Flailbot (remote control flail mower)
This winter we have been trialling a Flailbot (remote controlled flail mower) in the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley AONB. Funding was secured through the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley AONB Sustainable Development Fund and Cadwyn Clwyd to see how the use of the Flailbot could potentially benefit the AONB.
One of the main concerns of all involved in upland habitat management in areas of the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley is the reduction in grazing livestock turned onto the hills. A reduction in grazing livestock within these upland areas causes the upland vegetation to grow excessively. This then reduces the favourability of the habitat for the fauna such as Black Grouse. We therefore need to find a way to encourage the regular grazing of these areas or manage them effectively with alternative methods.
This project has given us an opportunity to see the potential benefit the machine can provide in habitat management of the uplands. We have been using the Flailbot to cut gorse and heather in upland areas that were previously inaccessible with conventional machinery or for burning due to the severity of the slopes. The Flailbot machine, however, is able to cope with up to 55 degree angle slopes making it much better suited to the upland terrain and much more stable. It is also driverless which means it is a lot safer should an accident occur which is another feature that makes it ideal for this terrain.
The hire of the Flailbot machines has enabled us to cut areas of heather and gorse, opening up additional areas of grazing for livestock by allowing free movement of animals. Additional tracks have been cut into scrub areas to allow for easier flock management and gathering. On the heather moorlands, fire breaks have been cut which will aide traditional upland heather management by burning. However, this will also be beneficial as it will minimise the damaging effect of accidental hill fires which are an increasingly frequent occurrence.