'I used to have to press the clutch a thousand times a day - that's a lot of effort and energy'
Published 14/10/2015 | 02:30
He is very happy with his new set up, but Ray Darcy reserves some praise for the "old reliable" Fendt Xylon (Pictured) that he had for 10 seasons' work.
He sourced the 1999-registered machine from Scotland and paid almost €90,000 for it and two cutters, one of which was front mounted and also designed for reduced neck strain for the driver.
The set up attracted some strange looks from passers-by due to its rare tool carrier design.
However, the rear cutter on the Fendt still required a degree of straining and turning to keep an eye on what was going on - something that would inevitably lead Mr Darcy to upgrade to the new system.
After 1,200 hours of a busy season so far and counting, it seems he has no regrets. "I have found productivity is vastly improved compared to last season," revealed Mr Darcy.
"There are a couple of reasons why. Firstly, the New Holland has a 50kph gearbox that allows you to move between jobs briskly.
"Secondly, the continuously variable transmission means I'm not wasting time clutching for directional changes.
"On the Fendt I estimate that I used to have to press the clutch up to a thousand times a day - that's a lot of effort and energy over the course of a long day."
Mr Darcy first started hedge cutting 31 years ago, charging £9 per hour. He began with a David Brown 995 tractor and a Bomford Highwayman hedge cutter which had a 15-ft reach.
Back then he was the only such contractor for a 15 mile radius but these days there is much more competition.
Coupled with the surge in farmer-owned machines, it means jobs have gotten harder to come by.
Thankfully, he is a busy man with lots of council work and contracts from Irish Water helping to keep his new machinery working. He likes being his own boss and seeing the beauty of the countryside as part of his job, but Mr Darcy says being a hedge cutting contractor still has its drawbacks when it comes to meeting irate members of the public who often question an out-of-season trim.
"You would think most people would accept a certain amount of summer cutting on main roads is inevitable given the high growth rates and the effect that overgrown ditches have on driver safety.
"But you wouldn't believe the abuse I get from some people who give out and tell me they are going to report me for breaking the law!
"I'm all for protecting wildlife and diversity, but at the end of the day road safety is road safety. Most people realise that, but there's always someone who can't see the logic."