Preston North End Football Club are a professional football club in Preston, Lancashire, England, who currently play in the EFL Championship, the second tier of the English football league system. Head Groundsman Pete Ashworth oversees four fibre-sand pitches at the first team training ground as well as the main stadium at Deepdale which is a fibre sand pitch. They also have four pitches down at the youth training centre which is one fibre sand pitch and three soil pitches.
Pete has a team of six grounds staff working for him spread across the three sites with two full time at the training ground, one based up at the youth team training ground and another at Deepdale- a relatively small grounds team for the work involved. Pete also has two apprentices that can float between the three sites to help out as and when needed as well as being available for match days.
The club have recently purchased a couple of electric C34E cylinder mowers for their first team training ground as well as two electric Uplift rotary mowers. The Uplift mowers are also transported to the main stadium for cleaning up after match days and they do also take the cylinders up to the ground if needs be. We spoke to Head Groundsman Pete Ashworth on his new additions...
''When we took the site on a couple of years ago the club invested in it and obviously there was a bit of a budget to buy some new machinery so obviously batteries were the kind of up-and-coming thing in terms of mowing. We trialled a few different varieties but the Allet's in terms of budget and ease of use we thought were the best for this so I put it to the club and said listen this is going to be the future of mowing in terms of using batteries rather than petrol etc and cheaper to run once we've got them. Luckily the club went with it. They fit into our budget and in terms of quietness when cutting generally we can crack on cutting while the players are out training although sometimes not but a lot of the time we can still cut compared to with the petrol mowers''
The battery mowers offer a greener quieter alternative to petrol mowers without the harmful PM2.5 emissions for grounds staff to be breathing in. ''There's a lot less vibration and in terms of quality we've got the cassettes as well that we can take in and out. We've got the rake cassettes so far they've been a really good addition to our equipment''
The C34E offers a cutting height between 8mm and 55mm which gives grounds staff a great variety of heights when cutting at different times of the year in different conditions.
''The height of cut is pretty straight forward and setting the cut is really simple you've just got the two dials on the front, a quick twist and you're raising the roller up and down it's very straightforward. Putting the batteries in now is an absolute doddle and obviously if you do need to change during cutting if you'd ran out you can do that no problems. There's no fuel spillages like if you're pouring fuel into them like you would with a petrol mower and no risk of burning on the grass.
Noise levels are much quieter with the battery mowers compared to petrol. For instance the C34E is 84dB or from a 4metre hemisphere 71dB to the operators ear. ''They're nice and quiet to use they're nice and light, easy to handle and you've got little features like the slow down button just for when you're turning at the ends if you in any tight positions you can just slow the mower down instantly just to help you turn into your next cut''
The club have also purchased a turf rake cartridge to fit into their C34 for keeping on top of thatch levels as well as picking up any debris after games. ''So a recent addition we bought the turf rake cassette and we've actually got another one on order so fingers crossed once we can get two mowers going after training we can probably clean up a couple of pitches in two to three hours with two lads and we'll use it just to clean out the surface lightly, get rid of any debris that might be in the surface and also clean up any bits that have come off the boots etc from training so it's kind of doing a couple of jobs in one. We'll use it to clean up after training and also just for cleaning out the surface nice and lightly''
Pete has also ordered a couple of the Uplift86E battery mowers. ''We use the Uplift's mainly just for cleaning up after training. They're just so easy to use. We've got the brush on the front if you just want to loosen any debris before vaccing it up. The suction is really good we can go quite fast with them as well and obviously with two mowers we can clean a pitch off in around an hour up at the stadium which is good up as well especially on a night match when everyone wants to get home. We've only got a small team so using smaller mowers isn't really viable so if we can get a couple of these going or even the day after a match one lad can vac off and it's not too much of a chore unlike with a little rotary mower. You've got the slow down button for turning if there's any obstacles but yes it really does suck up a good amount and leaves little debris left on the pitch''