I do love my wheelbarrow. Together with my Felco No.2 secateurs and my hand fork, it’s one of those everyday objects that I can’t imagine being without – at once supremely useful, and oddly comforting. To some extent, with frequent, prolonged use of a tool your body will adapt to its idiosyncrasies. The very best kit requires no such allowances to be made, and in no time feels like a natural extension of your limbs. For over five years I’ve been very happy with my County Clipper wheelbarrow with its ABS tray – it’s strong, and light, which means you can throw it about without straining yourself or worrying about damaging anything, and the heaviest of loads requires little more than a gentle insinuation to guide it around the garden. It also has a nice fat pneumatic tyre, which makes travelling over uneven ground a breeze, and allows you to bump the whole thing up kerbs or over small rocks, for example, without having to turn around and drag the barrow backwards.
It was almost perfect, but not quite, and once I’d identified what was niggling me about it, I knew there’d be no rest until I discovered a solution.
The niggles were, naturally, of a fairly minor nature, but sufficient to cause frustration. They concerned the shape and size of the plastic tray, and the fact that there was no satisfactory provision for carrying long handled tools without them falling off with annoying regularity.
My wheelbarrow needs to fit with the rest of my tools into the back of my short wheelbase Land Rover, which, of course, it does – I’ve been using it for five years – but, particularly during the spring and summer when a lawnmower is part of the daily carry, things can get a bit tight, to the extent that I’ve broken a bit off the mower by shoving everything into the back before slamming the back door closed. The tray on the Clipper barrow is relatively shallow and wide, which experience has shown is only really an advantage when using the thing to mix compost, and is more often than not a slight hinderance.
There’s another County model, the Cruiser, which has a deeper, narrower tray, and I was almost set upon one of these as a replacement, until I came across this, from the French company, Haemmerlin.
This is the Pick-Up barrow from their Vibrante range, and comes in green or yellow with a choice of either a pneumatic or 'puncture free' tyre. I opted for a green barrow with the pneumatic tyre.
It’s the same capacity as my old barrow – 110 litres – but the narrower dimensions fit better through gates and into well-packed Land Rovers, while the deeper polypropylene tray provides a more confident receptacle for my bits and bobs. And – the killer feature – it has grooves in the front and back of the tray on each side, which allow you to carry long-handled tools such as rakes and hoes, without them bouncing off after three paces. They even keep a relatively tight grip on my strimmer, which is immensely useful.
There’s even a measuring scale on the inside front of the tray
It's almost all good. The only slight downsides are that it's heavier than I expected, though still lighter and more portable than a metal barrow, and there's something to do with the geometry of the thing which makes it less easy to bump the wheel over chunky objects, as you tend to hit the front rail, which is a little jarring. I suspect that there's a knack, and that I just need to get used to lowering the handles a bit to make more of the wheel's surface available to the obstacle. As niggles go, these far less significant than the points which frustrated me about the barrow which this replaces. Haemmerlin, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.