A Kent-based contractor specialising in hedge and verge cutting on the county’s major routes says his Valtra tractors supported by Crawfords are ideal for the task.
Trading as Direct Enviro Services Ltd and based in Tenterden, Will Clarke and his father Paul started the family business nine years ago after Will had gained experience working for another highways contractor. Their first Valtra was one of the earliest supplied by Crawfords. Now, Will runs the business, assisted by his sister Grace and his wife Leanda, and employs a team of 10 people.
“Our first Valtra was a T153 Direct,” Will explained. “The business consisted of just me and a single tractor, and although I specialised in hedge and verge cutting, I also offered an agricultural contracting service. Relying on just one tractor meant I needed something reliable and efficient, and the Valtra seemed bombproof.”
Two years later, Will traded in the T153 for another Valtra. “I looked at other brands, but I preferred the Valtra, and the after-sales service from Crawfords had been amazing. In 2016 I replaced the T153 with an N174 Direct,” he said.
Rapid business growth, including winning a contract to maintain the verges beside the county’s high-speed roads, meant that a second tractor was needed only a year later. A nearly new T174 Direct and a second Spearhead hedge cutter from Crawfords were purchased, and a full-time operator was employed.
Powerful and manoeuvrable
The company’s fleet consists of an N174 Direct and an N135 Direct, with Spearhead Twiga Orbital S67 6.7m side-arm hedge and verge cutters and Votex front mowers. “When we stopped offering the agricultural contracting service to focus on local authorities and highways contracts, this meant we no longer needed a tractor as big as the T-series.
“For verge cutting, the extra manoeuvrability of the N-series is advantageous and uses less fuel. We opted for a slightly smaller side arm with 0.5m less reach, but it’s still a very heavy combination when our McConnel barrier mower is fitted. The N-series handles it easily, though. The tractors are very powerful and capable for their size.”
Many of Kent’s major road verges are looked after by Direct Enviro Services Ltd, using two Valtra N-series tractors with Spearhead Twiga S67 Orbital hedge cutters which were supplied and maintained by Crawfords.
Will said that operator comfort is a priority. “As far as possible, we have one operator for each machine, so they are looked after well. We have always specified Valtra’s Direct CVT transmission for its ease of use. It’s extremely smooth, and the ideal speed can be selected for any situation. It’s great for shuttling too. Roadside hedge and verge cutting require frequent direction changes, and with direct transmission, there is no clutch or gear lever to worry about. The operator just touches a joystick-mounted button.”
Can’t fault Spearhead
The Spearhead hedge cutters are also supplied by Crawfords and are systematically updated. The conventional flail heads have a 1.2m cutting width, and larger 1.5m rotary heads are fitted for working on overgrown hedges where they easily cut through thick branches. “We have always used Spearhead and can’t fault the reliability or build quality; conveniently, they are backed up by the Crawfords team, too,” Will continued.
Fixed cost servicing
Looking after most of Kent’s major roads and motorways keeps Will’s team busy throughout the year. The two Valtras work approximately 1,400 hours annually and are maintained by Crawfords. Will said that arranging servicing through Service Advisor Steph Nuth is always straightforward, and most servicing is carried out on-site. A service package negotiated when the tractors were purchased means the costs are fixed, allowing accurate budgeting.
Loyal to brand
Two new N175 Direct tractors are currently on order to replace the current machines. “We didn’t look elsewhere as the Valtra package is hard to beat,” said Will. “The latest models feature significant cab improvements, including new controls, and I think they will be even more popular with the operators.
“Since we started dealing with Crawfords, both our businesses have grown, but we still receive great back-up from the service team and know that if a breakdown occurs, there will be someone available to get us out of trouble.”
Will Clarke says he is confident that if a problem occurs, the Crawfords service team will always be available to assist.