The owner/operator on route to the job in his trusty backhoe has been a familiar staple of the industry over the years, but two Lynch Plant Hire employees have taken it to extremes with an 877 mile charity fundraising odyssey in a Cat 432F2. Construction Plant News Editor Lee Jones reports.
“I’ve been heavily involved with a charity for special needs children as a voluntary director for some time, and the idea came to me to combine my day job with some fundraising,” explains Gavin Elson, as he takes a break from Ripping up the UK’s epic journey at the halfway point at Finning UK’s Cannock HQ.
“But it would take a few months of initial investigation before myself and Dale would even come to the realisation that driving from John O’Groats to Land’s End in a backhoe for charity was something we could really pull off.”
Gavin and his Lynch Plant Hire colleague, Dale Hawkins were already in contact with Cat through the manufacturer’s operator trials at its Desford facility, and when the equipment giant was approached for support the company loved the idea.
“Our employer, Lynch then purchased the machine, and allowed us to use it for the attempt, and both parties have been incredibly supportive,” adds Dale, “but it’s still taken 10 months of planning to get on the road.
“Looking from the outside you might think this was a straight-forward project, but the more we got involved the more there was to consider, but the really hard part was balancing the demands of our day job with the man hours Ripping up the UK required.
It’s been a hard old slog and we wouldn’t be doing this without the understanding and support of Lynch. We’d be lying if there were times when we didn’t feel like throwing the towel in and forgetting all about the whole thing but we’ve kept at it and now we’re on route it’s certainly been worth it.”
Although supported by the considerable generosity of sponsors, Hire Controller, Dale and Operator, Gavin, have also made their own personal financial investment in ensuring that Ripping up the UK became a reality.
“Because we wanted to keep costs to a minimum, and maximise the amount we’d ultimately be able to bequeath to the charity, almost everything is our own work, from the websites to the logos, and we’ve been bedding down in tents along the route for the same reason.
“Lynch paid for the fuel, and have supplied support vehicles, Ess Safeforce contributed towards the cost of hire vehicles to get up to John O’Groats, Ashcroft supplied the AdBlue, and the list of contributors just goes on and on.”
“The route itself has also taken some meticulous planning,” adds Gavin. “We started out from John O’Groats on Monday 9th May, and we arrived at Land’s End in the early hours of the Sunday 15th, but along the way we had to consider average fuel consumption, how many stops along the way, how much fuel we’ll need to carry, the average speed of the machine and what distance we expect to travel.
“As well as that, you’ve got to make sure you’ve got somewhere to stop for the night that’s safe to leave the machine and obviously avoid motorways.”
Unbeknown to the intrepid Cat Backhoe team, a cheque for £2,000 from Finning UK, presented by the company MD, Kevin Parkes, would also bolster the fundraising coffers at the halfway point, making a significant contribution to their £25,000 target for SNAP Cannock.
“My daughter has ADHD so I know just how important SNAP [Special Needs Adventure Playground] is to parents,” continues Gavin. “It’s a safe haven for children with a whole range of conditions, and where their behaviour will be taken into account. It costs £60,000 annually just to keep the facility running but their soft play area is in desperate need of refurbishment, and it’s the money we’re raising that will hopefully make that possible.”
To achieve that target the team have been setting off for each leg of their journey at 9am and finishing around 10 in the evening, and the Gavin is full of praise for the 432F2.
“If you’re sat in any vehicle for 10 hours then you’re going to ache but the experience of being in this Cat backhoe for that length of time is much like being in a very good quality car,” he explains. “We’re doing about 150 miles a day over 10 hours of driving and it has proved to a fantastic machine.”
Just a few days later Construction Plant News caught up with Dale and Gavin after they’d arrived in triumph at England’s most southerly point.
“It was great knowing that we actually got to finish what we started,” declares Gavin proudly, and to be honest we both feel a bit empty now it’s done – all that hard work and it’s all finished! Driving to the visitors centre at Land’s End and seeing people clapping their hands just felt amazing!”