The reliability and precision of a John Deere mower have proved essential qualities in the turf maintenance programme of historic Dulwich College in south London, which delivers more cricket fixtures than any other on the independent school circuit.
The College’s 75 acres include the main campus site and three additional grounds. As school cricket squares go – and Dulwich has eight of them – the First Ground ranks among the country’s finest. Maintaining premier standards is a continual challenge for the 10-strong grounds team, led by head of grounds Paul Purnell, especially with an expanding fixture list that includes commercial as well as inter-school matches.
As recorded in Wisden, the cricketing Bible, Dulwich College clocked up no fewer than 305 official fixtures last season, making it the venue that sees more cricket played than anywhere else in the UK. “The College runs 50 teams altogether, from Colts to the first eleven, and also rents out grounds to private companies for them to stage matches,” says Paul. “A typical week during the season can see as many as three games a day on the same square, and that keeps us pretty busy!”
Already armed with a large fleet of John Deere machinery, including compact tractors and electric Gator utility vehicles, Paul turned to the brand once again to buy a key piece of kit, a 7700 PrecisionCut five-gang cylinder mower. This is now helping him cope with the huge number of cricket matches that are played well into September.
"The 7700 is by far our most versatile machine,” he says. “We use it on the cricket outfields, amenity lawns and rugby pitches across our four sports grounds. With fresh blades, there's no better machine – it gives a fine, precision cut that other machines in our fleet can’t match. It certainly does a great job of tending the grounds.”
Paul had been in the market for two years looking for the right machine, keeping in constant contact with a regional network of fellow grounds professionals. When the opportunity arose to buy a nearly new, ex-demonstration model at a saving on the list price, it was one that he couldn't pass up. The 7700 is now the school’s second largest item of turf machinery in a large, diverse fleet of ride-on and walk-behind mowers plus handheld equipment.
“Our cricket surfaces need to be maintained to the highest standards over a long and increasingly hectic season,” adds Paul. “It’s essential that we use machines that can deliver cutting precision and reliability, and that’s where the John Deere 7700 scores so highly.”