the price includes the heavier duty backpack battery which could also be used for blowers‚ etc.
  2. We’ve been running JD E–Gators for a while‚ for refuse collection and a small mowing team‚ but I’ve been getting increasingly frustrated with battery issues‚ etc‚ so tested the market. This has grown quite a lot and I arranged several demos with mixed results. I’ve ordered a Gem e1400 made by Polaris. We only had to charge it once in the three days we had it and it seems well built and powerful enough for uphill stretches. It’s not due until the end of the month but I’ll let you know how we get on.
  3. I replaced a Dulevo 850 with a Hako Citymaster 1250c last year and it’s been a very good upgrade. We back this up with a Trilo SG400 for heavier duty work. The original business case showed that the costs of outlay‚ labour‚ fuel and servicing‚ etc‚ would be recouped over four years compared with the contract we had in place at the time (we kept it for seven) and the added benefits of flexibility and a better reactive service.
  4. Our accommodation blocks have either integral bin stores or purpose built‚ wooden ones outside (they do overflow at times but at least all in one place). Euro bins are there for cardboard‚ mixed recycling and general waste. The recyclables are collected in by our Environmental Services Team (who have just invested in a Transit pick up with tail lift and high sides) and placed in larger skips which are serviced along with the general waste by an external contractor. The general waste goes to a local power plant for incineration.

Richard Fluester – University of West of England

We have basically just gone electric with as much of our equipment as possible‚ we run a whole system now of Stihl battery powered equipment and I have been nothing but impressed‚ the batteries also work with the Viking lawn mowers and having all this equipment running with the same clip in batteries is amazing. Yes battery life with the mowers is limited running time‚ but if you have suitable supply of batteries this is not an issue. It takes seconds to change the batteries and they can carry spares on belts while they are mowing so no real time lost. Also lots or great features on the mower with height adjustment and box emptying‚ they light as to carry about and into difficult places and cut really well. It was the one thing I was unsure of but has been real benefit and I will encourage the team to use them as much as possible this coming season and see how we get on. The Hedgecutters‚ and strimmers are also proved to work really well. The only tool we have yet to fully replace is the back pack blower for large clearance jobs‚ otherwise we run electric for nearly all tasks. To minimise problems with battery recharging we operate a system where only supervisors charge the batteries‚ the operatives just put spent batteries in one box and collect fresh ones from another‚ so far this is working really well.

We have 4 HDK electric buggy’s‚ and they do the job we need. Charge time is overnight about twice a week. We Use them to move about the campus every morning to do our site inspections and the tray is large enough to get a mower on or move strimmers etc about. We easily customised them to carry brooms/rakes etc as well. We did have to retro fit a locking bar under the tray to stop that falling back when open‚ but lister wilder were very helpful with that. They are lightweight but fairly robust‚ couple of broken mudguards and repair to tray flap is only issues we have had. Not much to them so repairs and services so far seem minimal and simple. Only 6 months in but do the job for us‚ lots of other departments are eyeing them up across the university as simple transportation vehicles.

We have second hand Tennant green machine 636‚ when it works the benefits are great‚ but it is a money pit with something always breaking on it. I think new it would be a good machine for its size and was one of the most stable small sweepers we tried.

Hi All‚

I am emailing to say hello but really for some help/advice.

Traditionally we have just maintained them‚ strimmed‚ mowed weeded etc. with care. The H&S officer now wants fall arrest and harness training for the team‚ which seems overkill for these areas. Many of these areas are quite small or without a large drop. Some people have recommended inflatable mattresses‚ some boot clamp–ons.

I was hoping for any information‚ recommendations or risk assessments on how you deal with this. Any help would be greatly received. Sorry for the rather garbled message‚ enjoy the summer and hope to see you all next year.


Posted by: Tobias Nenning‚ Head Gardener‚ Falmouth Exeter Plus

Hi Toby‚

If the areas are predominantly grass try using primomax its something we are starting to do on our edges and banks. Its not a cheap but as turf growth retardant this would certainly decrease the number of cuts. On other slopes we used a flail from a digger or the back of tractor‚ others we do once a year and are treated as meadows. Hope that helps.


Posted by: Giles Reynolds‚ Head of Grounds‚ University of Reading

Hi Toby‚

We have also been looking at managing our banks better‚ as Aberystwyth University is built on a hillside. We had a member of staff who mowed most of our banks with a Toro pedestrian mower for years without incident but after he retired we had about three near misses in as many years with staff slipping and mowers coming off the banks. As Giles we invested in a flail arm on the back of our tractor thus eliminating the need to go onto the banks and tried leaving one bank as a meadow but ended up cutting it the week before Graduation to tidy it up as it was in a prominent spot. We have also in the past planted a few banks up with ground cover plants and shrubs and used our climbing ropes and harnesses on the very worst ones for the first few years until they established. But Primo maxx also sounds like a good option that I’ll be looking into.

Many thanks‚

Posted by: Paul Evans‚ Aberystwyth University

Hi Toby‚

In addition to the useful ideas below‚ there is also the option of a remote control bank mower for grassed areas. I’m not sure how practical that suggestion is given the current economic climate but‚ a few years ago‚ I made a bid for additional funding for one using both slips/trips and NHAVS to build the case. I was lucky enough to win and we haven’t looked back‚ extending its use to things like daffodil patches‚ etc. It has also increased efficiency‚ at least halving the time spent using strimmers‚ etc (although I don’t shout too loudly about that!).

Hope that helps.


Posted by: Dave O–Driscoll‚ Head of Grounds & Gardens‚ University of Birmingham


I missed the conference‚ but great to see such levels of support out there.

I guess the message coming across is eliminate need to cut if you can‚ we have used Euroflor as trials in few places(nothing to steep so far) and these near native meadows were still looking amazing last year well into October‚ only minimal maintenance and prep then required each year. I know they do an impregnated layer you can put onto banks to help the seed get established before it washed off the bank so we might trial that this coming spring. Also planting up a bank with ornamental grasses‚ flax‚ restios etc going for the tussock bank look‚ which eventually will be very minimal maintenance‚ and strengthen the bank‚ once established.

Let us know what you decide to do.

P.S. Gabions are great ideas‚ used them when I worked in NZ and planted them up as green walls with mixed Hebes‚ very effective…..if you can splash the cash!


Posted by: Richard Fluester‚ Grounds Manager‚ University of West of England.

Hello Tobias‚

Along with this deluge of ideas‚ I was wondering how your colleagues defined what is a ‘slope’ and/or when they consider a gradient becomes a ‘fall’ (as opposed to a roll)? I assume a risk assessment has been carried out for each of these?

We have previously regraded smaller embankments to reduce the gradient. We have also used gabions to provide a terrace.

Otherwise‚ as others suggest‚ we used side arm flails on the council.

I hope this helps

Kind regards
Alan Stealey

Posted by: Alan Stealey‚ Head of External Estates‚ University of Bristol

Hello Toby‚

Further to your email below and colleagues ideas below (which I agree with) to add a few more ideas into your melting pot.

I have just inherited some steep banks which we are going to put artificial grass on so there will be a virtually maintenance requirement. With the correct choice of grass they can look attractive. Along with the artificial grass we have also added an element of hard landscaping with the addition of some slate paving. I will add some pockets of slate to give some contrast of materials‚ also add some specimen low maintenance shrubs (eg . Trachycarpus) to add extra interest.

As an alternative then as has been mentioned low ground cover planting could be used and if it ever needs trimming a long handled telescopic hedge cutter could easily be used. I am thinking about planting some other bank areas with wild flower mixes which then could be cut with a flail or again long handled trimmer once per annum.

Hope this is useful to you.

Best Wishes‚

Posted by: Nigel Hodge‚ Horticultural and Landscape Manager‚ University of Surrey