Test: Shelbourne Reynolds 800 Series

By: Mark Fouhy, Photography by: Mark Fouhy


The Shelbourne Reynolds 800 Series sets the standards for hedge or verge trimming. Farm Trader's Marky Fouhy reviews.

Always keen to see new machinery in action, I spent some time with Mark not long after he had purchased the latest Shelbourne Reynolds 800 Series Hedge and Verge Trimmer for his contracting business.

Still a mower of sorts – although a whole lot less common – this impressive machine works magic in the hands of a skilled operator when it comes to keeping things looking tidy and well maintained around the farm and countryside.

Test time

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The Shelbourne Reynolds ready for its initial run along the front face

To see the unit in action, I headed to Waikite Valley, south of Rotorua, to spend the day with Mark Newton, owner-operator of All Trimmed Up. Mark specialises in hedge cutting services to surrounding areas from his dairy farm base at Tokoroa.

He got into the hedge cutting business after realising how difficult it was to find someone in the local area willing and able to get his own hedges tidied up when the job needed doing.

With a keen interest in machinery and an understanding wife (Sarah) to keep the farm side of things running, Mark now has five years under his belt hedge trimming.

He recently decided it was time to upgrade the equipment required for the task. With his old hedge cutter starting to show its age, Mark headed to Waikato Tractors (Waikato dealer of the English manufactured Shelbourne Reynolds range of agricultural equipment, which includes solid waste spreaders and mixer wagons as well as a range of hedge and verge flail mowers), and the team there were able to sort out the perfect machine for his jobs.

Older hedge trimmers such as that which Mark had been operating are pretty standard, with parallel mounting/operation. This means the mowing unit works parallel with the tractor, which ends up being behind the operator, resulting in an awkward driving position to maintain for an eight- to 10-hour workday​​.

One of the key new features of Mark’s new Shelbourne Reynolds reach mower is the variable telescopic reach of the arm as well as the forward reach, giving a much better driving position while working.

The new Shelbourne machine has standard range of movement up and down and movement of the cutting head of six- to seven-meter reach to the rear of the parallel position, as well five to 5.5 meters forward of the machine in the horizontal position.

The reason for this versatile range of movement is down to the fact that this machine also can hydraulically telescope out from 5.6 metres to a length of 6.5 meters.

This range of movement makes life easier when tidying up tops through corners, as you can park the tractor in one spot and pivot the mower head through 102 degrees before moving off along the hedgerow.

Mark was happy to start my hedge trimming apprenticeship, which would take a while to complete (although you sort of follow the hedge in terms of what has been cut before). Keeping an eye on what the tractor is going over while keeping the trimmer head where it should be​​ requires some serious skills. Fortunately, the hedge I was working on in the paddock was pretty smooth and parallel with top of the hedge, which made things a little easier. Operators like Mark make the job look easy, which is far from reality. The quest to cut the perfect hedge and high expectations of himself to produce a quality job for his clients are key drivers for Mark and his business.

After my stint on the trimmer, and taking into account that I have seen plenty of hedges cut where the quality of the finished hedge job is noticeable (both good and bad), my completed row of hedge probably sat somewhere in between the two. Mark’s was clearly a 10/10.  

Operation

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Ample forward and sideways reach if operating over drains for example

With the Shelbourne being PTO driven to its own hydraulic pump, there isn’t any real need for a hugely expensive tractor with a large hydraulic pump to keep up with hydraulic flow requirements. Mark is operating his Shelbourne HD875VFRT mower on a Massey 7614.

Suggested minimum horsepower is 130hp and a minimum tractor weight of 5500kg to handle the 2250kg machine. Mark has wheel weights in the rear right-hand wheel and potentially could do with another few kgs for the weight of the mower when extended out.

His Massey is a PowerShift DYNA 4 transmission. A vario type transmission may make the job a little easier, depending upon what you are used to.

Axle mounting allows the weight of the machine to be balanced on the tractor as well as onto the three-point linkage. If you want to remove the machine from the tractor, there are stands as well as forklift brackets, although, it’s not a two-minute job.

Marks tractor is a dedicated hedge cutting machine, only getting a break-through calving when farmers are busy, and he has more time to spend on farm himself.

As with all machines, safety is hugely important. Safety functions of the tractor/mower disengage the mowing head if you leave the tractor seat while correct signage and lighting allow for operation on roadsides.

Folding up the Shelbourne unit allows for a narrow transport width when on the road between jobs. An optional debris blower can be fitted to blow rubbish back off the road. Mark has found he can achieve a tidy finish with adjustment of the optional hydraulic nose, as closing it down feeds a smaller amount of material through, giving a more mulched material cut and feed through the machine and fed onto the ground.

Cutting head

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Cutting head sizes available are: 1200mm, 1500mm (test machine) or 1600mm

The cutting head is another important feature of the Shelbourne machine. Most verge/hedge mulchers are standard with a 1200mm cutting head, but this test machine had the HD1500 (1.5-metre cutting width) head fitted, and Shelbourne go one better with a 1600mm head. The larger head allows fewer passes to cover the hedge and get the job done, adding efficiency and reducing ground passes for Mark to get onto the next job.

Shelbourne Reynolds haven’t taken any shortcuts with these mulching heads. The 1500 weighs in at 400kg and is double skinned with twin vee belt drive to the 120mm diameter shaft with 50mm bearings.

Mark runs the double-sided ‘T’ flails so you can turn them around and use the next side once they get worn down. How long they last depends completely on how much they get used.  

The optional hydraulic nose lets you control how much gets fed into the flails. For the opening cut, you want it opened up to take the bulk of the material off and closed mostly shut for your finishing cut. With ample reach and range of movement, the option of fitting a saw blade for cutting thicker limbs is possible. This type of work is a little bit more specialist, as while hedge trimming is a dirty job, for tree trimming, you really want a steel-plated tractor or a tank to avoid doing damage to the tractor or operator.

Controls

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The replacement armrest keeps controls close at hand, with joystick for precise operation

Swapping out your standard armrest on the left, you bolt on the Shelbourne Reynolds joystick. The 800 and 700 Series machines use the same armrest/joystick setup with electric over hydraulic controls. A small joystick controls a lot of your mowing head function/movement. It’s programmable, although, Mark has left his as standard as this seems to work well. Micro adjustments on the joystick are all that is required to try and keep the mowing head where you want it.

To start the head, you need to have the PTO running to allow you to engage the rotor with the electric start. A small LCD screen displays function, with touch buttons for controlling other functions such as telescoping out further.

The quality of build is evident on Marks machine, with 60mm pins used on the arms pivot points, so they shouldn’t wear or have any slop and need replacing for many hours of work. The one small niggle I did notice was one bit of wear on a hydraulic hose line, although, this is always likely to be an issue with so much range of movement. Extra shielding wrapped around this might be useful.

Waikato Tractors, the dealer for Shelbourne Reynolds in New Zealand, are in contact with the company in the UK and will probably have a solution for this sorted from the factory for future machines before they leave.

However, Mark did comment and I agreed that the hoses are generally well protected behind guards with shielding, which minimises the chances of them getting snagged on something and torn off, costing time repairing and getting hoses fixed to allow work to continue.  

Summary

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The strength and build quality is evident in the construction of the boom arm

After spending time with Mark from All Trimmed Up, I have a new appreciation for the skill of those keeping the farms and countryside looking good and for keeping hedges trimmed and tidy.

As far as our test machine goes, the Shelbourne Reynolds 800 Series HD875VFRT certainly sets the standards for hedge or verge trimmer (which I’m sure it is equally adept at). While the initial investment for any machine such as this may be a little daunting, the efficiencies and ease of operation help justify the expense.

Depending on workload and requirements, some of the smaller machines in the Shelbourne range may tick the boxes for what you are after while still maintaining the same build quality and construction as the 800 Series mowers.

Shelbourne Reynolds 800 Series specifications

Controls Electro over hydraulic joystick
Oil capacity 230L
Boom type Variable forward reach telescopic
Hydraulic slew  102 degrees
Reach 6.2–7.5m telescoping
Drive system flow 100L/min
Drive system pressure 275 bar
Head angling 250 degrees
Machine weight 2250kg incl. head and oil
Min tractor weight 5500kg
Min tractor horsepower 130hp
Cutting head HD1500 (1200 and 1600 options)
Cutting width 1.5m
Flails 30
Type Drop forged ‘T’
Weight 400kg 

Pluses

  • Comfortable operating position
  • Excellent range of movement of the cutting head
  • Well-put-together machine; no loose hoses to get caught and broken
  • Easy to install/operate armrest with joystick controls

Minuses

  • Found one hose rubbing on guards; extra shielding should help alleviate the potential issue

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