Marshalling his troops - Pitchcare

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Marshalling his troops - Pitchcare

SERVING THE TURFCARE INDUSTRY

GOLF AND THE

ENVIRONMENT

Occupying large tracts of land,

golf clubs must become more

environmentally friendly. We look

at some of the available routes to

becoming pals with Mother Nature

CRICKET

Why do end of season renovation,

and what happens if you don’t?

Plus, a look at three facilities at

different levels, but all with

similar issues

August/September 2010

Issue No. 32 £4.50

pitchcare

The turfcare magazine

from pitchcare.com

FEATURE

WHAT HAVE THE

MANUFACTURERS

EVER DONE FOR US?

Marshalling

his troops

Under a blood red sky, Paul Marshall, Head

Groundsman at Northants County Cricket Club,

comes to the end of a fifteen hour working day

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QUEEN’S CLUB•NEWMARKET•SEAWEED

MUCH WENLOCK CC•DEAN PARK•UXBRIDGE CC•3G PITCHES

From demo days to topdressing,

tyres to training, we look at

what the manufacturers and

suppliers get up to, often

behind the scenes


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WELCOME TO

pitchcare

The One Show -

an update

FOLLOWING the Trade discussion on

the 8th March this year, regarding the

‘One Show’, there was a second meeting

between a select committee from the

Trade and the representatives of both

BIGGA and the IOG at the NEC on the

28th July.

Whilst it is a difficult subject, and one

that has been discussed for a good while,

there was a robust and constructive

discussion where progress was made.

The conclusions reached and circulated

by the Chairman (the AEAs Roger Lane

Nott) are as follows:

1. There is a desire for change from

company representatives.

2. There is a need for us all to respond

to the market and evolve not revolve.

3. There are many different reasons why

people go to shows. Amongst these

are: regional/local issues, a day out,

social, business to sell or buy,

education, research, window shop, to

promote.

4. Many companies exhibit because

their competitors do.

5. The customer base is very diverse and

the requirements of any show are

different for each company. Amongst

the customers are: Manufacturers,

Suppliers, Dealers, Distributors,

Architects, Buyers, Specifiers, End

Users, Retail - some national and

some international.

6. Diversity not necessarily a good thing,

but it does work.

7. Companies need to communicate

requirements better.

8. All need to raise profile of industry as

a whole with Government.

9. AEA needs to put these views to the

larger manufacturers.

10. Need to survey exhibitors to establish

customer’s requirements.

It was agreed that the IOG, BIGGA and

the Trade will come together to address

the conclusions of the meeting and

explore the feasibility of a single

landbased industry show with IOG and

BIGGA’s full involvement. The next

meeting has been arranged for

September.

2010 is officially the driest summer in

over sixty years - even the usually moist

north west has suffered hose pipe bans -

summer sports groundsmen have been

struggling with their surfaces - and

water bills, no doubt.

Whilst drought conditions are nothing

new, and our ever resourceful industry

always manages to find solutions, first

class cricket groundsmen have been hit

by another major issue, that of an

increased fixture list.

In their wisdom, the ECB saw fit to load

the Twenty20 fixture list, in the process

doubling the amount of games. This has

resulted in players complaining of fatigue

and dwindling attendance at most

grounds. But, what of the groundstaff?

In this issue you’ll find an article on

Northampton County Cricket Club,

where our editor spent the day with head

groundsman, Paul Marshall, and his

team. Paul’s day began at 7.30am and

finished at 10.30pm - a total of 15 hours.

And, for him, that is happening day in,

day out, throughout the summer. Paul is,

perhaps, fortunate to have a good

number of staff to help him and a decent

selection of machinery.

That’s not the case at Uxbridge CC and

Bournemouth University’s Dean Park

facility - both of which have hosted first

class games this season.

The Uxbridge Festival week, when

Middlesex welcomed Sussex, resulted in

Head Groundsman, Vic Demain, falling

out with the Sussex management over

the state of his pitch. There was, as it

turned out, nothing wrong with how it

played. Comments from Vic’s diary on

the ‘Middlesex Till We Die’ website were

picked up by the national press and, all

of a sudden, he is a ‘celebrity’!

At Dean Park, Head Groundsman, Andy

Dixon, suffered vitriolic comments from

players and managers through 2009 and,

if you read the article, you’ll understand

the reasons why - none of them of Andy’s

making.

Interestingly, the original article was

rather scathing of his employees and his

excessive workload - over 100 hours a

week. Having been given the article for

approval, the university not only toned

down the content, but gave Andy an

assistant, plus the option for additional

work experience staff as and when

required. At least Pitchcare achieved a

good result here.

Cricket groundsmen at first class facilities

are in danger of burn-out - the

authorities need to take their working

conditions and remuneration into

consideration before piling on the extra

workload.

Cheers

Dave Saltman

Say that again!

“And woe betide them if they

don’t mop out the changing

rooms - they have been dragged

out of the pub in the past!”

Peter Edmondson, Butleigh PFA

“The last thing I want is

people giving me their opinions

whilst I’m trying to get on with

my job!”

Andy Dixon, Dean Park

“AMG is the real Millwall of

grass species, no one likes it, but

it doesn’t care!”

David Goodjohn, Green Infrastructure

“We’re not just talking about

growing grass, we’re talking

about ensuring that the surface

is safe for the horses”

Alan Hatherley, Newmarket Racecourses

“They may have very

complicated sex, with many of

them producing sex pheremones

and with many different types

of sex organs”

Steve Nicholls, Sea-Chem Ltd

“Once people find out you are

in financial difficulties, they

don’t want to deal with you”

Mark Perrin, Crystal Palace Football Club

“We are expected to work 12 to

14-hour days for little

financial reward, and that’s

something that just doesn’t

appeal to younger people now”

Vic Demain, Uxbridge Cricket Club

“We have tried many different

methods to combat this problem,

including ultrasound devices

and numerous chemical

concoctions, all harmless to fish

and wildlife but, unfortunately,

also harmless to pond weed!”

Peter Craig, The Hurlingham Club


Contents

Cover Story -Paul Marshall, Northants County Cricket Club

Inside

THIS

ISSUE

Under a blood red sky, Paul

Marshall, Head Groundsman at

Northants County Cricket Club,

comes to the end of a fifteen

hour working day.

Laurence Gale MSc joined

him for the duration (nearly!)

Marshalling his troops

Page 78

THE PC TEAM

DAVE SALTMAN

Managing Director

Never let it be said that

Dave is ever anything

but confident. So

convinced was he that

his World Cup team,

Brazil, were going to lift

the trophy, he delighted

in telling all his

colleagues that the

money was as good as

his. The team’s earlyish

exit from the tournament

did result in an ‘egg on

face’ scenario! Shame.

JOHN RICHARDS

Operations Director

With the Pitchcare

Fixometer ‘picking’

Spain out of the hat in

the World Cup

sweepstake, John has

pocketed a not

inconsiderable amount

of dosh from his poor

colleagues. It has all

gone into his Oz fund as

another trip down under

must be imminent

although, as yet, there’s

nothing in the diary.

Golf

Arden fast rules

Looking after two championship courses during

recessionary times can provide additional

opportunities for greenkeeping staff, as our editor

found out on a visit to the Forest of Arden

Country Club. Pg14

Two Bob’s worth

Simon Atkins chats to Bob Hill, Head Mechanic

at the Forest of Arden about his career and his

commitment to training and WD40! Pg18

Back to nature

Aberdovey Golf Club has undergone a dramatic

rebirth in the past three years, thanks to the

efforts of the greenkeeping staff. Pg24

Crosswood’s crossover

Abi Crosswood, First Assistant at Newquay Golf

Club, reports on her recent internship at Augusta

National, where she helped prepare this iconic

course for the 2010 Masters. Pg38

LAURENCE GALE

Editor

It’s finally happened.

Laurence has managed

to take some good

shots with his new

camera, albeit at a

slightly jaunty angle. He

would have us believe

that he is being artistic -

we prefer to think that

he can’t hold the

camera straight. Either

way, the fruits of his

labour can be seen on

the front cover!

PETER BRITTON

Sales & Production

With the bus pass another

year closer - that’s if the

ConLib lot don’t cancel

them - Peter’s

‘meldrewness’ is reaching

new heights. Recent

targets of his chagrin

have been Spurs preseason

form, his

retirement age put back

one year, Go Compare TV

ads - actually, all TV ads -

and close-up TV replays.

You get the picture!

ELLIE TAIT

PR and Marketing

Fame at last for Ellie.

During a recent holiday

to a quiet corner of

Ibiza, she was sat in a

bar (a rarity I know),

when a chap came up

to her and said that he

recognised her. Turns

out that he was a

groundsman from the

UK, and an avid

Pitchcare reader, who

had clocked her from

the photo above!

Rob Rowson, Forest of Arden Country Club

General

Demonstrations - the true

cost!

It’s quite the done thing, isn’t it? You have an idea

that a piece of kit might do a job for you, but

you’re not sure, so you ask for a demonstration.

Pg118

The Loam Arranger

So, how does a cricket loam come to market?

Laurence Gale MSc talks to Simon Hedley about

the processes involved. Pg122

The Wheel Deal!

They’re black, round and have a hole in the

middle, right? Wrong. Jane Carley discovers that

there is more to tyres than meets the eye -

particularly for use on delicate turf. Pg124

Future Turf Managers

The major equipment manufacturers all have

educational schemes for students of fine turf,

which aim to cement relationships with aspiring

turf professionals as they enter the industry.

Pg128

What’s it all about? Algae!

Kelp is the generic name for Large Brown Algae,

that grows into vast underwater fields, so vital to a

huge variety of marine life, yet can also be turned

into a useful product for our industry. Pg130

Mother nature on the

rampage!

The Hurlingham Club’s Grounds Manager, Peter

Craig, explains some of the methods used to

combat a couple of ‘natural’ problems encountered

this year. Pg134

ALASTAIR BATTRICK

Web Monkey

Moved house recently

into a 300 year old pile,

not an easy task with

three youngsters and a

wife in tow. And then

there was the saga of

the washing machine,

but let’s not go there!

Remarkably, the usually

irascible Al remained

remarkably, cool, calm

and collected

throughout the week

long saga.

DAN HUGHES

Sales Manager

Currently sporting a sleek

new hairstyle, very

reminiscent of an inmate

of Broadmoor. Has been

busy recruiting teams for

the Pitchcare Fantasy

Football League. His

admirable, but some say

misguided, loyalty to

Wolves left him fretting

over relegation last season.

His target is to finish above

Kiran who, not surprisingly,

is not losing any sleep.


Vic Demain, Uxbridge Cricket Club

Cricket

Demain man!

Life can be tough when budgets are tight, but even

tougher when premium playing surfaces are

demanded across the board. Pg84

The Law of Sod!

Andy Dixon has had a few ‘issues’ to deal with since

taking over as head groundsman at Bournemouth

University’s Dean Park Cricket Ground. Pg90

Much ado about Wenlock!

When Wenlock and Mandeville were unveiled as the

2012 Olympic mascots, the little Shropshire town of

Much Wenlock was thrust into the limelight. Pg96

The dreaded ‘R’ word!

What single thing is foremost in all cricket

groundsmen’s minds as they near the end of

another season of hard slog? The ‘R’ word. Pg102

Tennis

The King of Queen’s

Barely a month after the Aegon tennis

championships, Centre Court at The Queen’s Club

is back to its resplendent best. Pg10

Racing

Horses for Courses

Newmarket’s two courses are world famous. Their

length and position have not altered since the 17th

century, but the maintenance regimes have! Pg110

CHRIS JOHNSON

Training Coordinator

On important granny

duties during the summer

holidays, enjoying girly

days with the lovely

Charlotte (aged 7) who,

on their visit to London,

chose Buckingham

Palace as the place she

most wanted to visit. Oh,

for the innocence of

youth - how long before

Jimmy Choo’s in

Knightsbridge becomes

her preferred port of call!

SHARON TAYLOR

Company Accountant

Has been a tad

‘grumpy’ of late as the

new accounting system

continues to be

problematical. This

brusqueness has even

percolated its way into

her emails to her

colleagues. You can bet

your bottom dollar that

her beloved horses are

getting a damn good

thrashing too as she

vents her frustrations.

KIRAN CONTRACTOR

Sales Administrator

With Wayne Rooney in

‘couldn’t hit a cows

bum with a banjo’

territory throughout the

World Cup, Kiran will be

hoping for a swift return

to form for England’s

premier striker, as his

beloved Man U aim to

win more than just the

Carling Cup this season!

Failure in every

competition would still

see him above Dan H.

Mark Perrin, Crystal Palace Football Club

Winter Sports

The Fall and Rise of

Mark Perrin ...

A buyer emerged at the eleventh hour to claw

Crystal Palace out of administration. Despite all the

money troubles, Mark Perrin ensures that the team

will play on a worthy surface. Pg44

Leeds - from the front!

Jane Carley meets Norman Southernwood, Head

Groundsman at Leeds United, and finds a man

happy managing what he has. Pg50

The Future’s Orange!

Premiership new boys, Blackpool, are ready for their

first season in the top flight, thanks to the efforts of

Head Groundsman, Stan Raby. Pg52

The Real Deal!

As the ‘Special One’ gets his feet under the

management table at Real Madrid, Dave Saltman

meets Paul Burgess, Head Groundsman at the

Bernabéu. Pg64

Technical

Irrigation 2010 and beyond

STRI Irrigation Consultant, Adrian Mortram, looks

at the growing need for water conservation and how

best to plan your irrigation requirements. Pg34

FAQs about overseeding

Paul Moreton, British Seed Houses Technical Sales

Advisor for the North West, Midlands and North

Wales, offers some answers to frequently asked

questions about overseeding. Pg136

TIM JENKINS

Technical Sales

As part of our ‘rotation

policy’, we introduce

three new staff

members. Tim is a

former Head

Greenkeeper on a 9-hole

course in

Buckinghamshire. He

plays guitar, and the rest

isn’t newsworthy - his

words, not ours. Don’t

worry, we’ll dig up some

dirt over the coming

weeks and months!!!

LEE BISHOP

Marketing Coordinator

A self proclaimed

legend, Lee is a

marketing graduate from

Bournemouth Uni who

learned his trade in one

of the UKs biggest online

marketing agencies. He

describes himself as “the

Wayne Rooney of online

marketing, except I don’t

crumble under pressure”.

As a devout Liverpool

fan, he lives by the motto

“next season ...”.

Also in this issue:

Biodiversity .............................. 20

Herptiles and Handicaps ........ 28

Tree Preservation Orders ...... 32

Making golf attractive ............ 40

Standards Delivered .............. 56

Welcome to Butleigh .............. 60

Aspiring Spireites .................... 70

Denmark’s Wembley .............. 72

Modern Stadium Managers .. 75

A Passion for Polo ................ 116

Change the future? .............. 138

Grumpy .................................. 138

Give me strength! ................ 140

The Tales of Mr Badger ........ 142

Hat-trick of achievements .. 144

Straight talking! .................... 146

A set up at the Manor .......... 148

Student Times ...................... 150

I don’t believe it! .................. 152

MANAGING DIRECTOR:

David Saltman

OPERATIONS DIRECTOR:

John Richards

Telephone: 01902 440 256

Fax: 01952 261 444

Email: editor@pitchcare.com

FEATURES AND EDITORIAL:

Laurence Gale

Tel: 01902 440 260

Email: laurence@pitchcare.com

ADVERTISING & PRODUCTION:

Peter Britton

Pitchcare Magazine, 17 Barton Hill,

Shaftesbury, Dorset SP7 8DQ

Tel: 01747 855 335

Email: peter@pitchcare.com

PITCHCARE SHOP:

Dan Hughes

Tel: 01902 440 258

Email: dan@pitchcare.com

IT & WEBSITE:

Alastair Battrick

Tel: 01902 440 255

Email: al@pitchcare.com

MARKETING & PUBLIC RELATIONS:

Ellie Tait

Email: ellie@pitchcare.com

ACCOUNTS:

Sharon Taylor

Tel: 01902 440 261

Email: sharon@pitchcare.com

TRAINING COORDINATOR:

Christine Johnson

Email: chris@pitchcare.com

Tel: 01902 440 263

DAN BURTON

Web Developer

Apart from a few stints

washing pots and entering

data into spreadsheets,

this is Dan’s first venture

into meaningful

employment. He has a

degree in mathematics

from the University of Bath,

which set him up with just

enough knowledge to be

dangerous. So far his skills

have proved useful - never

have the coffee cups

been so clean!

Pitchcare.com Ltd,

Units 2&3

Allscott

Telford

Shropshire

TF6 5DY

Tel: 01902 440 256

Fax: 01902 440 253

Email:

editor@pitchcare.com

No part of this publication

may be reproduced without

prior permission of the

publisher. All rights reserved.

Views expressed in this

publication are not

necessarily those of the

publisher. Editorial

contributions are published

entirely at the editor’s

discretion and may be

shortened if space is limited.

Pitchcare make every effort

to ensure the accuracy of the

contents but accepts no

liability for its consequences.

Images are presumed

copyright of the author or

Pitchcare unless otherwise

stated. Pitchcare Magazine is

printed by the Gemini Press,

Dolphin Way, Shoreham-by-

Sea, West Sussex BN43 6NZ


Guidance on Concessionary

Schemes for Surface Water

Drainage Charges - you

must act now!

Sports clubs and voluntary groups face crippling increases

in water charges if water companies get their way!

THE Government is inviting views on its

guidance to water and sewerage companies

on concessionary schemes for community

groups, to protect them from unaffordable

surface water drainage charges. This is to

accompany provisions made in the Flood and

Water Management Act. It covers:

• the need for a concessionary scheme

• which community groups should be

included in concessionary schemes

• what constitutes a fair and affordable

charge

• the needs of other customers.

The consultation is aimed at water and

sewerage companies, Ofwat, the Consumer

Council for Water, community and voluntary

groups and other non-household water and

sewerage customers.

A number of sports governing bodies were

instrumental in fighting off the last attempt by

water companies to greatly increase the cost

of surface water charges.

Many sports clubs would face potentially

4

crippling increases, from hundreds to

thousands of pounds a year, if water

companies were able to introduce these

increased charges.

The updated Guidance Document has been

developed to inform local authorities on how

to approach the development of a surface

water management plan, particularly in areas

at high risk of surface water flooding.

The guidance reflects the roles that different

organisations will take in the development of

surface water management plans, and takes

account of the findings from the six DEFRA

funded first edition surface water

management plans.

A Government review concluded that surface

water management plans should provide the

basis for managing local flood risk.

In order to help develop the surface water

management plan guidance, and move

forward local flood risk management in some

key high risk areas, six local authorities were

funded to develop first edition surface water

management plans. The local authorities

Deadline

22nd October

involved in this pilot were; Gloucestershire,

Hull, Leeds, Richmond, Warrington and

Thatcham.

This work has been overseen by a Steering

Group, including DEFRA, the Department for

Communities and Local Government and the

Environment Agency.

The deadline for responses is 22 October

2010. Further information on how to respond

to the consultation can be found at -

http://www.defra.gov.uk/corporate/consult/su

rface-charges/index.htm. This includes a

sample consultation letter and other

documentation.

You can also write to Jennifer Offord, Water

Charging and Economic Regulation Team,

DEFRA, Area 2C, Ergon House, Horseferry

Road, London, SW1P 2AL. Email:

swdconcessions.consultations@defra.gsi.gov.uk

Pitchcare would urge all sports clubs to

respond to this threat.

A list of consultees is shown opposite.


Action with Communities in Rural England

All Party Parliamentary Group on Sewers and

Sewerage

All Party Parliamentary Group on Water

Anglian Water

British Water

Central Council for Physical Recreation

Chartered Institution of Water and

Environmental Management

Church of England

Community Alliance

Community Matters

Competition Commission Confederation of

British Industry

Consumer Council for Water

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select

Committee

Environment Agency

Environmental Industries Commission

Federation of Small Businesses

Foundation for Water Research

The Football Association

The GMB

The Environmental Sustainability Knowledge

Transfer Network

Lawn Tennis Association

National Council for Voluntary Organisations

Natural England

Natural Environment Research Council

Northumbrian Water

Office of Fair Trading

Ofwat

Portland Communications

Rugby Football Union

The Scout Association

Severn Trent Water

Society of British Water & Wastewater Industries

South West Water

Southern Water

Sport England

Thames Water

UNISON

United Utilities

Water UK

Waterwise

Wessex Water

Yorkshire Water

+44 (0)1332 824777

WITH just under two years to go until the start of

the 2012 Olympics, it is, perhaps, surprising that

progress at the Olympic stadium and

surrounding venues, receives little media

attention.

In stark contrast to the Wembley stadium

build, which was delivered late and massively

over budget, resulting in high profile media

coverage, the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) -

responsible for building the venues - is set to

deliver the 2012 venues on time and under

budget and, for its chairman, John Armitt, that’s

a source of great satisfaction.

“So far, so good and on track, he said. “It’s

very satisfying. This time next year we’ll have

some completed stadia out there, ready to hand

over to Sebastian Coe and his team.”

“We’ve kept costs down just through constant

pressure on every single building. The designers

sit down with the contractors saying how can we

do this differently, how can we take out cost?

We did that quite successfully in the broadcast

centre [the first building to be completed], and

we’re doing it in all other areas.”

“Everywhere you look you just have to requestion

and say ‘that’s okay, but could we do it

See us at stand W58

No news is

good news

for the ODA

2012 Olympics venues will be delivered

ahead of time and under budget

better, and could we do it more sustainably’,

which is the other challenge all the time.”

“The key thing is to recognise the terrific job

our construction industry has done, whether it’s

the architects, designers, contractors, subcontractors.

everybody has worked really well,

and it’s a great advert for British industry.”

The ODA will move back into the Park once

the Paralympic Games have finished to

transform it into legacy mode.

Mr Armitt, an Arsenal supporter, was keen to

see the stadium used regularly, even if it means

a football team moving in. “I don't mind,

personally, who uses it, as long as it is used and

it does not become a white elephant.”

“A football club going in there does give you a

lot of assurance that it’s going to be used

regularly [the current front runners are West

Ham and Spurs] but we gave a commitment to

the athletes and that's an important

commitment to continue to meet.”

“We’ve got other people, like the owners of

The O2, showing an interest and, clearly, they

would have other plans. The important thing is

we get regular use from it and people enjoy

going there.”

www.dennisuk.com PROUDLY BRITISH

5


Sustainable Use Directive

requires action now

If you hold a BASIS Certificate in Crop Protection,

whether through grandfather rights or by exam, then

you may need to take action now in order to

maintain your status when the Sustainable Use

Directive is implemented in November 2011

MANAGING Director of BASIS,

Rob Simpson, explains: “The

Sustainable Use Directive will

oblige all advisers and

agronomists to renew their

qualifications regularly. That will

probably mean every three years,

so it is something that everyone

needs to be aware of and start

planning for now,” he warns.

“There are likely to be two

ways of meeting the requirement

to renew. Re-sit the BASIS

Certificate in Crop Protection

exam, or demonstrate three years

of Continuing Professional

Development (CPD) through

membership of the BASIS

Professional Register. It is not yet

clear when the regulations will

require advisers to be certificated

but it could be as early as 2014;

although more likely 2015.”

“Whatever date is chosen by

Government, those wishing to use

the Professional Register route to

re-qualification will need to be

able to demonstrate a number of

years (probably three) of CPD

involvement.”

“So, as an example, if the date

is set as 1st January 2014, then

people will need to have joined

the register by the end of this

year.”

“Calling all exemption holders,

BASIS is particularly keen that

those advisers who were granted

an exemption from the now

statutory requirement to pass the

BASIS Certificate in Crop

Protection exam, should be made

aware of the situation. They need

to join the Professional Register

soon or they may be faced with

the prospect of sitting the exam.”

Letters of exemption were

issued by BASIS to experienced

advisers before the Control of

Pesticide Regulations came into

Syngenta Crop Protection UK Ltd. Registered in England No. 849037. CPC4, Capital Park, Fulbourn, Cambridge CB21 5XE

E-mail: customer.services@syngenta.com Web: www.greencast.co.uk / www.greencast.ie

Distributed in the UK and Ireland by Scotts Professional. Tel: 01473 201100 E-mail: prof.sales@scotts.com

Heritage Maxx® is Registered Trademark of a Syngenta Group Company. Heritage Maxx (MAPP 14787, PCS 03978) contains

azoxystrobin. Always read the label. Use pesticides safely. ©Syngenta AG April 2010. GQ 00823.

effect. “Quite a number of these

exemptions were granted. We

know that there are 370

exemption holders currently on

the BASIS Professional Register

but, what is not clear, is how

many other exemption holders

are still practising agronomists

and how many of these will wish

to continue after 13 December

2013 when the Sustainable Use

Directive must be implemented.”

Storekeepers also take note.

The requirement for certificate

renewal will also apply to

pesticide storekeepers, so it is

likely that all BASIS qualified

storekeepers will need to attend

refresher training every three

years.

Experienced storekeepers were

also granted exemption letters,

and these people will also have

to complete refresher training as

all letters of exemption will be

Join the

Professional

Register to avoid

having to re-sit the

BASIS Certificate

exam, says Rob

Simpson

invalid under the new regulations.

Although the fertiliser sector is

not covered by the Sustainable

Use Directive, it is likely that the

industry will follow a similar path

to verify standards of certification

in the future.

Turf disease protection that

after cut... after cut... after cut... after cut... after cut...


Open house at

Ransomes Jacobsen

Turfcare professionals invited to visit

Ipswich in September to see how modern

commercial mowers are made

RANSOMES Jacobsen are to

host two Open House events

at their European head office

and manufacturing facility in

Ipswich.

On Wednesday 22nd

September, golf course

owners, managers,

greenkeeping staff and fine

turf professionals from across

the UK are invited to witness

the Ransomes Jacobsen

operation at first hand.

On Thursday 23rd

September, representatives

from local authorities,

groundscare contractors,

groundsmen and grounds

care professionals are invited.

There will be factory tours

at regular intervals to see

how modern commercial

mowers are manufactured

and a display of ancient and

modern grass cutting

machinery from the first

Budding lawnmower of 1832

through to the latest

Jacobsen Eclipse 322 hybrid

greens mower and the

Ransomes Highway 3, light

commercial triplex mower.

Greg Spray, marketing

manager at Ransomes

Jacobsen, commented, “We

want this to be an informative

and fun day for customers

using our equipment and also

for those who might be

considering using it. As well

as the guided factory tours,

we’ll also be holding product

demonstrations, and there’ll

be the opportunity to meet

and network with other

industry professionals.

“The tented village will

house our industry partners

including the AEA, CMAE,

IOG, BIGGA, FEGGA, STRI,

GEO, Scotts, Syngenta,

Bernhard, Rain Bird, Ryan,

Turfco and Smithco together

with our own Parts, Customer

Care, Retail and Cutting Edge

Training stands.”

“We will be providing a

BBQ lunch and there’s a

stays cut...

after cut... after cut...

‘Nearest the

Pin’

competition

on the 1st

hole of our

golf course,

with a

stunning

prize for the

first hole-inone

on the

course.

An eclectic

mix of bands

will provide

music

throughout

the day, and there will be

some fun stands that will

test accuracy, hand-eye coordinations

and dexterity!

All turfcare professionals

are invited so, if you are

interested in going along,

please contact Lucy Davis,

marketing co-ordinator on

01473 276287 or email:

ldavis@tip.textron.com

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Barely a month after the Aegon

tennis championships, Centre

Court at The Queen’s Club is

back to its resplendent best.

Tom James meets the ...

The King

of Queen’s


“In the UK, we have the best courts and the

most skilled groundsmen who know how to

look after them. We cannot allow such a

quality provision to die out”

Graham Kimpton, Head Groundsman, The Queen’s Club

London is famed for enjoying one of

the richest of all sporting

heritages, especially so since the

19th century when the capital bore

witness to the formation of many new

sports and clubs, to the present era,

which is witnessing the birth of a new

generation of mega, modern stadia, not

to mention the mammoth 2012 Olympic

site.

Whilst work on the Olympics

facilities continues apace in the east of

London, on the west side, tucked neatly

between rows of elegant Edwardian and

Victorian town houses along

Kensington’s affluent residential

streets, it’s business as usual for,

arguably, the second most prestigious

lawn tennis hub in the country - The

Queen’s Club.

Established in 1886, The Queen’s

Club was formed on the site of what was

originally a market garden. The

sporting origins stemmed from a group

of local businessmen who wanted to

form a sports club with a multi-use

outlook.

Queen Victoria agreed to be its first

patron so, accordingly, the name The

Queen’s Club was created.

Whilst, today, the club’s fame is

rooted in lawn tennis and racket sports,

over the decades this prime hectarage

of London land has seen as many as 25

different sports played here -

everything from ice-skating and

baseball, to athletics and rugby.

By the late 1920s, annual fixtures

included Oxford v Cambridge rugby

matches, football ties and athletics,

which were staged on the cinder track

that once ran around the perimeter of

the site. The diversity of sports

attracted crowds of more than 10,000

strong, lured by the boom in interest

for competitive sport.

As sports such as football, rugby and

athletics grew in popularity, The

Queen’s Club facilities were no match

for demand and they were transferred

to new homes at Wembley, Twickenham

and White City respectively.

Meanwhile, the increasingly popular

game of lawn tennis, which had

continued to blossom as mowing

machinery developed, took over at

Queen’s as the club embarked on a

commitment to produce the highest

quality tennis lawns.

This demand for quality remains as

strong today as it ever was. Whilst

technology has moved on, and turfcare

practices have advanced out of all

recognition, the need to maintain the

club’s impeccable reputation has

remained constant - a commitment that

Grounds Manager, Graham Kimpton,

has known since he was a boy.

Taking over the position from his

father, David, after working under him

for twenty-five years, Graham is the

latest in a dynastic line of family

members drawn to a career in turfcare.

David began work at Queen’s in 1966,

and spent forty-three years in the job,


passing on the head groundsman’s duties

to his son on retirement last year, while

Graham’s uncle was putting in fifty years

of service at The Hurlingham Club, his

only interruption being a break for

national service. “Maybe it explains why I

entered the industry,” Graham muses.

“Groundsmanship is clearly in the

blood.”

Longevity of service seems a

characteristic of the industry but, being

immersed in lawn care since childhood

and growing up around the club, has

clearly been a recipe for success for

Graham.

“I’ve learnt everything I know from my

dad. His attention to detail is probably

the biggest impact he’s had on the way I

do things now,” he states. “Most

importantly, he taught me that we have

to do things a certain way here - we have

a reputation to uphold.”

Graham nearly took a markedly

different career path, however. He began

an engineering apprenticeship at sixteen

only to realise, after a year, that it wasn’t

the route for him.

He then spent a year travelling

Australia before returning to the UK and

an invitation from his father to work at

Queen’s. From then on, Graham knew

groundsmanship was the avenue he

wished to explore, so enrolled at

Norwood Hall Agricultural College to

study for an NCT qualification, which he

gained in 1995. He has gone on to

become an examiner and assessor for the

IOG and City and Guilds - an aspect of

his job he believes is vitally important for

him to stay on top of his game.

“It’s a good thing to know about the

exams, especially in this business, as

many groundsmen overlook them or

think they’re not worthwhile,” argues

10

“We’ve steered clear of such

extremes as koroing, as we

feel that it results in taking

away too much of the natural

goodness that builds up over

the years in the soil”

Graham. “It keeps you on your toes and

up to speed with the latest changes.”

“Aside from that, it helps to get out of

your comfort zone, otherwise it can

become easy to simply stick with what

you know and what you think is best. It’s

important to always be pushing,

especially in an industry where it’s vital

to ensure new blood keeps coming in.”

Whilst teaching is an adjunct to the

main job in hand, this aspect of his work

he greatly enjoys and the club hosts

frequent day visits from students at Kew

Gardens studying the Kew Diploma.

“As part of their course they have to do

a turf module, so they come to us

seeking advice on how we do things,

which I really enjoy. It also gives me the

chance to see my old tutor at Norwood

Hall, Len Stocks - a man with

tremendous knowledge in training who

has taught me a great deal over the

years.”

The club hosts an array of world

ranked tournaments, including the

Aegon Championships (formerly the

Stella Artois Championships), the World

Rackets Championships and leading real

tennis events (Queen’s has two courts),

including the British Open and now the

Atco Super Series Squash Finals.

Not all of these directly involve

Graham - his key responsibility is to

maintain the twenty-eight outdoor

courts, of which the twelve grass ones are

some of the finest anywhere, the spread

of different playing surfaces available,

including ten indoor tennis courts (six

acrylic and four carpet), six acrylic allweather,

six clay and four new artificial

grass courts. There’s even a short tennis

area and a practice wall, where one of

the turfcare team was brushing up on his

strokes as we toured the club.

The original and still the best

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The team’s busiest time of year is the

run-up to the Aegon Championships,

staged straight after the French Open,

and the ideal warm-up event on grass

before Wimbledon.

Signs of the huge transformation that

the club undergoes for the event were

few and far between. Centre Court,

which stages all the event’s competitive

play, looked lush and ready for action

once more - just a month after the event

left town.

The week-long championships, two

weeks before Wimbledon, has long

proved popular with some of the giants

of the game, with the likes of Nadal,

Hewitt and Roddick winning the event in

recent years but, strangely, says Graham,

not Federer.

The Grade 1 listed pavilion

overlooking the court offers a uniquely

intimate involvement with the

tournament, where club members and

players can interact both before, during

and after the game.

“Players often share a drink and a chat

in the pavilion, rather than just playing

and going,” says Graham. “Our members

love that, and it’s a special element of

the event and one that is unknown

anywhere except perhaps Monte Carlo

and Rhode Island.”

Contrasting with the intimacy on the

one side of Centre Court is the

commercial reality of the game on the

other, where temporary seating for some

7,000 spectators looms high above the

grass, erected over the neighbouring

acrylic court. In all, the club can handle

up to 10,000 people a day, so it’s no

mean feat to accommodate them

comfortably amid the glare of the world’s

media.

“This is a big event for us, and there’s

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a real buzz from the members and my

team at being able to get close to some

of the world’s top players,” gleams

Graham.

“You cannot truly appreciate the

unbelievably high standard of these

players until you see them in action up

close, and it’s great to witness the world’s

best tennis played on a surface we have

created.”

The Lawn Tennis Association bought

the club from the members back in the

1950s when, in truth, says Graham, “we

had seen better days.” The LTA

established its headquarters there and,

from then on, what is now the ATPranked

annual championships were built

up to become the hugely successful

commercial undertaking it is today.

Delete hosting fee sentence

During its time at Queen’s, the LTA

invested heavily in a new administrative

centre and extensive indoor tennis

provision, including the Academy,

formed to nurture new talent.

The then Stella Artois Championships,

sponsored by the brewers of the lager

since 1978, reached a crossroads in 2006

when the LTA sought a sponsor for all its

events. In stepped insurance group

Aegon, the event was rebranded and the

switch coincided with the LTA’s decision

to sell the club back to the members, in

part to fund the development of the

National Tennis Centre at Roehampton.

Comparisons with Wimbledon are

unavoidable, says Graham, yet he is keen

to stress that Queen’s runs things slightly

differently from its neighbours in SW19,

yet still achieves some very impressive

outcomes.

“Wimbledon has been active with

koroing over the last few years and many

lawn tennis clubs around the country

have followed its lead,” explains Graham.

“We’ve steered clear of such extremes, as

we feel that it results in taking away too

much of the natural goodness that builds

up over the years in the soil.”

“When we scarify in the autumn, the

soil is still left brown and there’s plenty

of good nutrients left that help form a

sound basis for years to come.”

With a healthy annual budget covering

wages for the seven full-time groundstaff,

Graham has the freedom to experiment

with different grasses to create what he

believes is the best balance for lawn

tennis.

Currently he uses a 50% ryegrass mix

of 25% Bar Gold and 25% Bar Lady,

22.5% slender creeping red fescue, also

supplied by Barenbrug, a 22.5% strong

creeping red fescue and finally a 5%

browntop bent.

“I’ve found that if you have just

ryegrass it gives you too open a sward,”

he states. “With a mix of ryegrass, red

fescues and bent, the more slender fine

grasses give the right amount of lateral

growth, which fill the spaces in the sward

and offer little room for weeds and other

unwanted species to grow through.

“Fescues are drought resistant due to

their origin, so it’s good to have a certain

percentage of them in there. Ultimately,

a good mix of species will give you a

better balance.”

The system seems to be working well

for him. Top tennis pros like Lleyton

Hewitt and Andy Roddick recently

named The Queen’s Club Centre Court

the best grass court they’d ever played

on. A good number of the club’s 4,000

members are equally enthusiastic.

“There’s a certain satisfaction that

comes with jobs like ours,” says Graham.

“We toil over the turf to create the best

possible surface we can, and it’s a great

feeling to stand back and look at what

we’ve created - and it’s that bit better

when you’re receiving such positive

comments from these big name players.”

Support from the top is important

though. “My staff and I are well looked

after here. The members, directors and

chief executive all recognise the need for

investment in what is the club’s most

important asset.”

“With big budgets come

responsibilities, so there’s little room for

excuses on our part. With 4,000

members, each paying annual fees of

£2,000, and a requirement to buy a share

in the club costing £12,000, the members

want to have the best facilities to play on.

If the lawns aren’t top notch, they’ll ask

us why they’re not. Big money rides on

our courts being the best around.”

The play on grass often lingers on as

late as the end of the first week in

October, making Queen’s one of the

longest grass seasons in the country.

That, in turn, means a well-planned

year-round programme is essential for

the courts to remain in top condition for

the duration.

“The summer playing season is really a

matter of cutting, marking and

irrigation. We do little work through the

season as it would simply interrupt play

too much,” Graham explains.

Autumn marks the club’s big

renovation period, when Graham and his

team take on all the jobs needed before

winter sets in. “We always aim to leave

over some construction and maintenance

jobs, like hedge trimming, to the winter

months so the guys are always kept busy,”

he explains. “The key job through the

winter is to aerate, usually down to a

depth of five inches. We carry out a

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11


“The members, directors

and chief executive all

recognise the need for

investment in, what is,

the club’s most

important asset”

hollow core aeration programme on a

five-yearly basis, which is more than

enough for grass courts.”

The onset of spring brings with it a

bulk of new work in preparation for the

Aegon event and the onset of the grass

court season. Graham starts rolling in

early spring, keeping the weight at

between 1.8 and 2 tonnes.

“We have to take care with rolling as

our lawns firm up pretty quickly, and it’s

easy to overroll and undo all the good

work that’s gone before.”

The firmness of The Queen’s Club

grass courts has been, in no small part,

due to the changes wrought by Graham

and his father under a commitment to

achieve a good bounce.

“We’ve relaid the courts using Ongar

loam on top of the original silty type fen

soil laid a century ago. When we relaid

the courts, we found there wasn’t a high

clay content, so we couldn’t get it as hard

as we wanted, so that prompted the

change. Now, there’s that extra level of

firmness, which makes the world of

difference.”

The Allett, Lloyds Paladin and Dennis

FT510 the team use are all made to a

20” cut width to suit tennis stripes. “It’s

all about presentation. You never have a

white line down the middle of a stripe.”

Whilst the grass courts take centre

stage throughout the summer season,

Queen’s offer the spectrum of playing

surfaces. The red clay courts are said to

be some of the best in the UK, if not

Europe, and visiting professionals like to

train on them.

The club’s six shale/clay courts have

been a permanent feature for fifty years,

although they are a challenge to

maintain successfully, Graham admits.

“It’s common knowledge that clay courts

are difficult to keep right, and few

people here really know how to maintain

them properly.”

“Luckily, my father was one of the best

and taught me well. Now, I make sure all

my guys know how to set them up, so we

can keep alive our tradition of quality

clay provision.”

Members prize the courts highly and

enjoy the variety they offer, despite the

affect that the weather can have on them.

As water binds the surface together, the

courts can freeze over in winter but dry

out and crack through the summer

months as lack of water creates almost

dustbowl conditions. Then, it’s a matter

of hand watering and nightly irrigation.

The courts at Queen’s are laid with the

same specification material as those at

Roland Garros, host to the French Open,

Both sites are supplied by Simeon

Sports - Graham importing the clay

annually from quarries in Paris at a cost

of £500 a tonne. Relaying of the courts

was last completed some 15 years ago. “It

was a tough job to complete, taking a

whole winter to get right,” he recalls.

“The most tricky part is the fact that you

have to keep them constantly wet, which

can be difficult when you’re still in the

construction phase. The job involved

taking the old clay off the top, overlaying

the clinker base with graded ash and

replacing with the new clay.”

The standard of the surface is

testament to the craftsmanship of both

Graham and his team and his father

before him. The courts are good enough

to draw French tennis professionals here

to practise on them.

The four artificial grass courts,

supplied by Doe Sports, laid with new

surfaces last August at a total cost of

£65,000, is also ensuring the standard of

the alternative playing surfaces stays

high. And, surprisingly, says Graham,

“we get more compliments on the

standard of the artificial courts from our

members than any other. They will often

ask where they can get hold of one for

their own garden.”

The six outdoor acrylic courts,

supplied by Plexipave, offer Graham a

far easier maintenance option, with a

straightforward resurfacing or

recolouring delivering a brand new look,

he says.

The indoor provision of six acrylic and

four carpeted courts are also heavily used

by members and for training juniors,

whilst, to boost capacity still further

during winter, the club purchased a

bubble for fixing over two outdoor

courts.

The Queen’s Club holds one of the top

positions for grass court tennis - Graham

is fortunate to be given an enviable

budget by any standards, a supportive

grounds team and a board of directors

that understands the virtues of positive

spending to achieve the highest quality

surfaces.

Yet, he knows this is a far cry from the

state of grass court tennis elsewhere in

Britain. “We are lucky here that we would

never get rid of the grass courts, as they

are the moneyspinners and what attracts

our members,” he stresses.

“Unfortunately though, most tennis

clubs are run on a shoestring, so they see

artificial courts as a more viable financial

option and end up getting rid of their

grass courts, which they can only use for

the summer.”

“If smaller clubs can make money from

teaching the whole year round then

they’ll go with that. More needs to be

done to retain our grass courts. In the

UK, we have the best courts

and the most skilled

groundsmen who know how to

look after them. We cannot

allow such a quality provision

to die out.”


2005

Feb

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cutting width, the CT Series is the right choice for many

mowing operations. It is ideal for transport from site-to-site

on its own, on a trailer or even in a van – suitable for use by

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“It was seen as the

perfect opportunity to

install a sustainable

water recycling plant to

collect rainwater off

roofs and hard

standing areas for use

out on the course”

Rob Rowson, Course Manager, Forest of Arden

Looking after two championship

courses during recessionary

times can provide additional

opportunities for greenkeeping

staff, as our editor found out on

a visit to the Forest of Arden

Country Club

Arden

One of the prime considerations for a golfer

playing golf is the condition of the course, and

any drop in its standard can have far reaching

consequences, eventually driving away customers and

damaging the income stream.

So, whilst course managers have had to tighten their

belts, redirecting resources and managing budgets

more efficiently, they understand the need to maintain

standards and continue with improvements. So, many

are now encouraging their staff to take on projects

themselves when, in the past, course improvement work

and specialist irrigation projects were often outsourced.

Rob Rowson, Course Manager at the Forest of Arden

Country Club in Warwickshire, is one such person.

Rob came to the club twelve years ago, taking on the

role of course manager in 2005 when Kenny Mackay

moved to The Belfry.

The Forest of Arden is a Marriott Hotel and Country

Club, and one of the UK’s most impressive golf

destinations, featuring two top-class courses - The

Arden and The Aylesford. The club is located in 10,000

acres of rural Warwickshire, surrounded by ancient

woodlands and natural lakes. It has played host to

some of golf ’s most prominent tournaments, including

the British Masters and English Open.

One of latest projects to be undertaken by the


fast rules...

greenkeeping staff has been the

refurbishment of the irrigation water

storage system, which was originally

installed in the late 1970s.

The brief was to replace the old

corrugated water storage tanks and

replace them with larger capacity ones,

plus a new pumping station, which will

be fed from a bespoke water recycling

plant that is due to be commissioned in

September 2010.

With the hotel undergoing a £5 million

refurbishment, it was seen as the perfect

opportunity to install a sustainable water

recycling plant to collect rainwater off

roofs and hard standing areas for use out

on the course.

Of course, one could say that, with £5

million being spent on the hotel, it

seems a tad churlish to expect the

greenkeeping staff to make cutbacks, but

Rob saw this as a positive rather than a

negative!

Rob has always been keen on

sustainable watering, and the new system

has the ability to collect around 200

cubic metres of water each day, storing it

in one of two new 300 cubic metre tanks.

If Rob had to water greens, tees and

fairways in one hit, it would take about

800 cubic metres to complete the task.

Whilst this is rarely required, the new

system will certainly reduce the strain on

the mains water supply and reduce costs

considerably.

The staff undertook the complete

rebuild of the water storage facility, with

Head Mechanic, Bob Hill (more of him

later), using his welding skills,

dismantling the old tanks and helping to

erect the new ones, including the fitting

and placement of four brand new

Grundfos pumps which are controlled by

a Rainbird control system. The eventual

saving to the club by doing the work inhouse

was in excess of £20,000.

The new system can be operated from

a mobile phone and is linked into a

computer that allows Rob to alter the

amounts of water being applied at any

time, anywhere on the course.

There is also a weather station that

GOLF and the environment

keeps records of evaportranspiration

rates, which helps him decide on the

amount of water required.

Rob has a team of twenty greenkeepers

and gardeners, plus mechanic Bob.

Greensmowers are usually bench set at

3.5mm in the summer which, in reality,

means the actual height of cut will be

between 2 and 2.5mm. Winter bench

HOC is 5mm.

Bench settings for other areas are: tees

7mm, collars 7mm, fairways 12mm, semi

rough 25mm and rough 75mm.

It is an early start for the staff,

beginning at 5.30am every morning to

ensure the course is set up for the day’s

play. Greens are mown with pedestrian

G1000 Toro mowers, bunkers raked and

holes changed, if necessary. Tees,

approaches and fairways are mown every

other day, with any other cutting

completed when required.

Staff work until 2.00pm, but some are

put on standby for any unforeseen works.

Weekends see a team of eleven staff come

in to set up the courses.

15


Grundfos pumps were installed

by Head Mechanic, Bob Hill

As with most golf courses, the

workload is endless. Keeping the playing

surfaces in tip top condition is down to a

robust maintenance regime that

combines a cocktail of activities and

ingredients.

The feeding regime is a complex mix

of feeds applied in both liquid and

granular forms. Rob’s target is to deliver

around 180kg of nitrogen to the USGA

greens and around 100-120kg to the fen

soil greens every year. He begins with a

liquid iron and 6:5:10 NPK application

in February, then following it with a

variety of feeds until October, when he

finishes with a mutli green 12:0:44.

These are supplemented with a

number of other micronutrient feeds as

and when required. The greens also

receive a number of applications of

wetting agents and fungicides to help

keep them stress free.

All these Open Championship

Clubs choose to relief grind

with a Hunter precision grinder:

St Andrews • Carnoustie

Turnberry • Troon • Muirfield

Royal Liverpool • Royal St Georges

Royal Lytham St Annes

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16

New water storage tanks

Tees and fairways also get some timely

feeds to keep them in good condition -

usually about four feeds a year on

fairways, whilst the tees receive about ten

applications a year. It is important to

keep the tees in good condition as they

take quite a hammering, they are also

divoted with a prepared mix, containing

a rye grass seed, to aid recovery.

The intensive maintenance works

centre around a sound programme of

aeration and topdressing operations

which, in the main, are done on a

monthly basis. Several aeration

techniques are used - sarrell rolling,

hollow coring and vertidraining are

carried out in conjunction with light and

heavy sand topdressing as required.

The aim is to keep the greens free

draining, smooth and to help break

down any accumulating thatch.

Both courses were designed by Donald


Steel and are located on the grand

Packington Estate. Many varieties of

wildlife can be found within the

boundaries, and golfers have a very good

chance of catching a glimpse of the

friendly deer that live in the majestic

countryside setting.

It was interesting to see the distinct

changes in maintenance requirements on

the two courses - the Aylesford is more

parkland, whilst some parts of the Arden

are distinctly links-like, with lots of

bracken and wild grass areas providing a

challenge for any golfer who cannot hit a

straight ball!

Vast numbers of fairly tame Roe deer

can be seen roaming the courses. Whilst

the golfers have now come to accept

their existence - they rarely cause a

problem - they can create a few issues

during the rutting season in October and

November, when males fight for


Parts of the Arden course have a links feel

dominance on the greens, causing

significant surface damage.

In recent years, Rob has been involved

in extensive ecology work on both

courses to improve and sustain the

variety of wildlife. A number of large

lakes have been cleaned out and

managed to conserve habitats for many

birds and mammals. This has culminated

in the course recently receiving a

prestigious accolade - the Audubon

International Award.

The Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary

Programme for Golf Courses is an award

winning education and certification

programme, that helps golf courses

protect the environment and preserve

the natural heritage of the game of golf.

By helping people enhance the valuable

natural areas and wildlife habitats that

golf courses provide, improve efficiency,

and minimise potentially harmful

How’s your








Tel: 0845 026 0064

www.jsmd.co.uk

impacts of course operations, the

programme serves as a vital resource for

golf clubs.

The greenkeeping team had to comply

with six key environmental components

relevant to golf course management.

These components form the basis of

educational materials and are the focal

points for achieving certification:

• Environmental Planning

• Wildlife and Habitat Management

• Chemical Use Reduction and Safety

• Water Conservation

• Water Quality Management

• Outreach and Education

The information required to fulfil the

conditions of the programme became a

useful exercise in finding out the current

condition of the course, and what

resources it takes to keep it maintained.

Renew your

Cutting

Edge!

The club are delighted to have been

awarded this certificate, and see it as a

good measure of how they are

performing and working with the

environment.

Rob says that he and his staff can

consider themselves privileged to work

on two very different types of course, and

enjoy the challenge of maintaining the

championship standards for which the

venue is renowned.

This winter, Rob and his staff take on

more fresh challenges with the

completion of the irrigation system,

some bunker and tee refurbishments and

tree works.

So, it would seem that the ongoing

task of improvements and maintenance

at the Forest of Arden is in good hands,

and will no doubt keep Rob and his staff

busy for many years to come.

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17


Two

Bob’s

Worth

Simon Atkins chats to

Bob Hill, Head Mechanic

at the Forest of Arden

about his career and his

commitment to training

and WD40!

Bob Hill is a modest perfectionist

who is utilising his experience to

help produce top class results at

the Forest of Arden. His experience is a

product of good and bad events in his

career but, today, both are combined to a

positive effect.

Bob had visited the Forest of Arden to

carry out machinery repairs on a number

of occasions and had a fondness for the

course. It was, therefore, quite a moment

when he was invited to a meeting with

course manager at the time, Kenny

Mackay.

Kenny explained to Bob that he had

heard, “you are the top man for Toro.”

This was clever thinking on Kenny’s part

as he knew Bob’s expertise would reduce

repair bills and help eliminate downtime,

especially when major tournaments were

taking place. Bob accepted Kenny’s job

offer in 2000.

Bob’s experience has accumulated over

forty-one years in the trade. He began

his career in 1969, at Kings Heath

Mowers, fixing domestic machines,

before moving to become George

Bagnall’s mobile mechanic. With a Land

Rover and CB radio, call sign Park Sugar,

Bob would go out fixing breakdowns on

site.

After a period working for himself

and, looking for financial security, Bob

joined Alexander’s Horticultural Ltd in

1986 as spares manager. Alexander’s had

recently been appointed Toro main

dealers. On his first day, thirty new GM3

mowers were delivered, a machine Bob

rates highly to this day. Toro’s later

decision to cease their supply agreement

with Alexander’s saw Bob move to E.T.

Breakwell, in 1998, as stores manager.

With the demise of Breakwell’s a couple

of years later, Bob’s workshop, stores and

management skills were snapped up by

the Forest of Arden.

Bob is responsible for maintaining the

mainly Toro fleet, ensuring the machines

produce top class results. Starting at

18

4.00am, he ensures that every machine is

ready to go as soon as the greenkeepers

arrive. Head Greenkeeper, Rob Rousen,

will tell Bob the day before which

machines will be required.

As each machine returns from its daily

duties, the radiator is blown out using an

airline, before the entire machine is

washed down, removing every trace of

grass or dirt. All cutting equipment is

sprayed with WD40 to prevent the

cutting edges going rusty. The machines

are finally parked neatly in size order.

Each operator reports any issues to

Bob, which are recorded on a white

board in the workshop as a reminder.

Bob has created a service log for each

machine. The log is completed each time

the machine has any work carried out,

such as an oil change or sharpen. Bob is

proud of the fact that “every mower is

usable.”

Bob monitors the cutting quality of the

machines by making regular tours of the

course. To maintain consistency, all

machines are set at bench height. For

example, the greens are cut at 3.5mm

but, when this is checked on the green

with a mirror or prism, actual height is

between 1.5mm and 2mm depending on

sink rate.

Bob has a range of preset height

gauges. These give him the confidence

that each machine will go out at the

same height. Rob occasionally has

specific requirements, for example

cutting the fairways down to 10mm to

assist with a fertiliser application. Bob’s

experience allows him to discuss with

Rob potential unsightly outcomes, make

suggestions and reach an amicable

agreement.

When Bob started at the Forest of

Arden, he inherited a spare parts stock

with an estimated value of £30,000.

Today, Bob’s spare parts stock is

somewhat more modest, but does include

two sets of filters and two sets of blades

for each and every machine. It is evident

that frequent checks and regular

maintenance reduce the risk of an

unexpected breakdown.

Bob is loyal to original equipment

parts. Many of the machines are within

warranty periods, so the use of genuine

parts eliminates the risk of a rejected

claim. Even outside of warranty periods

Bob still uses genuine parts. Non

genuine alternatives may offer cost

savings, but Bob explains that many

manufacturers have recognised this and

brought the prices of their products in

line. He will not sacrifice safety and

quality for a few pounds saved.

For example, the Toro Sidewinder

rotaries have three blades that cost £60


A more modest stock of parts Various bench marks for height of cut

per genuine set. Bob believes fitting

genuine blades ensures the machine

performs correctly and, being correctly

balanced, eliminates vibration. When the

blades become worn they will be replaced

with a new set.

Bob explained that if the blades are

sharpened, and a piece of metal becomes

detached hitting a person and/or

damaging the machine, the mechanic is

responsible. Bob reminded me of the

phrase, “where there is blame there is a

claim.”

Bob identifies the parts he requires

online and is also able to check stock and

price. If required, he can receive parts

ordered before 2.00pm by 9.00am the

next morning. He has a shortlist of

suppliers that includes Abbey Mowers,

Turner Groundscare, Crown Oils, and

Pearmans. He restricts the number of

suppliers used to help reduce the

amount of administration required.

All Toro machines at the Forest of

Arden are replaced as part of a rolling

five year programme but, even as they

approach replacement, it is difficult to

see the difference between new and old

due to the care they receive.

The other machinery is replaced

following an annual consultation between

Rob and Bob. Both offer their thoughts

and reasoned arguments before deciding

on their final choices.

Indeed, this year, Bob was adamant the

sprayer should be replaced and has even

sacrificed a new grinder for his workshop

to secure the purchase. However,

recognition of the value of the workshop

is supported by the investment in a new

two post ramp, able to lift three and four

wheel machines, and a new heating

system to keep him warm in the winter

months!.

Bob is passionate about Toro

machinery. He believes they are the

forerunners as the machines are tested

for longer. However, when quizzed as to

his favourite machine Bob replied “Each

manufacturer has its own top products.

Toro has golf equipment and John Deere

has tractors.”

Bob remains a little sceptical about

hybrid and electric machines “You have

still got an engine and hydraulics,” he

said. “And battery technology, at this

point in time, is still in its early stages.

Some mowers are claimed to be able to

cut 18 greens on a charge but, if you are

double cutting, then you have 36

greens.” It was to be proven if the cost

comparisons between a standard

machine and a hybrid machine would

stack up, he says.

Bob is also a solver of problems. To

protect the sprayer booms and assist the

operator, Bob designed and fitted a self

levelling system when operators of the

5410s were finding that the boxes were

jumping off. He came up with a hook to

restrain the boxes. His ideas and

solutions for Toro machines are passed to

Clive Pinnock of Lely UK, who he has

known through the service side from the

1980s. Once approved, these solutions

are communicated to dealers throughout

the UK.

One of Bob’s worst experiences was an

accident at work, in which his right hand

was crushed between a loader ram and

the loader boom. Perhaps a case of

shutting the door once the horse has

bolted, he has since strictly coordinated a

health and safety programme. All

grounds staff using any mechanical

equipment receive an induction on how

to operate each machine safely.

Each operator has their own machine

All machines are thoroughly cleaned ... ... and parked up neatly!

safety log, which is similar to a driving

licence, and only allows them to use a

machine once it has been signed off.

Every day, except Thursdays, when a full

health and safety meeting is held, short

refresher or tool box talks are given by

Bob to ensure safety awareness is in the

front of their minds. Through his own

hard lesson Bob now instils putting your

own safety first. He says, if in doubt, stop

and complete a risk assessment and, if

you are still unsure, ask!

During the winter Bob runs lectures on

machinery maintenance. Time spent

explaining how to use, set up and service

a machine can add considerably to its

working life and save costly call outs to

simple fixes. His training is designed to

be ‘hands-on’ practical, so participants

enjoy the course and leave with a sense

of achievement. Bob recognises that

there is a lack of knowledge within the

industry and tries to encourage new

mechanics to his courses.

Marriott’s Spirit to Serve philosophy

recognises ‘people are the most

important asset’, and Bob Hill is one

such asset. Whilst any championship

course with 36 holes could justify its own

mechanic, I have seen that the role of a

mechanic can

encompass so

much more. In

fact, you could

say that Bob

Hill is worth a

couple of Bobs!

Simon Atkins

joined Pitchcare

as part of his

Guild of

Agricultural

Journalists/John

Deere Training

Award 2010

19


Bob Taylor BSc (Hons),

MIEEM, MBPR, Head of

Ecology & Environment at

the STRI, looks at the

changing face of golf

business and makes a

strong case for

biodiversity as the way

forward

What does the next ten

years hold within the

golfing industry? This

was the question

discussed in Peter

Larters (BIGGA Midland and North

West) regional seminars held in the

spring of 2010, and to which STRI

contributed.

We have all seen the industry realign

with the modernisation of the game

and, one thing is sure, golf will

continue to evolve as differing external

pressures and influences bear down on

it. As in nature, it is all about

adaptation and the survival of the

fittest. Natural selection allows those

best fitted to succeed, whilst others

become extinct.

In business (and each golf club is a

business working independently and in

competition with each other), it is

essential to recognise change and adapt

to it. Those that fail will struggle to

survive long term. A suitable business

analogy would be that a golf club is a

large fish operating in a relatively small

sea, and there are many other similar

sized fish in the sea all competing for

the same resources. As the other fish

grow then the sea will effectively

diminish, meaning that only the better

able and better adapted will survive.

Golf clubs are working under the

constraints of increasing competition,

arising through the more innovative

clubs moving forward as new ideas and

enhanced services help provide a more

rounded product offering.

Competition can manifest itself in

several different guises. A major and

very recent competitive pressure, on top

of changing environmental legislation

and developing technologies in golf,

has been the global recession. This has

brought with it quite severe selection

pressures and is, perhaps, a first

indication of the need to adapt, and

adapt quickly. In nature, species that

cannot adapt quickly soon become

replaced by those that can. Adaptation

in this sense would mean looking

closely at the course and recognising

areas where improvements could be

made to ensure visitor and member

retention.

STRI is by no means exempt here;

faced with the recession we have had to

seize the opportunity to bring about

new innovative solutions which, it is

hoped, will bring real long term benefit

to the golfing industry. Such innovation,

backed by research, also enables our

business to remain at the forefront of

golf.

Take, for example, the new

programme set up to allow individual

golf clubs to assess the quality of the

putting and playing surfaces and, for

the first time, to quantitatively track the

improvements being made. Such

innovations are taking the guesswork

and the emotion out of golf course

management.

The case for

Biodiversity


We must ask questions like: Why is it

that, whilst many golf clubs are feeling

the pressure of reducing visitor and

member numbers, others are increasing

their membership fees and maintaining

good levels of recruitment?

What is it that keeps golfers returning

for more? If the industry we all work in

and love is based on offering a luxury

commodity that, during hard times, is

possible to do without, how then, does a

golf club become a perceived necessity

- one that golfers cannot do without,

one that is just ‘too good to miss’?

How does an individual golf club

become ‘too good to miss’?

Firstly, we must understand what it is

that sets one golf club apart from the

next. Does success depend upon, for

example, the age of the club, its

tradition, the length of the course, turf

quality? It surely has to be a

combination of all these factors. But,

there is one overriding element here

that is all too often overlooked, and that

is the landscape into which the course

is fitted.

The landscape can make or break a

golf course - it will inspire or frustrate.

There are golf courses that just don’t

gel, creating an atmosphere of tension

rather than calmness. The landscape

should inspire, it should offer beauty

and a sense of wellbeing.

We all accept that the greens are the

priority, and rightly so, but we should

give greater recognition to the

contribution that the environment

plays. We need to move away from the

idea that this is a golf course and not a

nature reserve, as it is both, and the

environment contributes so much to

retention of golfing interest.

Consider just how much time is spent

actually connecting with the ball and

playing the putting surfaces? Probably

less than 10% of the round? The

remaining 90% is spent walking and

ideally enjoying the beauty of the

surroundings. The landscape can help

golfers take that short break out from

the intensity of play and give them a

chance to refocus and recharge for just

a short lived moment, before focusing

back to the reality of what lies ahead. It

is, therefore, incredibly important to

give time to managing these out of play

areas, to get the birds singing and

create that feeling of calm serenity that

comes from some of the more informed

and proactive golf courses.

Not convinced yet! Consider the

different elements of sustainability.

These are normally recognised as

environmental, social and economic.

These three elements make up the

definition, and all are important if

long-term sustainability is to be

assured.

However, not all elements need

assume equal importance, nor are they

equally important. The environment is

the basic foundation upon which social

and economic sustainability can be

sourced. Developing a strong social and

economic infrastructure depends so

much on a strong environmental

foundation, and it is difficult to see the

model of sustainability working any

other way.

Why is biodiversity important to golf?

We all appreciate the subliminal or

conscious feeling of well being that

comes from a course sat within

beautiful surroundings. Most golfers

are not interested in naming the vast

diversity of wildlife that can be found.

The movement of insects, like

dragonflies and butterflies, the singing

of birds like the skylark and the

occasional sighting of a deer, all adds

up to a memorable golfing experience,

and one that is worth coming back for.

‘The course that is just too good to

miss’.

Of course, by developing the

woodland margin by planting low

growing trees, you will optimise habitat

for birds, so encouraging even more.

Leaving areas of longer grass will

ensure a food source.

All businesses, including golf,

depend so much on, and benefit from,

biodiversity. Biodiversity is responsible

for regulating the life support systems

on which we all depend.

In golf, biodiversity is also important

for our individual health and general

well being, and those golf clubs that

There are golf courses that just don’t gel,

creating an atmosphere of tension rather than

calmness. The landscape should inspire, it

should offer beauty and a sense of wellbeing


ecognise this will be more sustainable

than those that don’t. Furthermore,

golfers value it.

Extending the theme - How

understanding biodiversity can help

achieve competitive advantage

Golf clubs with good social,

environmental and ethical performance

will be better placed to attract and retain

members and visitors.

Managing for biodiversity will

maintain a clean, healthy environment,

not to mention a sink for climate waste

CO2 etc. Stability in the environment will

bring increasing numbers of beneficial

wildlife.

Recognising the benefits of biodiversity

will allow golf clubs to make much more

of a song and dance about how good the

golf course is environmentally. This

22

means managing it for wildlife through

to carbon offsetting. We will increasingly

be expected to monitor our environment,

and document environmental risks and

how they are managed.

Social Responsibilities

Golf courses have a responsibility to

manage in a manner that complements

the local community interests. The

conservation of our biodiversity is not

just a job for governments and/or nongovernmental

organisations, it is a role

for each and every individual (including

golf clubs) to change our entrenched

outlook and recognise the benefits,

particularly on golf courses, that

managing for biodiversity can bring.

Thinking ahead

Managing for biodiversity will improve

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The clean cut incisions

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management for

transition or throughout

the Summer.

Each and every time we cut lateral growth we stimulate

fine textured juvenile vertical shoot growth in the parent

plant. This means that greens become finer textured with

better colour.

Recognising the

benefits of

biodiversity will

allow golf clubs to

make much more of

a song and dance

about how good the

golf course is

environmentally

your competitive advantage in various

ways, such as in the planning arena. A

golf club with a good track record will

gain advantage through public approval

and acceptance. Good performance,

however, does need to be balanced with

disclosure of performance. Those golf

clubs collaborating with statutory

consultees - Natural England for

example - and the local authorities,

should find themselves in a better

position when considering course

alterations, revisions etc.

It is the responsibility of every golf

club to do what it can in improving its

performance, as it is easy for good golf

clubs to be tarred with the same brush as

those not performing and failing to

demonstrate ecological and

environmental best practice.

The overriding message from all of the

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regularly with no disruption to play.

The PlanetAir is a superb venting tool,

with its productivity and minimal

disturbance.


Treating the

environment as a

luxury is no longer

acceptable if golf is

to survive longterm.

Golf clubs

must recognise the

contribution of the

environment

above is that golf clubs must understand

the marketplace that they are working in,

the aspirations that drive the sport

forward and what and where added value

can be generated.

Treating the environment as a luxury is

no longer acceptable if golf is to survive

long-term. Golf clubs must recognise the

contribution of the environment, and

provide an integrated and holistic way

forward that will lead to long term

sustainability and golf ’s long term

stability.

STRI Innovation here to help

STRI has recently pioneered new

innovation by way of the STRI

Programme, a programme of data

collection that allows individual clubs to

benchmark putting and playing surface

quality, and tailor management to bring

Grass seed.

about objective improvement. Our

ecologists now use hemispherical image

analysis techniques to identify and

quantify inappropriate trees. This level of

innovation not only maintains STRI lead

in this increasingly competitive world

but, for golf clubs, we are providing

sophistication that will improve the

quality of the greens whilst minimising

tree loss, which is always an emotional

problem that clubs find difficult to

resolve.

If we are to move forward as motivated

forward thinking golf clubs, then we first

need to address the membership. Let

them know the long term intention and

how the golf club’s competitive edge will

manifest itself.

The golf club will need a business case

to demonstrate the holistic or strategic

intentions. This would include engaging

consultants in turfgrass and ecology; it

may involve an architectural assessment

to ensure that, alongside the wider

improvements, the golf course layout

meets the criteria to ensure modern day

standards are met.

The difficult task here is getting the

message over in the first place but, once

a plan is in place, it does become much

easier to implement. A structured plan

would reduce the burden on the

greenstaff, it would give ownership to the

issues identified at all levels within the

club, all of which could be dealt with in a

prioritised and structured way.

All images are of Fulford Golf in

Yorkshire, where head greenkeeper,

Mark Mennell, works closely with the

STRI on environmental matters.

©Pitchcare/Laurence Gale MSc

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23


Aberdovey Golf Club has

undergone a dramatic

rebirth in the past three

years, thanks to the

efforts of the

greenkeeping staff.

Deputy Head

Greenkeeper, Rhys

Butler goes ...

Back to nature!

Aberdovey Golf Club, winner of the

Welsh regional section at the 2009

Golf Environment Awards, has

undergone a dramatic rebirth in the last

three years, returning to its traditional

links landscape and preserving

important habitats. The challenge was to

achieve this on a Site of Specific

Scientific Interest to the satisfaction of

the Countryside Council for Wales, whilst

retaining the attraction of the course for

members and to the holidaymakers that

flock to the area in summer.

The renovation began in January

2009, with the main changes being to

reshape the bunkers to provide a natural,

rugged, rustic links-like appearance that

seamlessly integrated into the

surrounding landforms.

Another task was to break up some of

the runway-style tees which were alien to

the surrounding natural environment.

24

“These were broken up into individual

tees and the land around shaped to

blend into the surrounding

environment,” explains Deputy Head

Greenkeeper, Rhys Butler.

Architect John Kemp, of Islander Golf,

was appointed, producing the drawings

and reports that were presented to the

‘green’ sub-committee and the course

management staff.

“The work was carried out in-house,

with John Kemp on site,” explains Rhys.

“The greenkeeping staff were split into

two teams - one to carry on with the

general course maintenance and the

other team to proceed with the course

changes.”

In the first phase, from January to

March 2009, seven new bunkers were

constructed and forty-three reshaped.

Out of date bunkers were filled and

sympathetically shaped, and the

positioning of others was altered. Work

continued in the winter of 2009-10 with

the construction of a further newly

positioned bunker and nineteen others

reshaped, the work being carried out inhouse

by the greenkeeping staff.

The club’s membership had been

highly vocal on course design in the past,

even rejecting alterations to

championship standard made by James

Braid, so getting them on side was vital,

as Rhys explains: “The decisions were

made by the greens sub-committee and

all proposed changes were available for

members to see, either by being posted

on the club website or by drawings that

were available for all to view in the

clubhouse. John Kemp also hosted a

walk/talk around the course for members,

so that they could see and understand

any change or redesign of the golf

course.”


The delicate nature of the land

required careful planning of the

renovation process. A non-managed area

was used for ‘chunking’ (grass

transplantation), with the chunks

deployed around the bunkers to help

blend the golf course into the natural

landscape.

“Work on the bunkers was planned

around their proximity to grassland

translocation sites,” says Rhys. “This

minimised unnecessary travelling

between work areas and, therefore,

damage by heavy construction vehicles.

The only extra material needed was

rootzone to help rooting, so we were able

to use existing golf course machinery -

a tractor with back hoe and front bucket,

plus a tractor and trailer for carrying

material around were about all that was

required.”

Rhys also resorted to more unusual

tools to get the desired effect. “One of

the best tools we used was a pick axe to

rough up the sides of the translocated

chunks, as it gives a great looking natural

edge!”

Additional bunkering is now a feature

of a large number of holes to make for a

more challenging experience, whilst

allowing golfers the chance to test their

skill from teeing grounds of their choice.

Cattle have traditionally been grazed

on the course year round, but this has

now been restricted to the winter

months, leading to the establishment of

high rough.

“We had no rough before, now we have

definition between fairway, semi-rough

and rough and the course now plays in a

totally different way - it’s a proper

championship links golf course,” says

Rhys.

Head Greenkeeper, Meurig Lumley,

GOLF and the environment

“We have a direct responsibility for the day to day management

of the site, we have a legal duty to maintain and enhance where

necessary the quality of the habitats within”

agrees: “Taking the cattle off from May

to October has enabled the course to

grow in areas that would otherwise be of

same height, which allows us to manage

the roughs to have proper definition in

the right places. A semi rough collar on

nearly all holes has changed the look of

the hole, allowing the golfer to have a

fair chance.”

A new Kubota 1600 diesel ride on

mower has been added to the club’s

machinery fleet which, Meurig says, is

ideal for the rough.

“The lie of the land, and the fact that

it is in a SSSI, restricts areas that can be

cut, but this does not have too much

effect on the look of the hole,” he

comments. “Now that the majority of the

new features have become established,

the course can be managed with

attention to detail to make sure it is

working in the way we want it to.”

25


“To work combining

the ecology and day to

day tasks makes the job

very interesting”

Meurig Lumley, Head Greenkeeper

Meurig adds that, whilst the club has

to consider the environment and the

appearance of the course in its

management, the aim of the turf

improvement regime is to produce

greens of a fescue/bent mixture to

establish good playing surfaces, which is

also mirrored through aprons, tees and

fairways.

“An ongoing overseeding programme

has helped to establish the surfaces that

we want,” he says. “We are still able to

carry out the traditional golf course

maintenance tasks, such as aeration,

topdressing and verticutting, but use

minimal water and fertiliser, and stick to

light treatments only.”

Rhys adds that the golfers are seeing a

real difference in the course.

“The course was generally quite easy

to play before. You could hit the ball

anywhere, find it and hit it again; there

was no real strategy required. Now you

have to really plot your way around, it's a

true test, whilst being fair at the same

time,” he says.

“You only have to look at the scores

now in most competitions to see the

difference. When the club hosts the

Welsh Amateur championship in 2011 it

26

will be a real championship golf course

again.”

However, the course still offers

something for the ‘leisure’ golfers, he

insists: “All golfers have the choice to

play either from the yellow tees or, if

they want a real challenge, the

championship ‘Darwin’ tees. The semi

rough is fair, although if you do stray off

line there is some pretty thick stuff out

there, but hey, it’s a championship golf

course!”

And the work is not yet complete.

Ongoing scrub clearance, especially the

removal of bramble and reduction in

gorse, has the aim to improve 7000sqm

of ecological habitat and thus retain the

SSSI requirement of satisfactory

condition.

The environment is also given

consideration in other areas of the day

to day routine. “Waste is managed in

various ways - for example, grasscuttings

are stored in bays around the course,

stockpiled for future use with other

materials, such as turf waste, and then

used for bases of tees or banking. Water

harvesting is another concept that has

been put forward to the club, but the

initial funding to set this process up is

not yet in the club’s budget.”

Rhys adds: “We have a direct

responsibility for the day to day

management of the site, we have a legal

duty to maintain and enhance where

necessary the quality of the habitats

within. It is of paramount importance

that no operation may negatively affect

the quality or quantity of the SSSI

habitat. Therefore, each member of staff

has a duty to act and follow our policies

of using the washdown areas for cleaning

off machines, and following

maintenance tracks to avoid damage to

the environment and compaction to

areas of play.”

But, Meurig insists that the golf still

comes first. “Any work that may cause

disruption or disturbance to the

playability of the course prior to a

tournament is put off until afterwards,

or done well in advance. There has

been no compromise in the way we aim

to work the course, in fact it has made

the team more aware of what

is important. To work

combining the ecology and

day to day tasks makes the

job very interesting.”

Detailed description

of the work at

Aberdovey

Dune management

The dune system running along the

12th hole was exposed to local erosion

through high tidal action and strong

winds. To protect the SSSI, Gwynedd

Council organises excess and

accumulated sands to be gathered and

deposited into ‘blowouts’ along the

dune system. These areas are then

planted with marram grass, and

‘chunked’ for stabilisation as well as

using brashings to keep the sand from

blowing and erosion, which also helps

the marram establish. As the picture

below demonstrates, this has been

extremely successful and the dune line

is constantly improving and

strengthening.

Scrub management

Scrub is a serious issue and certain

areas have already been cleared,

replanted with the natural marram

grass and seeded with site specific seed.

Rhys explains: “We have many more

areas planned for clearance but, with a

change of club management and

change of personnel in CCW, progress

was halted until both parties were in

place. We are currently still awaiting a

meeting between both ‘new parties’ so

that we may discuss future work

programmes.”

Roughs

Other areas of discussion with the CCW

will include rough grassland

management - extensive swathes of

grassland dominate the landscape and

provide the overriding ecological

interest through the course and its

immediate environs.

Thinner and more upright swards will

be positioned closer to the fairways,

whilst the denser and less disturbed

grasslands are well away from the

playing line. From a golfing

perspective, this will allow ball retrieval


from the wayward golf shot and provide

a penalty that is appropriate to the

distance from play.

Rhys says, “Currently, we only cut

approximately 4-5 yards as a first cut of

rough. All other deep rough grassland is

left without intervention and provides a

valuable habitat for small mammals and

invertebrates.”

Where there is a risk or possibility of

sensitive areas being trampled or

destroyed by vehicles, which may include

rare plants such as the Common Spotted

Orchid, these are protected by hoops and

this also makes the golfer aware that they

are in a sensitive area.

Fences are used to guide course traffic,

preventing trolleys and buggies entering

environmentally sensitive areas and

maintaining definition between roughs

and fairways which, again, enhances the

visual impact on the golfer.

Communication

Aberdovey Golf Club engages with

partners, members, guests and visitors so

that they are fully aware of its aims and

objectives. Regular updates and reports

on environmental works and other

developments are posted on the club

website.

Various signs are used in environmentally

sensitive areas such as scrub and in the

sand dunes, informing members of the

public and golfers of the special area

they are in. Where there is public access,

controls such as fencing and boardwalks

are in place to prevent man-made

erosion.

The club communicates and interfaces

with the Countryside Council for Wales,

STRI, Gwynedd Council, the

Environment Agency and the Snowdonia

National Park Authority to ensure the

site is protected and promoted

accordingly.

Naturalisation of tees

The teeing ground on the 15th used to

be 90 yards long and of a ‘runway’ style,

which looked completely alien to the

surrounding natural environment,

explains Rhys. “This has now been

altered and four separate ‘free form’ tees

created which blend into the existing

topography, whilst minimising visual

impact and integrate seamlessly into the

natural environment.”

“In the winter of 2009/10, there were a

further three new tees built to add extra

yardage to the golf course and allow it to

stay in touch with today’s equipment and

modern distances. These are, again,

totally natural and blend into the

surrounding landscape.”

The bunker project

Rhys explains: “The bunker project we

undertook was focused on shaping a

natural, rugged, rustic links style that

integrates seamlessly into the landscape.”

This creates visually dominant hazards

whilst also serving to direct the golfer

away from certain areas. It also offers a

risk option to achieve preferred angles

into the greens and penalise poorly

judged or reckless shots.

The bunkers maximise course strategy to

test and tease the golfer in equal

amounts, so that the experience is

enhanced when the challenge is

conquered, Rhys suggests.

“One of the important factors behind the

bunker style is that they are approved, if

not encouraged by CCW,” he comments.

“The unkempt style helps reduce the

visual impact of the (managed) course in

the natural environment and its

influence on the surrounding habitat.”

“Environmentally, the bunkers act as

‘semi mobile dune’ habitats where dune

species can survive in an otherwise ‘fixed

grassland’ habitat.”

The naturalised bunkers consist of

blowout-style hollows with visible sand

flash faces and extensive marram

planting in the banking and surrounds.

As Rhys says, “They are simply part of

the landscape.”

Waste management

The debris arising from scrub clearance

is allowed to dry out on site, and is burnt

in a specially designated area on hard

standing away from any ecologically rich

grasslands.

“Grass cuttings collected from our three

bays around the course are brought to a

central composting area,” Rhys explains.

“Clippings are left for no longer than

two weeks in these bays, as this lessens

the impact of chemical residues and

nutrients being washed through into the

ground.”

Composted clippings can then be used

should fill be needed to create

hummocks or humps - a good example

of this is the elevation in front of the

pumping station house on the 1st hole in

a bid to lessen its visual impact for the

golfer when playing the hole.

“All of our empty containers from white

lining aerosol cans, pesticide containers

and fertiliser bags are collected and

disposed of by specialist waste disposal

company Interlude,” he adds.

Water Management

The club is constantly increasing the

population of drought resistant grasses -

fescues and bents - minimising the need

to water on a regular basis. Other water

management activities include watering

at the optimum time during the day or

night, paying attention to topographical

features such as slope angling and

contouring, and hand watering to deliver

the optimum precipitation rate into the

rootzone.

Wetting agents are also used to balance

air to water ratios in the soil, reducing

the need to over-water by ensuring

consistent moisture and air levels in the

rootzone. The use of a Hydroject is also

used to maximise hydration directly into

the rootzone.

“We regularly monitor our irrigation

system for pressure loss, so any leaks may

be detected and repaired,” says Rhys.

Aberdovey Golf Club is investigating the

possibility of water harvesting from

around the clubhouse and around the

course, along with the future installation

of a reed bed to treat washings from

buggies or mowers. “These are still in the

planning stages and need to be discussed

through various committees to be passed

and given the go ahead,” he explains.

Entry to the Golf Environment Awards is open

to all golf clubs and courses in the UK, no

matter what size or type. Every golf course has

an equal chance of winning an award - the

judging is based on your environmental focus

and projects, not on your course.


GOLF and the environment

Herptiles and

Handicaps...

Of all sports’ facilities, golf courses,

with their mosaic of habitats,

provide arguably the best

conditions for a range of UK wildlife

species. Despite the large areas of

intensely managed grassland, which are

obviously vital to the function of the golf

course, the type of other habitats

common on golf courses, such as

waterbodies, rough grassland, scrub,

trees and hedgerows, are ideal for

wildlife.

As habitats disappear across the

country, golf courses are becoming

increasingly important for the wildlife

potential they have, and this is

increasingly recognised on their

inclusion within local councils’

Biodiversity Action Plans (BAP) and with

national designations for their wildlife

conservation importance (over 100 golf

courses in England are wholly or

partially designated as Sites of Special

Scientific Interest SSSI).

In particular, golf courses provide

good conditions for amphibians and

reptiles - together, these are referred to

28

as herptiles [no, we didn’t know that

either. Ed.]. The majority of the general

public are unaware of the presence of

these creatures on our shores, associating

reptiles, in particular, with tropical

climates and assuming these creatures to

be something we should fear. In fact, as

well as frogs and toads, three species of

newts are native to the UK and six

species of reptiles.

Perhaps the most notorious of

amphibians amongst landowners and

developers, the great crested newt

Triturus cristatus is the largest of our

native amphibians, growing up to 17cm

in length (other UK newts tend to reach

only 9cm in length), and easily

distinguished from lizards, which they

are often confused with, by their bright

orange belly.

Great crested newts are well known

amongst developers and land managers,

including golf course owners seeking to

expand or significantly alter their

courses, who have heard many horror

stories about huge sums of money

invested in the protection of one newt!

However, the presence of this species, if

identified early, will rarely halt a project,

and ecological consultants can work with

land owners and developers to ensure

cost effective and sensible solutions are

reached, that will safeguard this species

as well as ensuring the continuation of

any development works.

As for reptiles; adders (Vipera berus),

grass snakes (Natrix natrix), common

lizards (Zootoca vivipara) and slow worms

(Anguis fragilis) are present across much

of the UK, with the smooth snake

(Coronella austriaca) and the sand lizard

(Lacerta agilis) having a more restricted

distribution in the south of England.

Often feared by the general public,

reptiles in the UK pose only a minimal

risk to humans, with an adder much

more likely to escape into the

undergrowth if they see any sign of

danger, rather than stay put and attack!

Although they have different life cycles

and habitat requirements, both reptiles

and amphibians have, in common, the

need for a variety of habitats in close

proximity. Golf courses could provide a


Great Crested Newt

haven for reptile and amphibian species,

that are at risk due to a decline in

suitable habitat and, by ensuring

appropriate management works, their

presence may go unnoticed.

Great Crested Newts

These amphibians are most often seen in

water, although they are only usually

present in ponds between mid-March

and mid-June. During this time, the

males will perform complex courtship

displays and the females will lay the

resulting eggs within the pond’s

vegetation. Each egg is individually

wrapped within the leaves of the aquatic

vegetation. The adult newts will then

leave the ponds and forage within

woodlands, scrub and rough grassland,

using habitat corridors such as

hedgerows, to move between suitable

sites. Newts will forage at night time and

will usually move only in temperatures

higher than 5OC, and particularly on

damper nights.

During daylight, newts are most

commonly found in damp, dark places,

“Great crested newts are well

known amongst developers and

land managers who have heard

many horror stories about huge

sums of money invested in the

protection of one newt!”

such as under rocks or in piles of

vegetation. The juvenile newts, which are

aquatic and possess gills, live for around

three months in the water. During this

time they will grow rapidly and,

eventually, will lose their gills and leave

the ponds. They will then live on land

for up to three years until they are

sexually mature, when they will return to

the ponds to breed. A small number of

juvenile newts will not undergo this

process in their first year, and will remain

in the pond over winter until the

following year, when they will lose their

gills and become terrestrial.

Great crested newts are carnivorous

and will feed mainly on insects, although

they have been known to eat other newts.

Reptiles

Reptiles will hibernate over winter in dry

places that are free from frost, including

features such as old rabbit burrows,

compost heaps and rubble mounds. They

will begin to emerge from hibernation in

spring, when they will first seek to mate

before foraging continually over the

summer. Adders, common lizards and

slow worms will incubate their eggs

within their body and will lay ‘live young’

in late summer. Grass snakes, however,

will lay eggs in June/July, in rotting

vegetation that will incubate the eggs for

them. The eggs will then hatch in late

summer. Juvenile common lizards and

slow worms will then forage on small

invertebrates, while juvenile grass snakes

forage on amphibians and fish, and

Common Lizard

adders will forage on small mammals

and lizards.

In order to fulfil all of these stages in

their lifecycle, reptiles need a range of

habitats in relatively close proximity to

one another, although adult grass snakes

can maintain a home range stretching up

to 5km. Ideally, reptiles require open

areas where they can bask in the sun in

order to warm up for their day’s

activities. However, in close proximity

they also need more overgrown, rough

areas where they can retire to if they

sense danger. They also require good

foraging habitat, which may include

ponds and rough grassland, as they

forage on small mammals, amphibians

and invertebrates.

Ideal environments

It can be seen that the conditions

provided by golf courses, with

waterbodies, rough, fairways and

footpaths, provide an ideal mixture of

habitats that can satisfy the requirements

of both reptiles and amphibians, without

too much additional work from the

course management.

Heathland golf courses, of which there

are many fine examples across the whole

of the UK, provide possibly the best

habitats for amphibians and reptiles, with

the perfect mix of habitats for warmth,

shelter, foraging and dry conditions

suitable for hibernation.

However, all golf courses can offer

some potential for these species, and

simple steps can be taken to consider the

29


Grass Snake Male Adders

wildlife potential of course

redevelopments or the construction of

new courses.

Decline of herptiles

The UK has long been a stronghold for

great crested newt, which has suffered

severe declines across continental

Europe, where pond destruction, either

through neglect or for development, has

resulted in a severe decrease in available

breeding habitat, and the fragmentation

of suitable terrestrial habitats has made it

harder for newts to move to another,

suitable pond. However, these declines

are now being mirrored in the UK, where

lowering of ground water levels for

development, destruction of hedgerows

and increased pollution are resulting in

declines in this species.

In order to attempt to halt the decline

of this species, great crested newts are

now protected under UK and European

legislation. In practice, this means:

destruction of habitats, killing, injuring,

disturbing, taking or offering for sale, all

of which can result in hefty fines and/or

imprisonment! This means that a licence

is required in order to survey for this

species.

The four widespread reptile species in

the UK; adder, grass snake, common

lizard and slow worm, are currently

relatively common, if often undetected.

However, it is widely considered that

these species are suffering declines across

the country, due to loss of habitat or

fragmentation of areas of suitable

habitat. All UK reptiles are now

protected from killing, injuring and sale,

in an effort to halt the declines in their

populations.

Herptiles on golf courses

Golf courses provide an ideal

Slow worm Great Crested Newt

30

opportunity to create ‘safe havens’ for

these declining species, with only simple

changes to the habitats and the

management that is already in place. In

fact, several golf courses around the UK

are known to have populations of great

crested newts and good reptile

populations already present, and may

have done so for several years, without

any impacts on the running of the course

and the enjoyment of its use.

Several simple steps can be taken to

encourage these species to colonise golf

courses:

• Ponds - great crested newts prefer to

live in medium sized ponds that are

well vegetated, but also have areas of

open water, as these are used by the

males for their elaborate courtship

displays. It is also ponds like this that

look the most visually appealing and,

therefore, would fit in well on a golf

course. Newts like to live in places

where there are several medium sized

ponds in close proximity to one

another, and this can easily be

considered in the design or

redevelopment of courses.

• Fish - fish will eat great crested newt

larvae and so, if possible, ponds on

golf courses should not be stocked with

fish. Frogs and toads should, however,

be encouraged as they provide a great

food supply for reptiles.

• Habitat - as mentioned above, all

herptiles like areas of rough grassland,

scrub and woodland, all of which are

usually readily present on golf courses.

These habitats will require no

additional maintenance to ensure that

they provide perfect conditions for

newts.

• Connectivity - if possible, habitat

corridors; lines of habitat connecting

other habitat features, such as a strip

of rough grassland between two ponds

(for example, along the edge of a

fairway) or a hedgerow between two

patches of woodland, should be

incorporated into the course design to

allow herptiles to move freely between

all the ideal habitats that are present.

It is no use creating a lovely, fish free

pond, ideal for breeding newts and

foraging reptiles, if the animals have to

cross the shortly mown green, where

they are at risk of aerial predation, to

get to it! The connectivity does not

need to encircle the pond, a strip of

rough along the rear of the green,

connecting to one side of a pond and

along the side of the fairway, would

provide an excellent habitat

connection.

Prior to any alterations to golf courses,

the presence of herptiles should be

confirmed (or otherwise) by an

appropriately licensed ecologist, who can

offer advice to ensure that the works will

not result in breaking the law and

causing harm to these species.

For those simply enjoying the golf,

without being actively involved in the

management of the course, the presence

of herptiles will rarely be detected, unless

you are playing particularly late into a

damp dusk or early on a damp morning.

However, by regularly using golf courses

that actively seek to encourage protected

species, golfers are contributing to the

maintenance of these vital spaces and,

hopefully, ensuring the survival of this,

and other, increasingly rare species in the

UK.

With thanks to Sarah Hallen at

Peak Ecology Ltd.

Email: sarahallen@peakecology.co.uk

Website: www.peakecology.co.uk


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Always read the label. Use pesticides safely. ©Syngenta AG January 2010. GQ 00745.


GOLF and the

environment

This article looks at the statutory

protection of trees covered by a Tree

Preservation Order (or Conservation

Area) from the perspective of the sports

field manager.

The TPO as a land charge

The Tree Preservation Order is a land

charge affecting land and landowners,

which seeks to maintain amenity trees by

controlling the space that those trees

occupy, and to control any cultural

treatments that might impact on

continuity of tree cover.

This is a key point of note, effectively

the individual trees are not protected

directly, and it is the control of land

using a map and a legal charge that

allows for councils to approve or refuse

planning applications to fell trees.

Remember that, for Forestry Act

purposes, a whole set of additional

32

TPOs and how

they affect you!

Tree Preservation Orders and Management of Sports

Grounds and Golf Courses. By Oisin Kelly, Principal

Land Consultant of Landscape Planning Ltd.

controls impact the volume of timber

that can be removed in a any given

period from land.

Amenity and Continuity of Tree Cover

Amenity is defined as “advantages that

accrue” from the presence of a ‘thing’.

These advantages can be the

community’s visual amenities, strategic

landscape amenities (Local Plan and

policy reasons) or landscape character

reasons (including Conservation and

Heritage). The TPO is a planning tool

for maintaining tree cover (Note: not

maintaining individual trees in

perpetuity) and ensuring that continuity

of tree cover might exist at a particular

location, all other considerations (Local

Plan, policy or legal) being equal.

TPOs, Conservation Areas and Sports

and Recreational Facilities - The

relationship between landowners and

TPOs

Tree Preservation Orders are a charge

over land and, as such, contain detailed

provisions, both protecting amenity and

those circumstances in which works to

trees are exempt from planning control.

In determining to make a TPO as a

response to an application to carry out

building or development works or, more

generally, in the interests of local

amenities, Tree Officers should ensure

that they are aware of the local planning

policy status of a sports ground, the

history of management of the site, the

landowners past behaviour (i.e. a

responsible and knowledgeable

landowner) and the landscape

significance in regard to character of the

various trees on site.

All of this is, simply to say, that

planning officers and tree and landscape

officers should know why they might

make a TPO - is it a strategic reason, is it

due to new planning circumstances or

applications for built development, is it

because of alleged tree felling or

pruning of poor management quality?

What Council officers should not do is

make TPOs simply because there are

trees present. They should be able to

demonstrate exactly how the TPOs are

connected to strategy and policy, and


they should be able to demonstrate a

system for the consideration of trees and

the making of orders.

Critically, these orders should be kept

under constant review, orders should not

be allowed to become procedurally

outdated (changes in the law) or

physically outdated (the order is so old

everything has changed).

Councils should review and seek to

update orders regularly, and involve land

owners in this process.

This is a key opportunity; it is our view

that many large strategic landowners on

well established sites would be better

agreeing long term (10–25 year) masterplans

for trees and woodlands. This

reduces bureaucracy, administrative costs

and conflict, and allows landowners to

manage to long term plans free of the

burden of TPO applications.

Exemptions to control exist

In terms of the exemptions, the

individual order will detail the form of

words used in respect of the regulations

in force from time to time. However,

dead, dying, diseased and dangerous

trees, trees causing a nuisance to a third

party - trees under control of a statutory

undertaker - may all be exempt from

planning control.

Given the position taken on public

safety to hazard trees, and the potential

conflict with statutory protection by TPO,

the following should be considered:

• That a recent case (Poll v Asquith) has

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established that all tree inspectors

need to be qualified and competent to

undertake assessments

• That Poll v Asquith has restated the

duty of care that landowners owe in

respect of their trees

• That an estate manager and warden

were recently arrested on suspicion of

manslaughter following the failure of a

beech tree that killed an 8 year old boy

• That the Health and Safety Executive

have highlighted the need for those

involved in tree work operations to

carefully check the competency of their

contractors

Prior to relying on the exemptions to

planning control, it is essential that

landowners have properly considered the

issues, and that they have notified the

planning authority that they intend to

rely on the exemption before they

proceed.

Objecting to new orders

The Act requires that those affected by

TPOs be given the right to object to the

making of an order, which the council

must then fairly determine if there is any

merit in the objection.

A selection of reasons for objection

might include:

• The land is under effective

management control and trees are not

at risk

• The trees are not sufficiently important

to warrant a TPO

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• The Order, its map or schedules are

wrong

• Some or all of the trees are exempt

from controls

• The land is wrongly referenced or the

land is under another party’s control

• The regulations and procedures have

not been followed

Tree works

It is almost inevitable that Tree

Preservation Orders will exist on many of

our sports fields and recreation sites -

sixty years of planning control and

TPOs, the encroachment of previously

distant settlement boundaries and the

high profile of these sites makes them an

obvious target for the tree officer.

Therefore, the council, and the

sportsfield manager, should consider

agreeing policies for land management

that allows tree works to proceed, whilst

maintaining and protecting visual

amenities.

It is our opinion that the most effective

way to do this is through land

management agreement, either within

the TPO regulations or as a stand alone

agreement between the land manager

and the council.

About the author: Oisin Kelly is a Principal

Consultant of Landscape Planning Limited, a

company specialising in land use and risk

management of trees, habitats and wildlife

relating to lawful planning use.

Visit www.landscapeplanning.co.uk to learn

more...

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33


Irrigation

2010 and

beyond...

STRI Irrigation Consultant, Adrian Mortram, looks

at the growing need for water conservation and

how best to plan your irrigation requirements

Water Management in uncertain

times. Budgets stretched to

breaking point. The spectre of

climate change. The developing culture

of retrospective blame; that degree in

foresight you put off doing when you

were in your 20s might have been a

good idea.

One thing, however, is one hundred

percent certain - water is essential for

plant survival. I use the term survival,

and not growth, intentionally. As we are

not farmers, we do not look for yield in

our grass harvest, but a delicate balance

between growth and playing quality.

Over 90% of plant tissue is made up

from the life giving liquid. It also

contributes to cooling the plant,

keeping it turgid, and acts as a vital

transport system for nutrients and

chemicals around the plant.

It is my endeavour, in this article, to

look at ‘water conservation and usage in

the future’ in the short, medium and

long term.

In the short term, follow the

principles of ‘Best Practice’ and the

development of exemplary cultural

practices. Perhaps, you might say, it is

not within my remit to discuss cultural

operations, but I would be failing in my

duty if I were not to mention such

considerations.

It goes without saying that aeration

is, arguably, top of the list. Deep

aeration, by whatever means, will

increase the root biomass, encourage

deep rooting and present the sward

with a greater opportunity to search for

available water. Surface aeration, on the

other hand, and the constant strive to

control thatch, will encourage greater

infiltration and allow vital dew to

penetrate the rootzone before it is

burned off and evaporated as the sun

rises. The use of wetting agents and the

benefits of switching will assist in the

harvest of this small, but vital, free

supply of water.

Raising the height of cut, and even

leaving the clippings on certain playing

surfaces to act as mulch, will play yet

another small but significant part in

moisture conservation, but this may not

sit too well with some of the

membership, whilst clean sharp

cylinders will minimise leaf wounding.

The use of growth regulating

chemicals are now increasingly

common in turf management regimes,

reducing the internodal length of

grasses, producing denser swards and

greater root biomass; seaweed extracts

and soil ameliorants playing their part

in the general awareness of rootzone

quality. Gone are the days when

quantities of unmentionable chemicals

raped the soil fauna and

microorganisms, leaving the rootzone

inert.

Changing and influencing the

composition of the sward, towards a

greater tolerance to drought and salt,

could be achieved by gradual overseeding

with new and developing

cultivars.

A look at all these factors, and more,

can have a small, but significant,

influence on the conservation of water

supplies.

Turning our attention to the

application of water and the irrigation

system itself. Much can still be

achieved by checking the system

thoroughly during the off, or at the

start of, the season.

Do the pop-up sprinklers actually


pop-up, are they rotating, have any

been damaged by winter aeration

procedures, is the spacing of the

sprinkler heads correct, are the arcs set

correctly, and do the pop-ups have the

correct nozzles to provide adequate

head to head coverage? Simple

measures, but you would be amazed

how often these common problems

occur.

Poor spacing of sprinkler heads is,

perhaps, the commonest problem.

Without head to head contact, accurate

distribution of water is not possible.

Poor spacing may be the fault of the

initial installation or may be the fact

that the green shape has changed over

time.

Arc settings should be studied and

checked annually, as should the actual

water pressure at the sprinkler heads.

This information can lead to the

discovery of leaks within the system or

the change of nozzles to achieve the

desired outcome.

When the system is a block design, as

experienced often with the traditional

design of tees and greens, then each

pair of sprinklers will deliver water for

the same length of time. Where there

has been an on-site modification to

allow, for example, aprons to be

irrigated, both sprinkler arcs must be

the same for, if one is full circle and the

other part circle, the full circle will be

delivering 50% less water than the part

circle, per unit area, in any given time.

In the medium term, and each of the

rather arbitrary terms will overlap, we

must look at ‘Education and Training’.

As irrigation is often said to be ‘out of

sight and out of mind’, at least one

member of staff should be fully trained

in its management. After all, a new

system will possibly be the most costly

piece of maintenance equipment in

which a club will invest.

When a new system is installed,

ensure a full training course is offered

on the operation and management of

the hardware. This is essential as, so

often, the system is set up in the way it

was on the first day, with little regard

for current environmental conditions.

Trained staff should be able to calculate

sprinkler precipitation rates and run

times to coincide with the desired

application rate, and operate the system

GOLF and the environment

to its full potential. Courses on this are

held each year, both at STRI Bingley

and as Workshops for CPD at BTME.

But, it is not just the greenstaff who

should appreciate the need for

knowledge regarding the use of water.

The membership of the club should

also be aware of the dangers of over

irrigating. With the intervention of

CAMS (Catchment Abstraction

Management Strategies) and the Water

Framework Directive, water usage in

the future is fast becoming a political

issue, and indiscriminative water usage

will be a thing of the past.

Water and irrigation audits, and the

justification for the continued use of

potable water, will become yet another

chore for the Course Manager. Proper

accountability, the maintenance of

detailed records of water usage, and the

justification for that usage, is

unquestionably on the way.

In the long term, modern technology

must be employed to save the day. Club

committees should decide on which

areas of the golf course are to be

irrigated - modern design can be area

specific, whether that be simply tees


Water collection

and the provision

of storage

facilities will be

essential in

future planning

36

It may not be necessary

to sell off the family

silver to plan and put into

operation a new

irrigation system

and green or to encompass fairways,

approaches and walkways.

Good design, using sprinkler

densograms for example, can save

water and take into account the need

for the conservation of the

peripheral landscape. It may not be

necessary to sell off the family silver

to plan and put into operation a new

irrigation system. Provided the

overall plan is discussed and

approved by all concerned, the

grand plan should incorporate all

future requirements. A phased

development can then be put into

operation, for example, installing

initially greens and tees but with

adequate pipework, cabling

infrastructure and pumping capacity

to allow for future expansion to

encompass aprons, fairways and

walkways.

Balancing the infiltration rate with

the sprinkler

precipitation/application

rate and the

incorporation of a

correctly positioned

weather station and soil

moisture sensors, along

with traditional ways of

observing soil moisture

deficit, can be

demonstrated to be

effective in managing

water, some estimates

suggesting as much as a

20% saving.

However, we should

also take into

consideration, when

planning and designing

any system, the complex

issues of water

resourcing. On the

Continent, some

countries are already

restricting the annual

quantity of water which it

is permissible to use. In Denmark,

for instance, some courses are

restricted to as little as 5,000m 3 per

year.

Borehole usage will be, and in

many areas already is, controlled

under the local CAMS, and

restrictions may apply in the future.

Water collection and the provision of

water storage facilities will be

essential in future planning and,

depending upon the quantities of

water required, continued use of

potable water from the public water

system will undoubtedly, at the very

least, become prohibitively

expensive, if not denied.

Climate change is another

complex issue. Speculation varies

widely. However, over the past few

years, few will disagree that the

pattern of our climate has tended to

be more extreme, in particular

heavier, but less frequent rainfall.

We must look to the long term to

secure our water resourcing and

install some form of water storage

facility. For a relatively simple green

and tees system in the UK, a storage

capacity of some 10,000-15,000m 3

should be adequate but, if expansion

is planned for the future, then

25,000-40,000m 3 may be required.

We also need to explore the

sourcing of that water. Water farming

and collection of water from the golf

course, via drainage and hard

standing areas, such as car parks,

should be considered. Recycling

non-soiled clubhouse water through

reed beds and ultra violet filters is

another option. Winter abstraction

from boreholes, rivers and streams is

yet another possibility. This really is

long term planning and to discuss it

should not be deferred. Remember

that degree in foresight I spoke of

earlier.

On a global scale, away from the

needs of the golf course, water

resourcing, or the lack of it, is a very

real issue which has already led to

inter-border issues and violence; it

yet may be a far bigger problem

than oil.

In conclusion. Yes, there are some

relatively simple measures which can

be implemented to conserve water

and improve our irrigation

procedures, but there are also some

difficult choices ahead.

STRI Irrigation Services are

available to help in many of the

areas covered in this article, from

irrigation system audits and

feasibility studies for a new irrigation

system, through to detailed

irrigation design and the production

of scaled plans and tender

documentation (specifications and

bills of quantities). For further

information please contact Helen

Waite on 01274 518918,

email helen.waite@stri.co.uk

or visit www.stri.co.uk

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Abi Crosswood,

First Assistant at

Newquay Golf

Club, reports on

her recent

internship at

Augusta National,

where she helped

prepare this

iconic course for

the 2010 Masters

After applying to take

part in the Ohio State

University

international exchange

programme never, in my

wildest dreams, did I think I

would have got such a

perfect placement!

It was a real blessing, and

a major career milestone, for

me to work for six months

as an intern at Augusta

National, a venue that, in

media coverage terms, is

probably the number one

golf course in the world.

The application process

It was quite a long

application process. I

decided I wanted to work in

America back in March

2009, and it was six months

later, around September

time, that I found out I was

actually going.

After my CV had been

‘tweaked’ by Pitchcare

columnist Frank Newberry,

it was sent to Mike O’Keeffe

who has run the OSU

international exchange

programme for a number of

years. Mike then sent my CV

to a number of golf clubs in

the ‘top 100’ in the USA.

Once an internship at the

Augusta National became a

possibility, the selection

process began in earnest.

My next step was to write a

personal description and

complete a number of other

forms. This was the ‘paper

sift’ to decide on suitable

candidates for interview.

Once I was through this

phase of the selection the

Augusta people spoke to my

employer, the Course

Manager at Newquay Golf

Club.

Fantastic news

After having some initial

discussions with my Course

Manager, the First Assistant

and the Administrator at

Augusta National

interviewed me by

telephone. It was during the

next week that I was told the

fantastic news that I had

earned a place on the greens

team at Augusta National!

However, it was not all

done and dusted at this

point. Augusta National had

to run background checks

on me and I had to sort out

a number of formalities,

such as my visa application.

Only then was I all set for

my adventure to the United

States. In October 2009 I

would start my six months

internship.

A very daunting prospect

This was going to be such a

big move for me. I had

never been away from home

before. I have only ever had

the one proper job, working

at the same golf club since I

was 16 years old. Now, that

same employer had

permitted me to go on a six

month sabbatical to

America.

I had many apprehensions

at first. I had no idea what

to expect and it seemed like

a very daunting prospect to

just ‘up and leave’. I

particularly did not want to

let my employer down.

A great experience and an

excellent introduction

On arrival into America I

met Mike O’Keeffe in

Columbus, Ohio for an

orientation session, at which

he briefed me fully on what

to expect on my trip.

I was also told about the

short course training, and

an educational weekend,

organised by Mike and his

team, which I was to

attend later on in my

internship at Hilton Head in

South Carolina. I found the

course very enlightening, it

was a great experience for

me and an excellent

introduction to the way

greenkeeping is done in

America.

It was also a good

opportunity to mix with

other greenkeepers of my

age and to learn about their

work issues and

experiences. Although we

were not together long, I

still keep in touch with a lot

of the people who were on

the Hilton Head course.

Is this really happening?

After leaving Columbus

Ohio, I got a flight to

Augusta where lots of

thoughts were running

through my mind as to what

to expect. As it happened

everyone was very

welcoming. As soon as I

landed, an employee of the

Augusta National picked me

up from the airport and

helped me settle into my

new accommodation.

I will always remember

being driven through the

gates and thinking ‘Is this

really happening?’

After only a couple of

weeks of settling into my

internship I was given my

main duties. I was

scheduled to do a task

known as ‘Greens Care’.

Basically, this meant caring

for two allocated greens on a

regular basis and setting

them up before morning

play.

This usually involved

mowing the greens and then

raking the greenside

bunkers. Following this, with

any extra time, I would

repair pitch marks, dust ball

marks and pick any poa

annua.

When raking the bunkers

I would also take the time to

pick any weeds, check sand

depths and

Crosswood’s

Crossover ...

remove any debris from the

bunker and surrounding

areas. Generally, if I was not

scheduled for a greens care

task in the mornings, then I

would be doing spray

applications instead.

An extra effort to improve

the holes assigned to me

After the morning tasks

were completed I would

normally be assigned to

‘Hole Care’. This involved

taking responsibility for the

general maintenance of two

holes, and then putting in

an extra effort to improve

the two holes assigned to

me, these were holes 1 and

9.

Each green was ‘looked

after’ by whoever was

allocated that green under

the ‘Greens Care’ system,

and the large areas - such as

the fairways and the large

strips of second cut - were

cut by a team of people on

ride-on mowers. Everything

else was my responsibility.

For example, if I thought

it would improve turf

quality to mow any parts of

these large areas using

pedestrian methods, I could

decide to complete the task

personally and take it upon

myself to rope off specific

areas.

The main mowing duties

on my allocated holes

involved using a pedestrian

rotary mower to finish the

second cut areas, in and

around the trees, and the

grass areas around the

bunker fingers to blend in

with the fairway. This work

was necessary because the

ride-on mowers cannot

adequately reach into these

areas.

Once I was satisfied that

these areas were in an

acceptable condition, I was

left to tackle other issues

that I thought might

benefit the


holes. This could involve a

number of different tasks

including topdressing,

overseeding, aerating etc.

My eye soon adjusted to

spotting the early signs

Whilst I was constantly

encouraging the growth of

new grass, it was very

important to keep the

already established grass

alive. A main concern was

‘wilt’, and it was a constant

battle to keep on top of this,

although my eye soon

adjusted to spotting the

early signs. After

a time I

got

to know ‘hole care’ really

well and, because I was

constantly observing the

same two holes, it made it

possible to fairly easily

identify changes or

deteriorations, and deal with

them quickly and effectively.

Generally speaking I was

left to make all the decisions

about holes 1 and 9.

However, course walks

would be done every day

and direction would be

given, if necessary, but it

was always nice to stay one

step ahead of the game.

For me the whole concept

of ‘hole care’ was just

excellent. It has definitely

improved my attention to

detail and given me

an increased

sense

of

pride in my work. This

drove me to ensure that the

two holes that were my

responsibility were the very

best that they could be.

It was like being the

superintendent of my own

small golf course

I benefitted greatly from

‘hole care’, I learned a great

deal, especially about

personal ‘ownership’ and

responsibility. I learned how

to manage my time and

work as efficiently as

possible. I found being

given the responsibility very

rewarding; to me it was like

being the superintendent of

my own small golf course.

All the work for the

Masters was completed to an

amazingly high standard,

and the lead-up to the

tournament, held in April

2010, was very exciting. A

lot of hours had to be

worked and a great team

effort was needed and given.

By the time it actually

came to the Masters, it

seemed rather surreal to me

that my internship was

about to end.

I have to find ways to be

better than the competition

Now, more than ever, I

realise that travel and

networking are key parts of

my career development.

Being able to add the

words ‘Augusta National’

to my CV is not just a

thrill, but it can help

open doors to many other

opportunities.

Times may be tough at the

moment, with tax increases

and government cutbacks,

and I know that I inhabit a

small part of a very big

world. As far as my career is

concerned, I also know that

a lot of good people will be

competing for the better

jobs, and I have to find ways

to be better than the

competition. I need to be

better educated, better

travelled and better

prepared if I am to get the

right jobs in the future.

I also feel a great loyalty

to my home club at

Newquay, who have again

permitted me to seek

another sabbatical this

coming winter. It is great

that they want me to have

the very best vocational

education, networking

opportunities and career

prospects. I will always be

grateful to the Newquay

Golf Club for their fine

example as employers, their

encouragement and their

operational flexibility.

I was very sad to leave

Augusta. I enjoyed my work

there very much and made

lots of great friends. I found

leaving the most difficult

part, but it was definitely

the experience of a lifetime.

I would recommend an

internship like this to

anyone who loves

greenkeeping.

“Being able to add

the words ‘Augusta

National’ to my CV

is not just a thrill,

but it can help

open doors to many

other opportunities”

Abi Crosswood, First Assistant at Newquay Golf Club


How do we

make golf more

attractive?

Devon Cliffs

Hafan-y-mor

Golf Course Architect,

Jonathan Gaunt, gives a

personal view of what is

wrong with golf and how,

in his opinion, it can

attract more juniors and

families to particpate

It seems to be an endless, recurring theme in

golf conferences - well, we could start with

making it less time-consuming. The golfing

authorities could make it easier to participate in,

or make it a less complicated sport to play.

Golf is now an Olympic sport, and the way

things are looking in the UK (a fully developed

golfing nation), especially if the education system

and/or the Government has anything to do with

it, we’ll be struggling to put together a consistent

team of golfers in the future. The development of

golf in juniors has always been the responsibility

of the golf club, and not the school. The attitude

outside the UK is very different.

Okay, there are now initiatives, such as Tri Golf

- it is designed to be fun as well as informative;

allowing those that take part to enjoy the game of

golf, and feel the excitement that can come from

competition in a sport that isn’t as popular as

national curriculum sports that are provided in

schools. Tri Golf is a new form of developing

junior golf produced by the Golf Foundation and

it is targeted at children aged between 4 and 16.

I know a young golf professional in Cheshire

who coached eight schools on a six week

programme and, at the end of this time, each

school took part in a golf festival where the pupils

of each school played a tournament for the Tri

Golf School Award - it was very successful. He’s

been asked to run the six week course again this

autumn. He’s also given juniors free golf lessons

once a month to help to promote and improve

future talent amongst the youngsters.

It’s a good move forward, however, this

professional is in the minority. Many are less

interested in nurturing youngsters and

encouraging them to take up the game - there’s

no incentive for them to do so.

Concerning the opportunities in this country -

there has always been a desperate shortage of

high quality, exciting and attractive golf courses

and practice facilities that are open to the general

public. Many private clubs in the country still

have a situation whereby golfers hit their own

balls into a mown grass field and collect them by

hand.

Municipal golf courses, as a recreational facility,

have now become a very low priority within local

authorities - in general they are too expensive to

maintain, many struggle to break even and most

lose money. Birmingham Council is currently

tendering all of its seven golf courses Boldmere

Golf Course, Cocks Moors Woods Golf Course,

Hatchford Brook Golf Course, Hilltop Golf

Course, Lickey Hills Golf Course, Pype Hayes

Golf Course, Harborne Church Farm Golf Course

(9 holes), for a private operator to take over.

Whether a private operator is able to make any of

them turn a profit remains to be seen. Why are

they not making good money?

The quality of municipal facilities is, in general,

poor and this is where the problem begins. Where

else can a golfing beginner get an introduction to

the game? Okay, they can visit a local, privately

owned driving range and take a lesson with the

local professional. However, many of these are


“The future of golf lies in attracting the family

unit and providing smaller, customer-focused

facilities for all, that take less time to play”

stand-alone and have limited additional

or ancillary facilities, i.e. practice

chipping greens, bunker practice

facilities and putting greens. This may be

because of the cost of maintenance -

these need to maintained to a reasonably

high standard to give a realistic playing

experience.

There are driving ranges with 9-hole

courses attached, and this is an excellent

formula - the Hazelwood Golf Centre in

Sunbury-on-Thames, Middlesex, west of

London is well-designed and was built in

1992 on a former landfill site for less

than £1 million, including golf

clubhouse, car parking, maintenance

facilities and infrastructure. The land

extends to not more than 25 hectares,

and the course remains busy for golfers

of all levels, especially juniors, where 9holes

of golf can cost as little as £8 and

take only 1½ hours to play. This is a

relatively new course, however, and the

developer saw a niche in the market.

Many other golf course developments

like this have been established in the past

thirty years or so, many in the suburbs or

on the edge of the urban fringe. Some

have succeeded, others have not. Many

are operated by private companies, such

as Crown Golf or Burhill Golf & Leisure,

specialists who know how to make these

facilities profitable.

But, these facilities are proprietary -

owned, pay and play courses, not

municipal, therefore, not necessarily

“open-access”. Living in Leeds as a

young boy, and before I had an official

handicap, I remember playing golf on

reasonable standard municipal golf

courses, such as Gott’s Park, Temple

Newsam (designed by Alister

MacKenzie), Middleton Park and

Roundhay Park - all are still in play and

they are, what you would say, fit for

purpose.

I also played on the par-3 pitch and

putt course in Horsforth Hall Park,

which had a great “Himalayan” putting

green alongside. It was such fun to play -

we even paid to play it (when the park

warden saw us) - but mostly played on

evenings, early mornings or Sundays.

We’d even take my dad’s lawnmower

there to cut the greens shorter as we

became more demanding! These

facilities have been allowed to return to

rough grassland, sadly.

I had the opportunity to play two

municipal 18-hole pitch and putt courses

in public parks in Norwich, at

Mousehold Heath and Eaton Park - both

nicely designed and really fun-to-play,

and busy every weekend - you just hired

a putter and a wedge. The Mousehold

Heath site is now mostly covered by

broad-leaved semi-natural woodland,

although some areas of heath remain

and are actively managed. Mousehold is

part of north Norfolk’s Heathland

Heritage Project and has been funded

through the Heritage Lottery

Tomorrow’s Heathland Heritage Project.

The project aims to re-establish open

areas of heather and gorse. This is a rare

gem. There are other municipal classics,

too - Belleisle in Ayr and Queen’s Park in

Bournemouth.

When was the last municipal golf

course built in the UK? I’m not sure - it

would be interesting to know. New public

golf facilities have not been built because

so many private ones have satisfied

demand. However, many of the new

facilities do not necessarily attract

complete beginners to the game - some

have restricted access policies, excessive

dress rules, are too expensive for many

and have an atmosphere that is

intimidating.

So, the courses at Birmingham Council

may be loss-making, but can they be

made more attractive to the beginner?

What would need to be done to make

them more attractive?

Well, these are ideas that might make a

difference: make the 18-hole courses into

9-hole courses (with wider fairways and

larger safety margins, both internally and

externally), and add high quality practice

facilities - floodlit driving ranges, for

example, and an Adventure Golf Course

- a bit like crazy golf, but of a higher

standard, and using materials that don’t

need high maintenance.

Reducing the courses to 9 holes would

reduce maintenance costs immediately.

Adding better practice facilities and

Adventure Golf would add two extra

income generating opportunities. The

land area saved by reducing the courses

from 18 to 9 holes would also release

space for other related, income

generating facilities, for example, 5-aside

football pitches - like Goals.

The first course I designed was the

Chesfield Downs Family Golf Centre near

Stevenage, the brainchild of local golf

professional, Martin Blayney, and Tim

Franklin, a local farmer. The course has

27 holes (18 full length and 9-holes

academy - The Lannock Links) and

floodlit driving range, with a clubhouse

catering for families, including a crèche.

It was pretty revolutionary at the time,

and it has continued to thrive under its

new owners Crown Golf.

Today, the golf club must provide not

only golf but a whole host of healthy

Littlesea

related activities - and a well designed

centre must cater for all social levels,

ages and genders.

There has to be a revolution in the golf

industry, and it must be led by the

authorities who run the game - the R&A.

They need to lead the way. They already

encourage golf in foreign climes and

developing golfing nations, through

provision of (limited) funding, as a result

of their highly successful Open

Championship. But, they need to get

involved at “grass roots” level in the UK -

providing support for local authorities to

develop entry level, municipal facilities.

These don’t need to be extravagant

facilities, but they need to be designed to

satisfy a demand that is currently

untapped - the non-golfer.

Adventure Golf seems, to me, to be the

missing link between the non-golfer and

the golfer. It’s not “real” golf, but it

involves hitting a golf ball with a putter,

and it is played within a carefully

designed mini-golf course environment.

It’s open to anyone to play and it attracts

families to the game. They then move on

to the driving range and then the 9-hole

course.

The future of golf lies in attracting the

family unit and providing smaller,

customer-focused facilities for all, that

take less time to play. Oh, and increasing

the diameter of the golf hole to 150mm.

41


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“Once people find out

you are in financial

difficulties, they don’t

want to deal with you”

Mark Perrin, Head Groundsman, Crystal Palace FC

A buyer emerged at the

eleventh hour to claw Crystal

Palace out of administration.

Tom James talks to the man

who made sure the team

would be playing on a worthy

surface, despite all the

money troubles

An estimated two billion viewers

tuned in to watch events unfold at

the FIFA World Cup in South

Africa. Even as the greatest

showcase of football on the planet

played out its final acts, back home, managers

at top flight clubs were busy taking note of the

emerging talent, ready to launch multi-million

pound bids as the 2010/11 Premiership season

approached.

While big money deals and hefty weekly

wages are now part and parcel of life for the

elite few, the operational climate is starting to

look markedly chilly further down the football

leagues, with a growing tally of clubs unable to

withstand the financial pressures of the game.

The penalty is severe for those forced to go

into administration but, remarkably, south

London Championship side Crystal Palace FC

survived a traumatic season - and relegation -

to fight another day, as long as they could find

a buyer to revive their fortunes and rebuild

anew.

After six months in administration, it

emerged - safely gathered up into the hands

of a consortium of local businessmen - ready

for action on the field of play, and sealing the

survival of the 105-year old club and its

Selhurst Park ground.

In the early 1980s, Crystal Palace had paved

the way for, what is now, commonplace -

mixed retail, residential and sporting

developments.


The Fall and Rise

of Mark Perrin!

Nearly thirty years on, however,

Sainsbury’s continues to flourish, whilst

the adjacent housing that lines one side

of the ground looks as new as the day it

was erected.

In stark contrast, the stadium is tired

and played out, a good proportion of its

plastic seating suffering the effects of

disintegration by the sun’s ultraviolet

light. Financial constraints,

administration and the economic

downturn had left Selhurst Park

groundstaff with precious little money to

spend on operational essentials, such as

the end of season pitch renovation.

”I couldn’t gain sign-off for even the

smallest purchase, it was that bad,”

confesses Head Groundsman, Mark

Perrin.

Survival on a shoe-string was the

reality for Mark and his team, as was

redundancy, when he was forced to bid a

reluctant farewell to one of his staff as

administration bit hard and deep across

the whole club.

Heading up a perilously slimmed

down team of just three, forty-four year

old Mark admits there were times when

he had to consider his own future amid

talk of closure as a buyer failed to

materialise.

But, that was in the bad old dismal

days, three months ago. Despite all the

turmoil around him, as acrimony soured

the departure of the previous owner and

uncertainty hung over everyone, Mark

has continued to produce a playing

surface fit for Championship, not to say

Premiership, football in the face of fierce

adversity and against all the odds.

Starting off life in cricket, a sport he

admits is his “first love”, Mancunian

Mark’s first job was at south-west

Manchester club, Chorlton-cum-Hardy,

where he worked from 1989 to 1992.

Passionate about playing cricket since a

boy, and developing into a useful,

successful all-rounder in the Manchester

leagues while growing up, Mark was

always drawn to a career in the game,

explaining that, on leaving education, it

was a natural progression for him.

“I was always a better cricketer but

enjoyed watching football far more, so

had always considered taking a position

at a football club,” he expands. After

leaving Chorlton-cum-Hardy to seek “a

greater challenge”, he moved to a post at

Manchester Grammar School, drawn

there by “its many sports pitches and

especially its cricket square”, which he

took pleasure in maintaining until 1995

when he took his first steps into

professional football, joining Stockport

County FC as head groundsman.

“I enjoyed my time at Stockport,” he

recalls, “but, after four years there, I felt

it was time to leave. The best jobs in this

business will always be in the south-east,

so I made the move down here and was

lucky to find a very nice post at St Mary’s

College in Twickenham, where they were

looking to develop their sports pitches.”

As grounds manager, he was charged

with looking after the site’s plethora of

pitches. Yet, as the position proved to be

“more office based than I’d been used

to”, when the head groundsman vacancy

came up at Crystal Palace he leaped at

the chance and, in 2005, made the move

further south still. And, with true

northern grit, he is still there.

Since Palace fell from the Premier

League in 2004, the budget Mark has to

play with has shrunk year on year, to the

point where he and his two assistants -

Phil Down, who works at the Beckenham

training ground, and Gareth Read, who

assists him at Selhurst Park, are forced to

argue their case for every penny. “An

extra member of staff would be great, but

I don’t see it happening anytime soon,

given the recent redundancies and tight

budgets,” he states with resignation.

“We’ll just have to cope as well as we can

with the three of us.”

You sense that he has grown adept at

‘coping strategies’ in his years here but,

as the financial rot set in, other

45


challenges emerged. “We, like other

departments, have to cut our cloth

accordingly, and we were faced with a few

problems last season, finding suppliers

being one of our most troubling,” he

reveals. “Once people find out you are in

financial difficulties, they don’t want to

deal with you.”

Some take the longer view though, and

Mark is fulsome in his gratitude for the

help that one key contractor provided

when all seemed lost. Staring at the

prospect of an end of season without a

pitch renovation, Mark has nothing but

praise for Keith Kensett, who set about

the task without any clear prospect of

being paid for his troubles.

”Luckily, we’ve been fortunate to have

Keith help us out a lot last season. If it

wasn’t for him, we wouldn’t have been

able to do many of our renovations,

including the koroing, which we have ‘off

pat’ now,” Mark discloses. “It’s always

good to have people that keep the faith,

and stick with you. Keith has been one of

those guys, and I suppose it helped that

he’s a Palace fan himself.”

Selhurst Park has gained notoriety as

one of the windiest venues in the football

leagues, a dubious honour, due largely to

the stadium’s history. Constructed in

1922, it was built out of a former

brickworks after being bought from the

Brighton Railway Company for £2,570.

Designed by Scottish stadium architect,

Archibald Leitch, it was built by

Humphreys of Kensington for around

£30,000 and officially opened by the

Lord Mayor of London on 30 August

1924.

46

Kensett Sports koroing off

the stadium pitch and, left,

decompacting the training

ground goalmouths

”We’re exposed to the elements here,”

says Mark. “But, on the positive side, we

don’t have any problems with air

circulation like some modern stadia.”

Years before multi-use venues became

the norm, Selhurst Park was playing host

to both Wimbledon FC and Charlton

Athletic FC, who used the site for home

matches at various times from the mid-

1980s until 2003. As you’d imagine,

when as many as three games were

played on it in a week, the pitch proved

difficult to manage at times.

Although, by the time Mark arrived,

Palace was the sole user and he was

pleasantly surprised by what he found.

“Construction of the pitch was, in fact,

very good when I took over. The dual

usage did not have too adverse an effect,

but one of the problems I did inherit was

a significant proportion of Poa annua in

the sward.”

He’s well versed in dealing with the

weed grass now though. “We usually

know to expect a surge in the third week

of August, so are able to take the

appropriate measures,” he explains.

Mark controls the invasive species with

a treatment of growth regulator Primo

Maxx, applying the chemical monthly

throughout the season and cutting before

the annual meadowgrass has the chance

to seed.

The Fibresand pitch he inherited,

installed in 2001 by Premier Pitches, is

still in place, and Mark believes it is

suited to the weather conditions and

unique microclimate in the stadium. “As

we’re an extremely windy site, we have

no problems with airflow but, in the

summer, the warm winds provide ideal

conditions for disease to spread,” he

adds.

“About five weeks after the post-season

sowing, leaf spot starts to show up on the

sward as the grass growth accelerates.

Leaf spot can be tricky, as not everyone

knows how to diagnose it correctly. The

grass appears wilted, so some

groundsmen will often water and feed

the turf, which only exacerbates the

problem. My solution is to apply Primo

Maxx first, then Chipco Green, through

the spring and summer, and Daconil in

the winter.”

The post-season work begins in earnest

“It’s always good

to have people that

keep the faith, and

stick with you.

Keith Kensett has

been one of those

guys, and I

suppose it helped

that he’s a Palace

fan himself”

after the last home game and the club’s

various corporate commitments, which

include a marquee erected on the pitch

for two weeks, hosting both the player of

the year awards and local business

events.

This year, reseeding was late because of

the uncertainty over if and when a buyer

would emerge. The process finally got

underway on 28th May, using a DLF Pro

81 seed mix, one that Mark favours for

its fast germination.

“We only had six weeks to get the seed

established before the first home friendly

match against Chelsea,” he explains.

“That was a tough call, but the club

needs the money. I tend to stick with

what I know when it comes to seed.

There’s really only a fag paper between

the major producers so, for us, given our

tight margins, a rapidly germinating

seed that turns around quickly will get

my vote every time.”

He usually aims to achieve a five-day

establishment, yet he tends to force the

grass through a little in the pre-season

preparation, especially if certain areas of

the pitch need thickening up.

“The goalmouth at the Holmesdale

Road end causes us most problems, as it’s

in shade nearly all the time, so the grass

struggles there - and we cannot run to

the expense of grow lamps like

Premiership clubs can.”

Ironically, the support of the loyal

Palace fans merely aggravated the issue,

he reveals. “They protested over the

possibility of club being liquidated, and

all their jumping up and down at that

end of the ground resulted in

compaction in the goalmouth.” If it

doesn’t rain it pours.

My thoughts turn, once more, to the

windiness of Selhurst Park as I note the

build-up of litter around the pitch

perimeter and, what I take to be, the

three-foot high fence erected to stop it

blowing onto the playing surface.

”No, this is an electric fence to keep

the foxes off the pitch,” reveals Mark. “It

maddens you when you arrive in the

morning to find they have dug up the

surface all over the place. Their urine

burns the grass too. Urban foxes are a

fact of life, so we had to take steps to nip

the problem in the bud. I bought the


There’s really only a

fag paper between

the major

producers so, for

us, given our tight

margins, a rapidly

germinating seed

that turns around

quickly will get my

vote every time”

fence from Hotline - the best £800 I’ve

ever spent, I reckon.”

I stretch my leg gingerly over the fence

and step on to the pitch, before Mark

informs me that he only switches the

power on when they leave for the day!

The lush, vibrant green forms a perfect

platform for, what all of football hopes

will be, an upswing of fortune for Palace

this season. The topdressing is still just

visible - it’s another source of weeds, he

says. “Seeds are imported in the mix, but

an application of Vitax Green Up sorts

the broad leaf stuff out.”

In terms of mowing, the applications

of Primo Maxx has cut the quantity of

clippings dramatically, also encouraging

Urban foxes are kept out by an electric fence

development of the rootzone which,

Mark believes, is better for the pitch over

the longer-term than any need to

constantly cut it very short.

“When I first started here, we were

taking off more than twenty boxes a cut

during the growing season. We’ve halved

that now - any more than ten boxes and

we know we’re applying too much

fertiliser.” He prefers to keep sward

height to around 28mm in the summer,

spraying regularly and “leaving it as high

as I can get away with” - a programme

that continues into winter.

Slim budgets have offered scant scope

for investment in new machinery, yet

Mark seems content with the few

engineered for perfection

machines he retains, employing two

Dennis G860s with independent cassettes

for the “vast majority” of pitch work. “It’s

a lightweight machine and is particularly

good for football pitches as it has a

minimal footprint.” A ten year old Tym

T290 tractor still sees regular duty, whilst

Mark spikes with a Multicore MC15 that,

“despite its age, circa 1990, continues to

deliver the goods.”

Other than on match days, the Palace

first team and academy sides spend their

time at the club’s training ground in

Beckenham, some five miles south of

Selhurst Park, on what was the Lloyds

Bank site.

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48

Multicore MC15 behind ageing Tym tractor

“I suppose you could say

that we were two years

into a five-year plan, and

it’s stayed that way for

the last three”

transform the facility soon,

Mark reports, adding

wistfully, “I suppose you could

say that we were two years

into a five-year plan, and it’s

stayed that way for the last

three.”

With only two first-team

Fibresand pitches, and basic

soil ones for the reserve and

academy sides, Palace are

keen to upgrade further.

“The first stage in the plans

will be to replace the soil

pitches with Fibresand ones.

I’d like to have another two,

giving us four in total, but I’d

settle for one if that’s all I

could get - a part

construction of the surface

only would cost around

£80,000 per pitch, as

drainage is already installed.”

Most of the work at the

training ground is left largely

to Phil, with Mark visiting a

couple of times a week. The

machine story is a similar one

at Beckenham, with a

Jacobsen 250 five-unit rideon

fairway mower and a

Kubota L46 the two main

machines at his disposal, plus

an SR-72 soil reliever.

The critical financial

position that Palace found

themselves in, and the

resulting process of

administration, had left many

at the club anxious for the

future. Yet, for Mark, the

whole sorry saga was

alleviated for him by one or

two important figures at

Selhurst Park, whose stance

allowed him time to reflect on

the job and his position at the

club.

“That whole period helped

focus my mind far more on

what my role is here, and

where I want to be in the

future,” he says candidly.

“During the worst time, we

we were all in the boardroom

waiting to hear our name

called out for redundancy,

then breathing a sigh of relief

when it wasn’t - that was

stressful.”

While former Palace

chairman, Simon Jordan,

reportedly was viewed, by

some, as being part

responsible for the downfall

of the club, his brother,

Dominic Jordan, who ran the

club day to day, prior to

administration, was praised

for his work through the

turbulent times. Mark, for

one, was grateful for the

support he and his team were

given. “Dominic was a crucial

influence on our position; he

always recognised the value of

a head groundsman and the

importance of what we did.

He also understood that

being a groundsman, like any

position of responsibility,

involves taking ownership of

it, not just being someone

who receives and issues

orders.

In turn, Mark appreciates

his role in maintaining a

tightly-knit, albeit small,

turfcare team.

“You have to treat staff like

men, not children. The one

benefit to having a small

team is that we are like a

family. We’ve all bonded

much more now, with the

financial troubles bringing

those of us that have stayed

on, closer together.”

If he ever moved away from

Palace, he’s certain it would


Excellent results at the training ground

“During the worst time,

we were all in the

boardroom waiting to

hear our name called

out for redundancy”

be out of football altogether,

to return to private sector

education most probably,

where he enjoyed many years

of experience and where he

believes considerable work is

still needed.

“There’s been significant

under-investment in these

sports facilities in recent years

and, apart from a few notable

exceptions, many are

generally of a poor standard,

so a position where I could

help change things could be

an option,” he adds.

While Mark recognises that

a Premiership role would be

the next natural progression

for him, he also views posts in

the top flight remain “a

closed shop.” “Few are ever

advertised. The most realistic

hope I’ve got of becoming a

Premiership groundsman is if

Palace gains promotion,” he

admits. “Whilst a return to

the premiership for Palace

would be welcome, along with

the resulting additional

budget, I don’t believe the

game is heading in the right

direction,” he continues in

typically candid fashion.

Big money is now part and

parcel of football yet, for

clubs like Palace, in the

Championship or lower

leagues, it is in danger of fast

becoming an unsustainable

and potentially damaging

aspect of ‘the beautiful game’,

he adds.

“What I’ve seen happen

here has given me real doubts

about how long it will all

last,“ he reflects. “We’ve

reached a position where the

Premiership is seen as the be

all and end all, with clubs

striving to get into the top

league and, where finishing

fourth from bottom of it, is

seen as a success, by avoiding

relegation and the fall-off in

funding that goes with

playing in that league. For

me, that isn’t what football

should be about - it’s more

than just the top league.”

The plight of home grown

players in the Premiership

has been another

development that Mark

believes will only serve to

damage the English league.

Only 38% of current

Premiership players were

born in England, he notes,

which he believes is creating a

growing disincentive to

nurture home grown youth

players, as the big money

foreign players take

precedence.

”The one good result of

clubs like Palace having so

little money is that they

simply cannot afford to buy

in loads of players, so have to

rely on fostering their youth

sides and scouring the

leagues for good deals and

free transfers. It’s not all

about the money, it’s about

good management, and

being able to pick out good

players from the lower

leagues.”

Palace is in a prime

position to make the best of

that opportunity and help

develop the next crop of

promising English players.

And, whilst it goes about

doing that, Mark will

continue to produce a

Premiership standard

pitch on a lower

league budget.

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Jane Carley meets Norman

Southernwood, Head

Groundsman at Leeds United,

and finds a man who ...

Leeds United Football Club

has certainly weathered

the storms - from financial

difficulties in 2007 to the

resulting sanctions by the

Football League, putting the club

15 points adrift before they even

started the season. But, showing

typical northern grit, they rallied

and, with promotion to the

Championship for 2010/11 and

nomination for the Elland Road

stadium as a potential 2018 world

cup venue, things are looking up.

However, for Head Groundsman

Norman Southernwood, who has

been at the club for twelve years,

it is business as usual at Elland

Road.

“All football groundsmen aim to

present the best possible pitch,

regardless of where their team is

in the league. Even at the lower

levels, the playing surfaces are

maintained to the highest

standards,” he comments. “It’s

sixteen years since the drainage

was renewed here, and the

undersoil heating is quite old too,

but it is a matter of managing any

issues and producing the best

possible turf for the job.”

An intensive programme of end

of season renovations help - with

the top half inch of the surface

koroed off in May by contractors

Premier Pitches, and this year,

new approaches were made to deal

with compaction.

“There are iron pans in several

areas, and my aim is to break

these up and improve drainage.

We tried a Gwazae deep probe

aeration unit to blast air into these

areas, but it didn’t really work, so

we then used an Earthquake

decompactor, working at 8in deep,

before adding limestone and

seaweed granules and re-seeding,”

Norman explains.

Seeding was carried out on 26th

May and, a month later, the sward

looks healthy and is growing well -

it is all that Norman can do to

keep on top of it on his own while

his assistant is on holiday!

“I like to cut with a rotary for

the first two to three weeks. With

the water and fertiliser, the new

grass grows quickly, although you

have to be careful not to wash all

the valuable nutrients out in this

dry weather.”

The difficulty with pitch

renovations, Norman suggests, is

the increasingly short closed

season, particularly where clubs

are involved in play-offs.

“When I started out as a

groundsman at Halifax Town, the

local finals were played the week

after the FA Cup, which was never

Leeds...


later than the first Saturday in May,

now the season finishes later and later.”

Fortunately for Norman, the prospect

of pop concerts mooted for the stadium

did not come off this year, although he

says that the homecoming of local

band, the Kaiser Chiefs, caused very

few problems in 2007 as it was straight

after the end of the season.

But, with the first friendly set for 31st

July, there is a very tight window for

establishing new seeds.

“We use Rigby Taylor R14 and, like

most modern varieties, it germinates

quickly and establishes well. But, it

doesn’t matter what you use - you can’t

buy time,” he comments. “Fortunately,

when we start playing again, the grass

is still growing and, with a bit more

seed put on any bare patches in

September, it copes well.”

He suggests that there is also a fine

balance between keeping the grass cool,

when the British summer excels itself,

and not overwatering.

“Too much water and you’ll get

plenty of top growth, but the roots don’t

establish as well. Sometimes, I like to

let the grass dry out a bit.”

Once Norman can get going with the

cylinder mowers, either Allett Buffalo

or Dennis models with a 34in cut, he is

able to get on a lot quicker. He has used

triple mowers in the past, but Elland

Road lacks the storage space for too

much large machinery.

“We are a relatively small team - as

well as my assistant, there are three full

time groundsmen for the stadium and

the eight pitches at the training ground,

so we are always busy. We retained the

facilities of a top club even when

relegated, but not the staffing levels.”

Still, Norman says that the

management are always supportive, and

have never placed any budget

restrictions on him, even when times

were tight.

“The level of support shows

particularly when we are up against it,”

he explains. “During the bad weather

we cleared snow from the pitch four

times. We had the undersoil heating on

but, when the temperatures are below

zero in the daytime, ice still forms on

the turf. The whole team pulled

together and we were determined not to

lose a game; before the replay against

Spurs we were frantically trying to clear

the pitch of falling snow and, at the last

minute, it stopped!”

Such conditions take their toll on the

turf, and when Norman needed extra

funds to bring it back up to scratch,

there was no hesitation from the

management.

“We don’t have a lot of machinery,

but there is no limit to the amount of

fertiliser and other inputs that I can

use. STRI recently did a report on the

condition of the turf and I have been

able to follow their suggestions

closely.”

And, even without extreme weather,

the work continues apace.

“Because of the likelihood of

standing water, I verti-drain as much as

possible in the season to keep on top of

the drainage issues. But, you do have to

be careful or you can lose a bit of

grass,” he explains. “The pressure is

growing as we seem to have more and

more matches, but it is a matter of

managing the conditions in hand.”

This includes liaising with the team,

as shading from the West Stand, with its

V-type roof, creates potential problem

areas on that side of the pitch.

“I try to avoid warm ups on that side

of the pitch, as they can cause a lot of

wear. We encourage the warm ups on

the east side, which gets the winter sun,

but then you have to be careful that that

area does not get too much wear.”

The prospect of Elland Road

becoming a World Cup venue is a

thrilling one for any Leeds fan, and

Norman suggests that such a move

would bring more extensive

renovations, including the renewal of

the drainage into the frame.

“When the picture becomes clearer,

we can schedule that in,” he says. “It

will take plenty of planning and, of

course, money. But, in the meantime,

we are happy managing what we have

got and producing a pitch that is fit for

the Championship.”

from the front!


Premiership new boys,

Blackpool, are ready for their

first season in the top flight,

thanks to the efforts of Head

Groundsman, Stan Raby.

Laurence Gale MSc reports

The future’s...

Having Blackpool’s manager,

Ian Holloway, in the Premier

league, for at least a season,

is bound to be ‘interesting’.

His honest appraisals and

slightly off-the-wall comments have

made him somewhat of a legend in the

lower leagues, and he joins the likes of

Redknapp and McCarthy to, hopefully,

put some commonsense (or should that

be nonsense?) ahead of the usual

rhetoric.

The history of the club can be traced

back to 1877 when Victoria Football

Club was founded. Ten years later, after

a dispute amongst the players, it was

renamed Blackpool Football Club. One

year later, the club became founder

members of the Lancashire League and

enjoyed eight successful seasons,

culminating in the winning of the

championship in 1893-94, after being

pipped on goal average by Liverpool

the previous season.

Players of note have included

England internationals Jimmy

Armfield, Stan Mortensen, Stanley

Matthews and Alan Ball, the latter

being the only Blackpool player to play

in a World Cup. When he was

transferred to Everton in 1966 for

£112,000 it was, at the time, a record

fee between two English clubs.

Notable successes have been few, with

an FA Cup win in 1953 their only major

trophy. However, promotion to the

Premiership this year ranks as a major

achievement, one that Ian Holloway

believes has written the current squad

of players into the club’s folklore.

Certainly, with the likes of Manchester

United, Chelsea and age old rivals

Liverpool visiting the Bloomfield Road

stadium this season, every game will

seem like a cup final. As Holloway put

it, “the future’s bright, the future’s

orange” in reference to the club’s

colours.

Looking after the ‘Seasiders’ facilities

is Head Groundsman, Stan Raby, who

says he is relishing the challenge of

preparing pitches for the Premiership.

Stan, previously a farmer, joined the

club five years ago. He has one

assistant, Alex Reeves, and one summer

season helper, Connor Cross, who is

currently studying at Myerscough

College. Between them they look after

both the stadium pitch and training

ground pitches. A number of volunteers

have been trained up to help on match

days.

Stan has not been able to rest on his


Orange

laurels since the club gained

promotion. He was busy organising and

overseeing the end of season

renovations, and enduring quite a bit of

upheaval whilst a new, temporary stand

was being built in readiness for the

Premiership games, taking the capacity

up from 12,000 to 17,000, still small by

top flight standards.

His last game on the pitch was in late

May, leaving him little over seven weeks

before the first competitive match, a

Network Rail rugby cup final between

Widnes Vikings and Batley Bulldogs on

18th July. The first home football match

on the pitch was played against

Hibernian on 8th August with the first

Premiership game on 28th August

against Fulham.

Stan likes to undertake a lot of the

work himself. Having been a farmer for

many years, he is very experienced in

the use of tractors and implements. His

aim is to reduce dependency on

contract machinery and carry out

essential maintenance and renovation

work in-house.

With this in mind, Stan has built up a

healthy stock of equipment, purchased

through Campey Turf Care Systems,

and the club now own their own Koro

Field Topmaker, Muratori power

harrow, 1.8m Reist Aeraseeder,

Charterhouse Verti-Drain, Raycam

Sports Field Harrows, a New Holland

TC27 tractor and a Landquip Sprayer

to help renovate the pitches themselves.

“We have saved a considerable sum by

investing in our own equipment,” said

Stan. “Not only does it give us the

flexibility to control our own

maintenance and renovation

programme, but we can get the work

completed faster by having everything

on site. We know the investment will be

paid back within three to four years.”

This year, Stan enlisted the help of

contractor, Derek Crane, to help him

carry out the work at both the training

ground and stadium. Work began on

the training ground on 17th May. Both

the pitch and a small training area were

koroed, power harrowed and

topdressed with 150 tonne of sand

before being oversown with Johnsons

Premier grass seed.

A new Rain Bird pop up watering

system was also commissioned this

year, giving better control over watering

requirements. This consisted of a fully

automated, thirty-two head system

connected to the mains. There are

twenty-four heads around the


The world of football -

Ian Holloway style!

“Right now, everything is going wrong for me - if I fell in a

barrel of boobs, I’d come out sucking my thumb!”

“Some weeks the lady is good looking and some weeks

they’re not. Our performance today would have been not the

best looking bird, but at least we got her in the taxi.”

She may not have been the best looking lady we ended up

taking home but it was still very pleasant and very nice, so

thanks very much and let’s have coffee.”

“To the people who booed -boo to you!”

“When my mum was running our house, when I was a kid, all

the money was put into tins. She knew what was in every tin

and I know how much I’ve got in my tin - that’s the way we’ll

run this club.”

“I feel a bit like the nanny who is trying to calm down the

kids.”

“When their man was sent off, it seemed to wake up the

crowd and give them someone to get their teeth into and,

fortunately for us, that was the referee.”

“There was a spell in the second half when I took my heart

off my sleeve and put it in my mouth.”

“I’ve got to get Dan Shittu ready for the Stoke game. I’ve told

him to go to Iceland and ask if he can sit in one of their

freezers.”

“Apparently it’s my fault that the Titanic sank.”

“It’s all very well having a great pianist playing, but it’s no

good if you haven’t got anyone to get the piano on the stage

in the first place, otherwise the pianist would be standing

there with no bloody piano to play.”

“I am a football manager. I can’t see into the future. Last

year I thought I was going to Cornwall on my holidays, but I

ended up going to Lyme Regis.”

“You can say that strikers are very much like postmen: they

have to get in and out as quick as they can before the dog

starts to have a go.”

“I always say that scoring goals is like driving a car. When the

striker is going for goal, he’s pushing down that accelerator,

so the rest of the team has to come down off that clutch. If

the clutch and the accelerator are down at the same time,

then you are going to have an accident.”

“I’ve got to knock that horrible smell out of my boys, because

they smell of complacency.”

“We need a big, ugly defender. If we had one of them we’d

have dealt with the first goal by taking out the ball, the player

and the first three rows of seats in the stands.”

And finally ...

“He’s six foot something, fit as a flea, good looking - he’s got

to have something wrong with him. Hopefully, he’s hung like

a hamster - that would make us all feel better. Having said

that, me missus has got a pet hamster at home, and his

cock’s massive.” - talking about Cristiano Ronaldo.

perimeter, with eight set in the

playing area.

Work on the stadium pitch

commenced on May 30th.

Vegetation was koroed off, leaving

a clean profile to be power

harrowed, levelled and topdressed.

90 tonnes of new Fibresand was

added to the pitch to improve the

density of the fibre in the top

100mm, which was then oversown

with Johnson’s Premier.

A Dennis G860 cassette mower is

used on the stadium pitch for final

preparation. Four Asuka pedestrian

rotaries are used to mow and clean

up the pitch before and after

matches. The pitch is maintained

at around 27mm.

At the training ground, trailed

gang mowers and a Trimax Pro-

Cut rotary are used.

On the day of my visit, Stan was

out on the stadium pitch taking a

number of soil samples with Gary

Potter, ALS Sales Manager, to

ascertain the nutrient status of the

pitch. The new seed had been up

for several days and was looking

good, awaiting its first cut with the

rotaries.

Gary sends the soil samples off

to ETT Laboratories for testing, to

ensure that Stan has a clear

understanding of what the pitch

needs in terms of NPK and trace

elements. In this instance, the

results showed a deficiency in both

potassium and potash, which was

addressed with an appropriate

dose of NPK to bring the feeding

programme up to speed. The pitch

will receive several feeds during

the peak growing season, both

granular and liquid.

Once the grass has established, a

programme of Primo Maxx is

applied to improve sward density

and rootmass. The new pop up

system will deliver water uniformly

over the whole pitch. Any bare

areas will be oversown, and the

whole pitch will be oversown

sometime in September with

rough-stalked meadow grass.

At this point in time, Stan is

unsure how the temporary stand

will affect grass growth but, like

many stadiums, the pitch already

suffers because of shade when the

sun is low and soil temperatures

drop, so it is a situation that he is

able to cope with. He remains

confident that he can deliver the

quality playing surface required for

Blackpool’s excursion into the best

football league in the world.

I would like to wish Stan and his

assistant Alex all the best, and

hope they enjoy their

time preparing their

playing surfaces for

some of the world’s

best players.


Saltley Leisure Centre, Birmingham

Technical Surfaces

explain the basic

maintenance

requirements for 3G

synthetic turf and

discuss the launch of

FIFA’s Quality Concept

for managing ‘Football

Turf’ to the highest

possible standard

Close up of the The New Saints FC pitch

Standards

delivered...

3rd Generation (3G) synthetic turf has

certainly made its mark in the sporting

world. Since the introduction of the

longer pile, rubber-filled pitches in the

mid 1990s, attitudes towards playing on

synthetic grass have evolved from openly

hostile (think Luton Town and Queens

Park Rangers in the 1980s) to, if not allembracing,

certainly more accepting and

even positive.

Designed to replicate the playing

characteristics of natural turf more

closely than ever before, 3G carpet

systems are being increasingly adopted

for use at varying levels of the game by

the Rugby Football Union, the Football

Association and even FIFA, thereby

propelling artificial grass pitches to the

international stage.

With increased exposure comes greater

scrutiny of the quality of these facilities,

with doubters waiting in the wings ready

to pour scorn on the suitability of

synthetic turf for anything beyond a kickabout

in the park. It is, therefore,

encouraging to note that sport’s leading

national and international bodies

understand the importance of continued

maintenance to ensure that artificial

pitches offer a consistently high level of

playability over a number of years.

In its published document,

‘Maintenance of an artificial turf field’, FIFA

acknowledges that little or no

maintenance on a synthetic sports surface

will affect its overall playing

performance, longevity, safety and

aesthetics. Equally, a correctly maintained

artificial facility can be an aid to success,

as Welsh Premier champions, The New

Saints, have found; having achieved

double success in 2009/10 with wins in

the league and cup, the Oswestry-based

club and their synthetic turf pitch are

soon to embark on a European adventure

in the Champions League.

What, then, is the secret to boasting a

successful 3G sports surface? Here, in this

article, we explains how a regular

programme of effective maintenance

techniques can help you achieve an

artificial pitch that FIFA would be proud

of.

The basics of maintenance

To get to grips with the essentials of 3G

pitch maintenance, it is important to

understand the unique construction of


With increased exposure comes greater

scrutiny of the quality of these facilities,

with doubters waiting in the wings ready to

pour scorn on the suitability of synthetic turf

for anything beyond a kick-about in the park

these carpet systems that enables them to

replicate natural sports surfaces. Playing

characteristics, such as ball roll and

bounce, stud slide and shock absorption,

are generally considered to be improved

by the carpet’s longer fibres (around 40-

50mm) and cushioning rubber infill.

Logic dictates that these features must,

therefore, be preserved to allow the pitch

to continue offering the same high

standard of play to end users.

This can be achieved with regular

decompactions to agitate the surface and

remove contamination, simultaneously

lifting the carpet fibres and loosening the

rubber particles, which become flattened

and compacted during play. Keeping the

pile upright not only protects the carpet

fibres from wear, it also preserves the

playing characteristics and restores the

aesthetic qualities of the pitch.

Loosening the rubber infill, meanwhile,

helps to improve drainage and control

the feel of the surface underfoot, whilst

allowing for infill levels to be regulated

at repeated intervals.

The ultimate aim of regular

maintenance must be to preserve the

playing characteristics and life

expectancy of an artificial pitch and, to

achieve this on a 3G pitch, regular

decompaction works are essential.

However, decompaction is, by no

means, the only maintenance process

required to keep a 3G pitch in top

condition. Regular maintenance

encourages familiarity with the way a

pitch reacts to factors such as player

footfall and natural weathering.

Rubber infill is removed from a 3G

surface on a daily basis, and frequent

monitoring can help to ensure that

rubber levels and distribution are

assessed and corrected before infill

displacement is able to weaken the carpet

fibres, increase the rate at which the

carpet wears, compromise the playing

characteristics and shorten the life

expectancy of the surface. As a minimum

requirement, rubber levels must be

topped up every one to two years.

As with any artificial surface,

combining daily and weekly in-house

routines with specialist, deep-cleaning

works is the key to a successful

maintenance programme. Dragbrushing

should be carried out, at least once a

week, to maintain a consistent

distribution of rubber infill and raise the

carpet pile. Compaction of the infill can

also be reduced on a regular basis with

suitable equipment.

There are various types of machinery

available to carry out this function, which

can be used as a stand alone item or

attached to existing machinery. We can

offer advice on a selection of such

equipment should pitch owners and

managers wish to purchase items to build

upon their existing maintenance

practices.

Alongside these everyday surface-based

tasks, it is important to regularly remove

the accrued dirt, debris and

contamination that can bed in amongst

the infill. Dragbrushing alone does not

achieve this, so it is important that the

pitch is swept, using a rotary brush with

filtration systems, which lifts and clean

the top layer of rubber infill before

returning it to the carpet. This service

should, ideally, be carried out on a

monthly basis to complement the inhouse

dragbrushing of the surface.

Furthermore, to ensure comprehensive

decompaction and dirt removal, a more

intense cleaning of the surface should be


FIFA is keen to

stress the

importance of

continued

maintenance in

order to ensure

that Football

Turf continues

to fulfil its strict

requirements

on criteria such

as ball roll and

bounce, stud

slide and

deceleration,

and shock

absorption

The pitch at Park Hall Stadium, Oswestry, where

The New Saints play their home games, is

maintained on a regular basis, which has helped

to preserve the playing characteristics of the

facility to FIFA-approved standards

completed, either annually or as a

minimum every second year. This

process is designed to get much

deeper into the carpet pile, removing

any dust, debris and broken-down

carpet fibres that have migrated lower

into the rubber infill.

As with all synthetic grass carpet

systems, moss and weed growth can

create problems on 3G pitches and

must be tackled on a regular basis.

Failure to remove this material will

soon increase contamination levels,

leave the pitch looking unsightly and,

most importantly, pose health and

safety risks to players in the form of

slip hazards.

FIFA and the launch of Football Turf

When maintained correctly, a 3G pitch

offers a consistent playing surface for

sports such as football, at all levels of

the game. The benefits of artificial

turf, in climates where natural grass is

unsustainable, and the increased

amount of use such facilities can

support in comparison with natural

pitches, led to FIFA launching their

Quality Concept for Football Turf in

2001. Identifying a growth in

popularity of synthetic sports pitches,

football’s world governing body

wanted to promote a recognised

international standard for artificial

grass, or ‘Football Turf ’.

The manufacture, installation and

maintenance of Football Turf is

subject to intense scrutiny, and a

synthetic pitch must pass a series of

laboratory and field tests before being

awarded FIFA Recommended status.

While the FIFA Recommended 1*

artificial surface is intended mainly

for community use, the

Recommended 2* certified pitch is

designed to mimic professional

football surfaces as closely as possible,

and guarantees an artificial pitch that

can host top level UEFA and FIFA

competitive matches.

Recommended 2* Football Turf

must, above all, provide a consistently

high level of playability throughout its

life. Neglecting to properly look after

the pitch serves to undermine any

original investment, by shortening the

projected life of the installation. Not

only that, but FIFA will revoke the

Recommended status of any Football

Turf field that fails to meet its

ongoing maintenance requirements.

FIFA is keen to stress the

importance of continued maintenance

in order to ensure that Football Turf

continues to fulfil its strict

requirements on criteria such as ball

roll and bounce, stud slide and

deceleration, and shock absorption.

Facility operators of FIFA

Recommended 2* pitches must

demonstrate to FIFA that appropriate

maintenance equipment is available

on site, or supply photographic

evidence of such equipment if

maintenance is completed by a third

party, such as Technical Surfaces.

The New Saints FC - a synthetic

pitch success story

FIFA recommends a series of simple,

yet effective, principles of maintaining

an artificial football pitch to achieve

longevity, a profitable return on an

initial investment and, above all,

player satisfaction. Central to this is

the fundamental rule that prevention

is better than the cure. This sentiment

has been adopted by Welsh Premier

football club, The New Saints FC,

whose own 3G Ligaturf pitch is

accredited with FIFA Recommended

2* status.

Installed by Polytan Sports Surfaces

in 2007, the pitch at Park Hall

Stadium is maintained on a regular

basiswith a combination of Power

Sweeps, decompactions and remedial

works has helped to preserve the

playing characteristics of the facility to

FIFA-approved standards. While The

New Saints’ league record at home in

the 2009-10 season (played 17, won

14, drew 3, lost 0) cannot be

attributed solely to the quality of the

playing surface, it does show that an

artificial pitch is no hindrance to

playing competitive sports, and can

even be a positive factor.

“Our team enjoys playing good,

technical football, so the artificial

pitch is perfect for us,” explains Mike

Davies, Team Manager of The New

Saints FC. “The surface suits our

method of play and allows players to

get the ball down - above all, it gives

us a consistent playing field that

reflects our players’ abilities.”

Whilst opposing teams might feel at

a disadvantage playing on artificial

turf, it can just as easily be argued that

teams such as The New Saints face a

similar, if not worse, situation when


playing away fixtures on pitches whose

condition is changeable throughout the

season.

And it’s not only on match days that

the artificial pitch has proven to be a

boon for The New Saints; the surface is

also utilised for first-team training four

days a week, and is in constant use by the

academy. “Coaching the first team and

also having a direct involvement with the

academy means I practically live on the

pitch.” says Mike. “The pitch plays

superbly, and allows continuous use

morning, noon and night. As a business,

which all clubs now are, what better way

is there to generate an income stream for

your club?”

The club’s successful record last season

saw them crowned Welsh Premier

champions in April 2010, following

which they were subsequently entered

into the qualifying rounds of the

Champions League. To be able to host

matches at the highest level of European

football, it is vital for The New Saints to

safeguard their FIFA Recommended

status and, to that end, they have

recently opted to increase their

maintenance contract. At the

professional level, the financial

consequences of a poorly-maintained

pitch are clear and unequivocal, and not

a risk The New Saints FC is willing to

take.

3G carpet is not simply a development

in the world of synthetic surfaces, it is

also symbolic of a culture shift towards a

greater acceptance of artificial turf in

sport as a whole. As technological

advances are made within the industry,

Groomed

for Success

Surface Grooming is just one

of the maintenance methods

which can be applied to keep

your artificial surface in perfect

playing condition.

Make Technical Surfaces

your first point of call.

so do a growing number of sporting

bodies recognise the many advantages of

synthetic turf, and it is testament to the

constructional quality and consistent

performance afforded by 3G turf that

this carpet

system is

the one to

finally

bridge the

gap

between

natural turf

and the

‘Astroturf ’

pitches of

old.

As with

natural

grass, the

good

condition

of an

artificial

pitch can

only be

sustained

with

regular

care and

attention

throughout

its life. It is essential to understand the

routines and practices relevant to 3G

surfaces, and utilising the services of a

maintenance specialist with a working

knowledge of maintaining FIFA

Recommended rubber-filled surfaces,

provides added peace of mind that your

investment is in safe hands.

For REPAIRS, MAINTENANCE and ADVICE,

contact the UK’s leading Maintenance Specialists

Tel: 08702 400 700

So, the secret to boasting a successful

3G sports surface?

It’s no secret at all - quite simply, if

properly maintained from day one, with

on-hand support from industry experts, a

As a synthetic pitch ages, granular (sand or rubber) top-ups can be

required at regular intervals to overcome issues of infill migration and

compaction caused by factors including wind, rain and play

3G pitch will provide you with a

consistent playing surface all year round.

For further information please call Technical

Surfaces’ National Office on 08702 400 700 or

visit www.technicalsurfaces.co.uk and ask to

speak to a Technical Manager.

www.technicalsurfaces.co.uk


Welcome to

Butleigh...

Peter Edmondson, Chairman of the Butleigh Playing

Fields Association, talks about life in rural Somerset

Tucked away behind high, hawthorn

hedgerows there are occasions when

an unsuspecting visitor might miss

the playing field in the quiet, rural,

Somerset village of Butleigh.

Unsurprising, given that the village itself

is somewhat off the beaten track, sitting

in the middle of a triangle of small

market towns - Glastonbury, Street and

Somerton are all within 4/5 miles.

Butleigh is currently home to

approximately 1000 people, living in 300

or so dwellings, a small primary school

(typically 100 pupils), a pub and a village

post office stores.

The village also boasts a proud

sporting tradition, with some

magnificent assets. Just on the outskirts

of the village lies historic Butleigh Court,

a period house now converted into four

apartments, in front of which Butleigh

Cricket Club (two Saturday league teams,

Sunday friendly and three youth teams)

have proudly played for nearly fifty

years. The village rugby club have their

home in nearby Kingweston and, behind

the aforementioned hedgerows, lies the

village playing field, the home of

Butleigh Dynamos FC, and an important

base for other local football clubs at

junior and youth level.

Owned by the Parish Council, and

leased on a peppercorn rent to the

Butleigh Playing Fields Association, the

compact Back Town site boasts two acres

of grass pitch area and an area of hard

standing, suitable for ball-games and

skating, but most commonly used by

youngsters learning to cycle in safety.

The facilities on-site reflect the

committees desire to work with the

existing village sporting bodies to

provide a suitable, pertinent and,

hopefully, sustainable facility.

The last ten years has seen a

determined drive to engage all of the

local sporting clubs to consider using

the playing field for either practice,

games or coaching, with the result that

we are now home to a Kwik-Cricket club

which offers an introduction to cricket

that will lead those who wish to into the

local competitive cricket scene. A further

link with the primary school sees us

coaching football in the winter months,

and probably our biggest success is the

weekly Tag rugby sessions, currently

attracting forty plus visitors on a

Wednesday evening.

Facilities at the site include a full sized

football pitch (which is currently used by

the Dynamos and two youth teams from

nearby Street FC) and an area which can

easily accommodate a 60 x 40 yard mini

soccer pitch alongside. In between these,

we have an artificial cricket wicket with

mobile-net cage. Wheel away the cage

and you get an acceptable cricket facility

for youth games, although one

particularly wet summer saw us hosting a

Butleigh CC game against a touring

team from Harborne CC on a pitch with

And woe betide them if they don’t mop out the

changing rooms - they have been dragged out

of the pub in the past!

61


Most football,

rugby and

cricket facilities

are either run

by clubs or

parishes and,

therefore, are

reliant upon the

diligent

stewardship of

volunteers

Mowers for

Professionals!

PC080910

62





T: 01420 478111

RMX

45 yard boundaries!

As with all of our facilities the cricket

net is available free of charge

throughout the summer, and we also

try and maintain access to mini-soccer

goals. One recent addition which is

proving popular is a concrete tabletennis

table, which was installed this

Easter at a cost, including solid base, of

£2000.

In 2006, we were grateful recipients

of a Football Foundation grant which

enabled us to build a circa £320,000

marvellous new pavilion, comprising

function-room and kitchen for sixty

visitors, ample toilet facilities and

changing rooms for home and away

teams and officials.

In addition to this site, the Butleigh

Playing Fields Association volunteers

also look after a children’s play park at

the other end of the village where,

once again, mini soccer goals are sited

on a level and well maintained area of

amenity grassland. This play park was

the subject of a recent £14,000

upgrade, money which helped clear

some out of use areas, install pathways

and generally tidy it up.

Fortunately, for the voluntary

groundstaff, the work has made

maintenance a lot easier due to

improved access, wider pathways etc.

With its blossoming trees and

sympathetic landscaping the Holm

Oaks Play Park is a safe, peaceful and

tranquil area for families to enjoy the

children’s playground equipment.

All of which would be more than

satisfactory to the people who

originally established the Playing Field

Association, and would exceed their

expectations of what could be

achievable in a small village.

However, the passing of time has

brought greater pressure to bear on

the facilities of voluntary associations

such as ourselves, as the amount of

traditional council-owned, available for

hire pitches has declined - so much so

that, in their entire area, our local

authority, Mendip District Council,

currently have only one football pitch

available for hire and one further

training pitch, which is covered by

covenant preventing organised

matches from taking part!

The installation of a 3G artificial

surface at nearby Strode College,

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available to hire by the hour, has been

a godsend. Other than that, most

football, rugby and all cricket facilities

are either run by clubs or parishes and,

therefore, are reliant upon the diligent

stewardship of volunteers.

The quality of such pitches is then

heavily dependant upon the

aspirations and resources of the

volunteers at these places. The typical

facility is likely to be a donated field

from a benevolent land-owner who

wanted to help the community have

somewhere to play or, like Butleigh, as

a result of planning gain, a landowner

has been required to make available a

field for recreational purposes in order

to be granted planning permission for

housing on another site.

The likeliest scenario is that you will

be playing on converted pastureland,

but not necessarily the best of that.

Another possibility is the land is

purchased for you by a developer who,

perhaps, buys your existing ground for

housing/retail development and then

purchases, for you, an area of land on

the edge of town in order to redevelop

it as sports fields.

Care needs to be taken before

accepting what is offered, as the land

may not be that desirable - in Somerset

there is a lot of low-lying land.

Unfortunately, the fact that

generations of farming families have

been unable to drain it satisfactorily

seems to get overlooked, and there are

sports clubs around who must be

wishing that they had had more

control, before accepting what was

offered to them.

During the recent extreme winter,

one local senior football team had to

temporarily relocate to Somerton

Playing Field, at a distance from their

base, due to no other pitches being

available locally and their own facility

suffering from a severe drainage

problem.

Many playing field associations are

able to serve the needs of their own

parishioners and, thereby, satisfy the

terms of their own constitution. One or

two problems are starting to stack up

for those like us at Butleigh who offer

their facilities to the wider footballing

community.

As with everybody else, our greatest

challenges are matters concerning

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The British public seem to think we should be

participating and succeeding in, or hosting,

every world event, an extraordinary amount of

the workload, which would lead us to that, is

being left in the hands of an unskilled,

underfunded volunteer workforce

budgets and availability of access. Put

simply, if you are spending

approximately £2,500 per annum of

fund-raised money on trying to maintain

your football pitch, is it prudent to then,

at certain times of the year, have the

goalmouths roped off, thereby denying

access to the local after-school children

who just want to have a kick-around? It

is, after all, ‘their’ pitch and likely that

their families are the more significant

source of funding than the weekend

teams for whom it is being so carefully

maintained.

This problem continues out of season

as well. This spring’s renovation saw

whole areas effectively out of commission

as we attempted to restore the condition

of the pitch after the dreadful winter,

which even the South-West of England

had to endure.

Our pitch, which is regularly vertidrained

and sanded, and therefore

considered to be a ‘good-drainer’, was

permanently wet, frozen or covered in

snow. Between goalmouths it was hard to

find the grass at the end of the season,

which, this year, saw us host 48 football

matches, down from 2008-09’s highpoint

of 64 games. 40-45 games per season is

probably about the right amount given

the restoration budget is established at

£2500.

Pitch hire fees are another contentious

issue. There are, apparently, facilities

where you can be charged anything up to

£70 per game. We charge adults £30, a

figure that is slightly lower than the

average in the area. For that, the teams

will find they have nothing to do except

wash out the changing-rooms, put the

corner-flags away and lock up. And woe

betide them if they don’t mop out the

changing-rooms - they have been

dragged out of the pub in the past!


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straightforward. We mow weekly, using

either a Kubota BX 2300 or, as often as

possible for Dynamos games, the old

Dennis Premier 36" will make an

appearance. We chain-harrow monthly, if

possible, and we have an ancient SISIS

spiker which gets used when conditions

allow.

Another useful piece of

kit is a 36" sarell

spiker/roller. Lines are

marked using a spray line

marker, incidentally the

same one that the

Pitchcare community

encouraged me to buy all

those years ago when I

first joined to get a few

hints on groundsmanship!

Thanks.

Annual maintenance

goes out to local

contractors. We try to have

it verti-drained three times

every two seasons.

Although this isn't enough,

it’s what we can afford. We

also have between 50 and

80 tonnes of sand

topdressing added most years. This year,

we have experimented with rubbercrumb

in the high wear areas between

goalmouths. We will be watching

carefully and monitoring the outcome.

Probably the most visually useful

maintenance procedure that we carry out

is weed killing - we use a local specialist

for this, as we do for hedge trimming.

The committee are grateful to The

Football Foundation for their help in

funding the pavilion and are aware of

out commitments back to the footballing

community. It has to be said, though,

that a lot is being asked of voluntary


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organisations and, given that the sports

mad British public seem to think we

should be participating and succeeding

in, or hosting, every world event, an

extraordinary amount of the workload,

which would lead us to that, is being left

in the hands of an unskilled,

underfunded volunteer workforce.

All governing bodies now talk about

the benefits to the community of people

being involved in leisure pursuits and

recreational games. Wouldn’t it help the

voluntary sector provide these facilities if,

say, the local authority or the County FA

could use their purchasing-power and

help affiliated organisations secure much

lower prices on their consumables or

contractor services. That would be very

easy to establish and

maintain, and would show

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those who were able to

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63


The Real Deal!

As the ‘Special One’ gets his feet under the

management table at Real Madrid, Dave Saltman meets

Paul Burgess, Head Groundsman at the Bernabéu, to

find out just how he has made such a huge difference

to the playing surface in such a short space of time

With temperatures rising towards

40 degrees centigrade for

much of the summer, looking

after Real Madrid’s training ground

complex and main stadium pitch can

become a fraught experience. Certainly,

during the hottest part of the year,

preventing rye grasses from wilting

and dying back in the heat of the day is

a challenge, but one that Paul Burgess

is keen to face.

It was a quite amazing decision to up

roots from the secure surroundings of

the newly built Emirates Stadium, and a

club that he’d been with for over ten

years; but that’s what Paul did, by

taking on the role of Grounds Manager

at, arguably, the biggest and most well

known club in world football, Real

Madrid.

Paul’s appointment went clearly

against the grain of typical European

stadium pitch management, where most

clubs outsource all stadium

maintenance to a company, and they

tend not to employ experienced

groundstaff, unlike the UK. Instead,

each club is reliant on an external

consultant to make the decisions and

prescribe the works plan.

At Real Madrid, Paul’s staff are still

from outsourced labour and, whilst it’s

a different system, it does have its

advantages. If there is a need to get in

extra hands for a specific job or event,

then Paul just asks the company for

more people. If a worker isn’t doing a

good job or doesn’t get on with Paul,

then he/she is replaced. I say she,

because, when I visited Paul recently,

some of his staff were female.

Going to the Bernabéu is a lovely

experience, given the famous history of

the club but, to walk out onto a honed

carpet of rye/smooth stalk that,

historically, didn’t live up to similar

expectations as the team, was very

satisfying.

In the seventeen months or so that

Paul has been in charge, the quality of

the main stadium pitch has improved.

So much so, that even the national

papers have featured it. The players

have commented on it and inferred that

it has made a big difference to the way

they play.

Often, when the new President is

elected, it’s out with the old and in with

a new staffing structure, and it can be

difficult to maintain any sort of

equilibrium within the club. However,

the dramatic improvements made by

Paul, has gone a long way to securing

his future.

The Ciudad Real Madrid is the new

training ground complex, purpose built

near the airport, outside of Madrid. It is

quite an amazing complex of natural

and artificial pitches, nearly all are


surrounded with their own grandstands

and floodlights. Within the complex

there is also the Estadio Alfredo Di

Stéfano, an 8000 seat mini stadium used

by the 2nd division side, Real Madrid

Castilla, in many respects the Real

Madrid reserves.

Inaugurated in 2005, the training

centre consists of academy offices,

equipment rooms, audio-visuals rooms, a

strength and rehab centre, and training

facilities, as well as thirteen and one

third fields - three full size synthetic turf

fields and two full size natural grass

fields for the youth section, along with

five full size and one third size synthetic

turf fields, and two full size natural grass

fields for the first team.

The on-site medical centre consists of

examination rooms, treatment rooms,

additional rehab facilities and

66




Armed with Grade A mixtures, these men

promptly toured the country spreading their

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by professionals, they survive as experts in

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equipment, and an amazing

hydrotherapy centre that includes hot

and cool pools, a cold plunge, and a long

but narrow resistance wave pool.

In all, Ciudad Real Madrid covers 1.2

million square metres although, to date,

only 21,578m 2 has been developed.

When I was there, the pitches were in

various states of renovation or

construction. The 1st team pitch was in

the process of being returfed after a five

week construction, which included the

installation of a new undersoil heating

system. This system was split so that

parts of the playing surface could be

heated independently.

The main contractor was SIS (Support

in Sport) and they have been involved in

the works at both the training ground

and the Bernabéu for the last twelve

months, working closely with Paul to





improve and create consistency across all

the playing surfaces.

The pitch also had additional sandy

rootzone spread and graded to improve

the depth of material and, therefore, the

drainage capacity.

Two days before I arrived in Madrid,

Jose Mourinho had been unveiled as the

new club coach and, while I was watching

the big roll turf being laid, he came and

stood by his office window to view

proceedings. Not wanting to waste any

time, Paul quickly arranged a meeting

with the new manager to find out his

requirements, and to discuss any

concerns Paul may have had with them.

While there has been a great deal of

money spent so far, it was necessary to

bring the playing surfaces up to, what

Paul regards as, Premiership standard.

The previous constructions were


inadequate. In many cases, at the

training ground, there is and/or has been

insufficient depth of rootzone to allow

for free draining surfaces. The depth of

rootzone has meant water being held in

suspension and creating waterlogged

pitches in the winter time. To add to the

problems, the majority of the existing

pitches were also inhabited with 100%

Poa annua.

Paul concedes that, for around two

months of the year, during the hottest

period, he’d be better off with a warm

season Bermuda grass to survive the

intense heat but, for the rest of the year

the sward mix of rye and Poa pratensis

(smooth stalk meadow grass) performs

admirably. Madrid is at quite a high

altitude and, being inland, has an

extreme range of temperatures between

the sub zero winter months and the arid,

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hot summer months.

Rainfall is relatively low and all the

pitches, including the synthetic surfaces,

have automatic irrigation installed. Paul

has two shifts that work at the training

ground, a morning and an evening shift

and they include irrigation experts who

monitor the moisture levels. This is on

top of sensors that also detect drop in

moisture content and automatically top

up the pitches.

Disease is a problem with the heat and

the grass varieties used, so any incidence

of fungal activity has to be checked

immediately. Paul has seen Pithium wipe

out half of a pitch in as little as fortyeight

hours, so he’s now on a programme

of preventative control, but it’s not as

straightforward in Spain to use certain

chemicals as it is in the UK.

Paul has also gone through the

machinery inventory at both the main

stadium and the training ground.

Previously, the machines available were

inadequate, including a 5 gang fairway

mower and a 18” pedestrian scarifier. He

has brought in Dennis pedestrian

cassette mowers, ride-on triple mowers,

tractors, topdresser and aeration

machines.

The working ethos that has been Paul’s

life at Arsenal, was a massive culture

shock for his new staff in Madrid and,

initially, it caused unrest and problems,

trying to get them to work to the

standards that Paul insists upon.

But, as always, the proof is in the

pudding, and now the team can see the

improvements made to the playing

surfaces over the last year or so, they are

a much easier group to organise.

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67


A schedule

of some of

the work

undertaken

at the

Bernabéu

and training

ground

Training Pitch 4

1) Strip existing turf with SISavator, and

tip spoil on site using tractors and

trailers.

2) Laser grade existing rootzone using

tractor and box grader to desired level.

3) Import 2200 tonnes of new rootzone

material (15% peat content) to increase

pitch profile by 150mm - over 3 days.

Laser grade.

4) Supply, install and infill of SIS

synthetic carpet to pitch perimeter and

new technical area, including stone

subbase. This is to aid maintenance

around the pitch perimeter netting

and to give a tidy, professional finish to

the pitch.

5) Supply and install new goalposts and

ground sockets.

6) Seed pitch with Advanta seed, 50%

Ryegrass / 50% Poa Pratensis.

Works to pitch 4 were completed over a

period of twelve days working within

specific dates, security restrictions and

tight space restrictions for material

deliveries. SIS have recently completed

the same work on Pitch 3, but with

40mm turf rather than seed.

First team training pitch no. 2

1)Strip existing turf with SISavator and

tip spoil onsite using tractors and

trailers.

2)Laser grade existing rootzone using

tractor and box grader to desired level.

68

3)Import 750 tonnes of new rootzone

material (15% peat content) - one day.

Laser grade

4)Supply and install undersoil heating

pipe system to whole pitch. The

heating pipes were installed over a

period of 4 days.

5)Supply, install and infill of SIS

synthetic carpet to pitch perimeter,

including a new technical area, all of

which included installation of a stone

subbase.

6)Supply and install of new goal posts

and ground sockets.

7)Supply of 8700m2 of 20mm thick turf

harvested and transported in 15

refrigerated trucks from France. Turf

mix 50% Ryegrass/50% Poa Pratensis.

8)Install turf using SIS specialist kit over

two days during temperatures of 30

degrees. Constant irrigation was in

place during the installation.

Previous work at the Bernabéu

Stadium

During the summer of 2009, SIS

removed the existing Grassmaster pitch

in the Bernabéu, through a process

which allowed the rootzone material to

be re-used, along with a small amount of

new sand to reconstruct the pitch profile.

Irrigation and heating systems were

renewed. Turf was harvested and

transported from Germany. All work was

carried out with very tight access and

space restrictions, along with time

limitations, worsened by new player

signings taking over the stadium and

pitch area for a few days!

“SIS have undertaken a number of

projects here at our training centre,” says

Paul Burgess. “This involved large

amounts of material, restrictions with

timings, dates, access and security and,

yet, they were able to complete work on

time and budget, and to a high quality -

an essential combination when working

for Real Madrid. I’m pleased to say all

works met the high standards that we set,

and a great deal of thanks must go to all

involved in the SIS project team.”

George Mullan said; “Working for Real

Madrid at their state of the art training

centre has been an exciting challenge,

and we are pleased to have been able to

assist in providing some of the best

training pitches in Europe for some of

the world’s best players. Thanks must go

to Paul and his team at Real Madrid for

their help and assistance during the

works.”

“We have a long working relationship

with Real Madrid and look forward to

continuing this, and are already in

discussions about more works to pitches

at the training centre this autumn.”

“Having previously installed the turf at

the training ground five years ago,

following construction by a Spanish

company, it was great to see as a working

facility and how well the site had

progressed. Working for a

prestigious club like real Madrid is

always an exciting challenge but,

ultimately, a very rewarding one.”


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Chesterfield Football

Club’s new stadium, the

B2net, not only heralds

a bright new future for

the club but will also

benefit the whole

community, reports

Carol Dutton

Aspiring

Spireites

“WE’D been looking to relocate for the

last ten years, if not longer” says Stadium

Director, Philip Taylor. “A new local plan

for the town included a 22 acre

regeneration area beside the A61 by-pass

which had formally housed the old Dema

Glass works. Part of this area was

allocated for the club, with the remaining

area going for retail and mixed use.

Tesco, who needed bigger premises, took

up ten acres and, with the planning gain

on the land, the move became financially

viable. The outcome has worked in

everybody’s favour.”

Philip maintains that Chesterfield FC

has always had strong links with the

community, and the new state of the art

stadium will give the club the

opportunity to provide extensive first

class facilities for all. “The East stand will

house a soft play area for the kids, a

cafeteria and toilet and changing

facilities, including those for the

disabled,” he continues. “I think that, at

the moment, we’re the only sports club

in Derbyshire to do this.” An infinity

swimming pool, gymnasium and

education suites are in the pipeline for

the future with, possibly, a community

police station and a wide range of

facilities for other community groups.

Meanwhile, in footballing terms,

everything hinges on the new pitch and

the performance and quality of the

football.

J Pugh-Lewis was given the pitch

construction contract, having maintained

the old Saltergate ground for the last

fifteen years. Director James Pugh-Lewis,

had been involved with the architects

and designers for two years before the

company arrived on site on the 1st

March. “Originally, the start was delayed

due to bad weather,” recalls Tim Pugh-

Lewis who has overseen the whole

project, “but we got going in the

beginning of April and were seeding by

13th May.”

“The construction is a standard

suspended water table pitch with,

essentially, 100mm twinwall pipe drains

at 5m centres, geotextile, 150mm depth

gravel carpet and then 150mm depth of

lower rootzone sand and 150mm depth

upper rootzone, the top 100mm of this

being Fibresand reinforced,” Tim

explains. A fully automated irrigation

system has been installed, and the pitch

is graded into a ‘flat pyramid’ profile

with the centre spot 300mm higher than

the perimeter of the pitch. “The pitch is

a similar specification to the one we

installed at Birmingham City’s St

Andrews Stadium last year, and will make

it one of the best pitches in the league,”

Tim continues.

“It’s a very good pitch,” Philip Taylor

confirms. “Because of the adverse

weather at the start, we were a week or

two behind and people kept asking me if

it would be ready in time. James Pugh-

Lewis reassured us that it would and the

company made up the time. The grass

was growing one week after seeding and

we knew we’d be ready for our first

fixture, a friendly with Derby County on

24th. July.”

Philip thinks that the new facilities

usher in a new era for Chesterfield FC,

and the way the season tickets were

selling by the end of May - already up on

the previous year - was a very positive

sign. “Hopefully, this season will see an

increase in gate numbers and automatic

promotion for the club,” he says. “We’ve

now got car parking for over 350 cars,

whereas, before, people had to park

either in the town or the local school,

and we’re hoping to become the premier

banqueting and conference centre in the

region. The new stadium stands

to re-generate the whole area

and provide so much more for

both football supporters and the

local community.”


Robbie and Venus

Williams, Madonna and

Maradona, Mick Jagger

and Tyson, R2D2,

Speedway, Monster

Trucks, dinner parties,

exhibitions, conferences,

operas and musicals. The

turf industry has

progressed in recent

years.

Chris Hague guides us

through two years in the

life of Denmark’s

‘Wembley’, the Parken

Stadium, in Copenhagen

Parken Stadium is home to the

Danish National team and FC

Copenhagen. Originally

constructed in 1954, Parken was

redeveloped with the addition of three

new stands, in 1992.

Don’t look back in anger!

The focal point of any stadium is the

pitch. As with many stadium designs, the

pitch in Parken was not considered when

drawing up the plans. The south west

corner of the playing surface receives less

than 45 minutes daylight, even on the

sunniest day of the year.

In 1993, grow lights were positioned

across the playing surface. Growth was

encouraged, but was weak and leggy, and

easily kicked out. Grassmaster fibres were

injected in an attempt to stabilise the

surface in 1994.

In March 1999, I took on the

responsibility of the Parken pitch.

Renovation works in the summer of 1999

were aimed at re-establishing the

grassmaster fibres. A period of six weeks

was allowed from seed. The fibres

stabilised the pitch and the required

surface was produced.

Parken’s calendar already included

72

Denmark’s

many of the world’s top artists, and the

intention was to maximise the stadiums

potential. The pitch is a business and the

events would now provide a challenge to

producing the required surface.

A Song for Europe

Denmark sang their way to Eurovision

Song Contest glory with the Olsen

brothers toe tapping classic “Fly on the

wings of love”. Winners in 2000,

Denmark were duly awarded the hosting

of the 2001 contest, and Parken was the

venue, staging three shows with in excess

of 80,000 in attendance. Terry Wogan

could now be added to the stadium’s

growing celebrity list.

A condition of hosting the event is that

it has to be staged indoors. Parken and

Danish Radio collaborated and a

retractable roof was constructed. A

heating system was included in the

design to enable events to be staged 365

days of the year.

Satisfaction

The introduction of speedway, in 2003,

placed further demands on the playing

surface. Renovations after the speedway

event required total removal of the

decayed plant, and recovery from seed.

Establishment periods reduced as the

events list increased. In 2004, the pitch

was established in less than four weeks

from seed. Simon and Garfunkel staged a

concert on the pitch just twenty-one days

after seeding!

Producing a fibre based pitch was

achievable in the limited time frame.

The required growing-in period,

restricted the options for the events

department. During the establishment,

the pitch was closed and the events

scheduling during the season was

planned to increase.

Whilst the fibres provided us with an

excellent playing surface, it did restrict

the options when considering the diverse

events. Individual areas damaged during

events could not be returfed, as it would

produce an inconsistent playing surface

combined with the fibres. Turfing on top

of the fibres was successfully maintained

on occasions, but we were still restricted

with our surface preparations when

installing turf. Cultivating to aid rooting

was the aim.

In January 2009, the fibres were

removed from the pitch. The works

needed to be completed by February to


“We have changed our “keep off

the grass” sign to “it will cost you”

Wembley...

prepare for the league’s second round

and the spring season’s opener, a Lego

exhibition. 40,000 ‘Lego heads’ attended

the exhibition over four days.

Manchester City were to be our next

guests for a Champions League qualifier.

The Lego production cleared the

stadium on the 15th and we received the

pitch back on the 16th. The surface was

cultivated to a depth of 10cm and base

nutrition applied. Support in Sport

commenced the turf installation and

completed the pitch in fourteen hours.

FC Copenhagen trained on the pitch

on the 17th, and that offered us a good

indication of the playability of the

surface prior to the official training

sessions scheduled on the 18th.

Irrigation, traction, ball response and

roll could all be assessed. A 2-2 draw was

played in the snow on the 20th.

Money’s too tight to mention

The strategy was to increase the use of

the pitch. In 2009, the non-football

events attracted over 300,000 customers

into the stadium. Working in multi-use

environments offers the potential to

modify the turf manager’s attitude

towards the surface. We have changed

our “keep off the grass” sign to “it will

cost you”. The pitch is a business.

Standards are maintained with the

correct management strategy and

experience.

The total non-football events in 2009

were:

Lego World - 12-15th February

Speedway - 13th June

AC/DC - 19th June

Depeche Mode - 30th June

Britney Spears - 11th July

Madonna - 11th August

Novo Dinner Party - 21st August

Fleetwood Mac - 8th October

Bavian Rock -17th October

Muse - 26th of October

Sensation Rave - 31st October

Christmas Gala x 2 - 4th and 5th

December

Dance for Climate Change - 7th

December

The production for the events has

increased and access to the pitch for

cranes and trucks is often requested.

Providing the production with a user

Chris Hague, Grounds Manager, Parken Stadium, Copenhagen

friendly environment encourages events

and revenue. Renovation works are

budgeted for in the planning of an

event. Pitches installed must earn their

fertiliser.

Planning events involves consideration

of the fixture list and calculating the

potential solutions. Any production is

possible, we assess the practicalities and

consequences.

Is there time available, and do the

figures add up? If yes to both, then we

schedule the event.

All events are planned in detail for the

‘load in and load out’, and a production

plan is circulated. Meetings will take

place involving the relevent departments

for the show, e.g. operations, security,

ground staff, maintenance, production,

riggers, cleaning. The operations

department will co-ordinate and draft a

production plan.

Occasionally, the production for an

event will contribute to the renovation of

the pitch. If the stage requires cranes in

situ on the pitch, or steel plated roads

for access to the stage, an agreement can

be reached.

When budgeting for pitch renovations,

it can be cost effective to plan a new

73


Preparing for Monster Trucks

NOVO party

Speedway

Les Miserables - well, you would be!

It’s only Rock and Roll ...

74

“Developing a positive approach,

and appreciating the commercial

responsibilities of our business,

is important to progress the turf

industry”

installation. Allowing production to

go ahead with their event, without

limitations and stressed grounds

persons, can be beneficial to all.

Under Pressure

2009 was another successful year in

Parken. FCK were champions,

Denmark qualified for the World

Cup and the pitch performed

consistently well.

Challenges faced by the grounds

team were motivational and many. A

relaxed spring season, with football

and one exhibition being our only

customer, the autumn calendar was

set to entertain the locals. The

schedule for the newly installed

pitch would include concerts, a

dinner party, and be finished off

with a rave at the end of October,

which required covering the pitch

with steel plating.

The timeframe for the installation

was limited, when we received the

pitch back from Britney on July12th.

We installed a pitch on the 13-

14th, and staged Champions League

on the 15th July.

FCK then played at home on 1st

August. Madonna sang like a virgin

on the 11th August.

Madge’s production wrote off the

penalty area, so we stripped and

relaid the area (1500m2 ) ready for

training on the 14th, with a home

game on the 15th. This was followed

by a Champions League match on

the 18th.

On the 21st August, we staged

NOVO, a dinner party with up to

10,000 diners on the pitch.

September was uneventful, with a

local football ‘super league’, a World

Cup qualifier and a few training

sessions.

However, the following few weeks

was a different story!

1st - Europa League

4th - Danish Super league

8th - Fleetwood Mac

10th - Denmark v Sweden WCQ

14th - Denmark v Hungry WCQ

17th - Bavarian rock concert

25th - Super League

26th - Muse

31st - Rave

5th Nov - Europa League

The rave would stress the pitch to

the extent we would need time to

recover the damage. The calendar

limited our renovations and,

therefore, the option to replace the

turf was scheduled. This enabled

Muse to put on a show on the

Monday, leaving the pitch

protection covers on, to reduce the

costs and increase the revenue.

Work commenced removing the

pitch on November 2nd, and it was

installed ready for training on the

4th.

The autumn/winter pitch staged

two concerts in December, and the

X Factor in March 2010.

Relax

FCK claimed the title at Parken in

May 2010. After the final whistle the

gates were opened and the crowd

enjoyed a free for all on the pitch. A

stage and safety barrier had been

pre-rigged outside and driven into

position on a goalmouth for the

celebration party.

The schedule for the 2010

summer events consisted of:

May 16th - FCK final league match

May 22nd/23rd - Monster trucks

(grass recoverable)

May 29th - Rave (terraplas,

recoverable)

June 5th - Speedway (9 days

production, roof closed for the

duration, removal and establishment

of plant required)

July 16th - Stevie Wonder concert

July 17th - Danish league fixture

July 25th - Pink concert

July 27th - Champions League

fixture

August 1st - Danish league

August 4th - Champions League

fixture

August 11th - Denmark v Germany

Considering the schedule, it was cost

effective to hand over the stadium to

the operations department.

The installation for the new turf

was set for June 23rd, to enable time

to settle the pitch and allow the

grass to strengthen ahead of the

scheduled concerts.

In consultation with the

operations department, the decision

was made to install a further pitch

on July 26th, after the load out from

Pink.

The installation was completed on

Monday July 27th, ready for prematch

training on the Friday.

Roll With It

Selecting the turf, preparing and

planning the installation are crucial

to the success of the playing surface.

Rooting is the key to the success of

the turf system. To achieve sufficient


ooting, attention to the daily

maintenance includes monitoring

irrigation, aeration and nutrition. The

lighting rigs enable us to energise the

plant. Concentrate on the roots and the

grass will thrive. We are trying to grow it

down not up. Ideally, a period for

growing-in the surface is advised, with a

minimum of fourteen days.

Turf selection includes stadia and

farm visits. Assessing the turf on the

farm is required. Assessing the turf in a

stadium environment offers a greater

understanding of the turf ’s suitability.

The time taken to transport the turf is

a consideration, and the option to cool

it, in transit, is considered in the warmer

months when working in Scandinavia.

Assessments of the turf are carried out

at the turf farm including:

Turf strength

Grass species composition (Poa pratensis

providing lateral strength, Lollium

perenne good wear and recovery)

Pest and diseases

Rootzone - particle size distribution and

compatibility

Turf maturity

Turf maintenance prior to harvesting

(nutrition, dressing, cutting height)

Moving On Up

Managing stadiums as a business

enables development of the turf

manager’s role.

Economic responsibilities and

understanding are a part of our daily

work.

There are currently four full-time

grounds persons managing the stadium

and three at the training ground

pitches. The standard produced in

recent years is a credit to the team effort

of Daniel, Matt, Pete and Thomas, the

“green team” as we are collectively

known in Parken

The operations department are also

key to the success of the pitch. With the

resources and challenges we face, it is

vital that all involved are working

together. My role is somewhere between

the green team and the operations.

Developing a positive approach, and

appreciating the commercial

responsibilities of our business, is

important to progress the turf industry.

When proposals are discussed

concerning usage of a pitch, educating

the planners will enable us to become

part of the plan.

Stadiums will continue to stage non

sporting events. Investing in stadiums

and pitch systems is expensive and

clubs/companies are required to recover

their costs. There are solutions to all the

challenges.

Pitch protection systems allow the

pitch to survive, lighting rigs encourage

growth in shaded areas, turf installations

offer full pitch recovery.

Managing the numerous events on the

pitch offers the opportunity to learn and

progress as a turf manager

It’s Only Rock and Roll but we like it!

The modern

stadium pitch

manager ...

By Carl Pass, Director of

Premier Pitches Ltd

Professional football pitch

management is no longer about

providing a surface which will

withstand the rigours of 90 minutes of

football, any league groundsman will

testify to this.

Groundsmen now have the additional

pressure of providing a surface that will be

used for a pre-match warm-up which can

last up to 30 minutes. There are also half

time activities, including penalty

shootouts, marching bands, dancers and

junior matches played across the pitch. In

addition, many teams now insist on a

warm-down after the match which, in

some cases, becomes a full-blown training

session for squad players not involved in

the 90 minutes of action which has just

unfolded.

Success in European competitions

brings additional burdens as visiting

teams have access to the match pitch for

training sessions on the day prior to the

tie being played. Other events, such as

music concerts, bring in much needed

revenue to clubs who are in the business

of making money by what ever means to

support their main objective, which is to

be successful on the pitch.

All these activities are often undertaken

in grounds which have either evolved into

multi-use venues or, worse still, have been

designed with little or no thought to the

well being of the pitch. The consequence

of such relentless use is a degenerated

surface which may suffer from

compaction, poor drainage, little or no

grass cover and uneven levels.

So, where does this leave the person

entrusted with producing a surface

which will cater for all the needs of a

professional football club?

Clubs will not reduce the height of stands

to reduce the impact of shade, nor will

they open up corners of the stadium to

allow increased air movement or reduce

the amount of additional activity on the

pitch during match days and in the close

season. It is my view that we must take a

positive stance to the situation by

adopting a new philosophy of preparing

new pitches rather than repairing old

ones.

Come the end of the season, clubs who

wish to maintain a high standard of

playing surface, whilst maximising

revenue from other opportunities, must

accept that the pitch has done its job and

replace it. Particularly in a stadium

environment where the groundsman is,

essentially, growing grass indoors,

beginning the season with a new pitch

offers the greatest opportunity for the

surface to withstand the difficult

environment it is expected to perform

within.

Stadium pitches, in general, have

improved tremendously over the past ten

years, which is a credit to all involved

including groundsmen, researchers and

manufacturers of specialist turf

“Clubs will not reduce the height of

stands to reduce the impact of

shade, nor will they open up corners

of the stadium to allow increased

air movement” ...continued over


“In a stadium environment the groundsman

is, essentially, growing grass indoors”

maintenance equipment. I’m fortunate to

work alongside progressive agronomists

and the new generation of sports turf

managers/groundsmen, who realise the

advantages of preparing a new pitch,

rather than repairing an old one.

So, what are the advantages of pitch

preparation rather than repair? When

should it start and how is it achieved?

The advantage is that the existing pitch is

available to the club to safely utilise for

income generation prior to the new pitch

preparation. Corporate and community

....the North East of England,

NATIONWIDE!

events, sports days, pay-to-play football

tournaments, five-a-side leagues and music

concerts can all be undertaken, in the

knowledge that they will not affect the

quality of the playing surface, as it will be

removed and replaced. An additional

benefit, in some cases, is that part of the

income generated from such events may

be used to part-finance the pitch

improvements.

Pitch preparation can start as soon as

the corporate events are completed, but

preferably before the beginning of June.

How does the preparation system work

in practice?

A consultant, or the groundsman, should

either prepare a specification or discuss

with a reputable contractor the work that

is required and when it can commence.

The specification will include a bill of

quantities which will outline to the

contractor what he is expected to supply

and what the club may wish to supply

themselves. As a contractor, I feel it’s

important that the groundsmen choose

materials that they want to work with as,

when we’ve finished and left the site, it is

they who are responsible for seeing the

SPORTS FIELD CONSTRUCTION•

SYNTHETIC SURFACES•

HARD AND SOFT LANDSCAPING•

CRICKET WICKETS AND OUTFIELD•

GROUNDS MAINTENANCE•

FENCING AND SECURITY•

CIVIL ENGINEERING•

LAND DRAINAGE•

PLANT HIRE/TRACTOR HIRE•

www.cleveland-land-services.co.uk tel: 01642 488328


pitch through to the end of the season.

Materials should be ordered and

provision made to store them safely away

from the elements as required. Bulk

materials, such as Fibresand or Fibrelastic,

need to be ordered in advance and a

delivery time and date agreed.

As soon as the club’s corporate

department has finished with the pitch,

and all coverings are removed, the

contractor should be on site ready to

commence work.

The existing pitch surface should be

stripped using a Koro TopMaker, a superb

piece of equipment that has revolutionised

the way pitches are renovated. The Koro

strips the entire surface, removing all

organic accumulations, leaving a clean,

debris-free rootzone which can then be

worked with to produce the desired

playing surface.

Initial cultivation can then commence to

break up any pans or layering which may

be present within the top 100mm of the

pitch profile. This work also serves as the

ultimate form of aeration, as it

redistributes particles around the profile

and allows any anaerobic conditions to

become oxygenated. Should any soil

conditioners, such as seaweed or

granulated lime stone and fertilisers be

required, they should be applied at this

stage to ensure they are thoroughly

incorporated in to the vital top100mm of

rootzone.

Once initial cultivations are complete

and, dependent upon the specification, it

would be normal practice to apply new

rootzone material, which is often

Fibresand or Fibrelastic. This is intended

to replenish any material lost during the

removal of the surface. It’s important to

use a specially adapted drop spreader

capable of handling this type of material

without bridging or blocking as work

progresses.

The evenly spread material can then be

integrated in to the top 100mm by further

cultivation, normally with a rotary harrow.

At this stage, visual inspection will dictate

how many passes with the cultivator are

required to produce an evenly blended

rootzone. The final pass will be made and

levels trimmed to be consistent with those

of the original construction.

Consolidation will be required next.

This is a vital aspect of the works and

should be carried out evenly and

accurately all over the pitch to achieve

consistent results. As work progresses, it

may be necessary to irrigate at this stage

to maintain a degree of moisture in the

immediate surface, preventing the

separation of fibres. Fines in the rootzone

can also find there way onto the surface as

a dusty residue if irrigation is not

available, causing problems later in the

season by impeding surface drainage.

Fine finishing is a vital aspect of

achieving the end result. This work should

be undertaken by skilled operators using

specialist machinery and equipment.

When surface levels are seen to be

satisfactory, the next stage of the works

can commence.

The pitch should be over-seeded with a

seeder designed specifically for sowing a

pitch from scratch. Usually, two passes will

be made with this type of machine, but

more may be required if the groundsman

or consultant dictate otherwise. Finally, the

pitch should be flat rolled to seal in the

seed and produce the finished level.

The first stage of pitch preparation is

then complete. It is then up to the

groundsman to use his skill and the

relevant technology available to him to

produce and maintain the new sward.

He can carry out this work in the

knowledge that he has a completely

refreshed rootzone, free from any layering

and its associated problems. Drainage

rates will be increased considerably,

preventing waterlogging during the wetter

winter months. The sward will be made up

of new grass plants, all establishing

seminal roots, which will form the basis of

a strong root mass, essential for durability.

The weedgrass Poa annua will be largely

eradicated, to the point when it is no

longer a problem, and the whole pitch will

be in better condition than it would have

been if it was a pitch renovated from the

previous season.

The work I’ve described is more

expensive than standard renovation, but

not so high that it should not be within

the budget of any professional football

club. Those with very limited budgets

could achieve an acceptable result by

fraize mowing to clean out the vegetation

and overseeding, enabling them to begin

each season with a new sward.

To get the very best from the playing

surface, new pitch preparation should be

carried out each year. In reality, budgetary

constraints and other issues, such as

restricted timescale, may prevent it. From

my experience of working across the UK

and in Europe, it should be a major

consideration for any club who want to

maximise both pitch performance and

profitability.


Marshalling

his troops!

Under a blood red sky, Paul Marshall,

Head Groundsman at Northants

County Cricket Club, comes to the

end of a fifteen hour working day.

Laurence Gale MSc joined him for the

duration (nearly!)

After spending a couple of days

visiting the groundstaff at

Northants, I was able to see

the rewards of all their hard

work at a Friends Provident

Twenty20 game against Yorkshire, which

ended in a high scoring, 180 run tie and

satisfied a large, appreciative crowd of

cricket supporters, with the pitch also

gaining a very good mark from the

umpires.

Twenty20 cricket has become the

financial lifeblood of county cricket, so

much so that the ECB has invested

hundreds of thousands of pounds in

erecting top specification lighting

systems at many of the county grounds,

to enable clubs to arrange evening

fixtures to increase revenue streams.

The new lights at Northants are

78

impressive. They are amongst the

highest (50 metres) and most technically

advanced in the country. The high

definition quality system offers reduced

light pollution, saves power, whilst still

delivering a staggering 3000 lux of

lighting power. The lights are also self

cleaning and are guaranteed for ten

years.

The system consists of six columns -

four with 72 lamps, and the two central

columns with 48. They were designed

and installed by Musco Lighting, and are

one of several new sets that have been

installed at various county grounds

around the country.

The lights only take ten minutes to

warm up, and are very efficient to run.

They are currently powered by a large

mobile generator, a temporary

arrangement until they decide on a

permanent location for the switch gear

and incoming feed.

The Head Groundsman at Northants is

Paul Marshall, who has been at the club

for over twenty years. He has four staff

who help him; assistant head

groundsman Paul Taylor, who has been at

the club eight years, Craig Harvey (8

years) Daryl Day (2 years) and Paul’s son,

Rikki Marshall, who joined the team at

the start of the season. Rikki has recently

enrolled at Myerscough College, whilst

Craig and Daryl have, respectively, just

completed the second and third years of

their degree courses at the college.

Paul became head groundsman in

2002, inheriting a significant layering

problem into the bargain. The desire to

improve the condition of the square


equired an innovative programme of

end of season renovations, and Paul

chose to combine deep scarifying, deep

drilling and drill and fill, using

Ecosolve’s tried and tested methods.

The drills used have been designed

and developed by Ecosolve and the ECB

Pitches Consultant, Chris Wood, for

specific use on cricket wickets. A number

of different designs and dimensions were

tried before reaching these bespoke

items. There was, says Paul, no real

alternative, other than digging up

several tracks and starting again.

They have been drilling four wickets a

year since 2004, and identify which

pitches need to be done, either because

they are next in line for the ongoing

programme or perhaps have not

performed as well as they would have

liked that year.

The drilling programme usually

consists of drilling at 165mm (6.5”)

centres using a 25mm (1”) diameter drill

bit to a depth of 250mm (10”). This

equates to over 1700 holes per wicket.

The holes are then back filled with the

desired loam, either Boughton County or

Ongar depending on which wickets are

being worked on. It usually takes three to

four days to complete the whole process.

They have perfected a good method of

working. As soon has the holes have been

drilled, a metal rod is hammered into

each one to smooth the sides, ready to

ensure the new loam material can be

worked to the bottom of the holes. The

same rod is used to consolidate the back

filling material.

Once the drilling has been completed,

the whole square is then scarified in

several passes, using a Graden scarifier,

to remove thatch and debris, with all the

arisings cleaned up using brushes, rotary

mowers and blowers. The square is then

soaked, using a couple of oscillating

sprinklers, ready for sowing with R9, a

dwarf perennial rye grass mix, sowing in

several directions.

Paul may use germination sheets to

help force the seed to germinate but, in

most cases, the seed is up within seven

days. Grass is left to mature before

cutting with a pedestrian rotary mower.

An autumn granular feed is applied to

help promote growth, followed by

applications of liquid iron, amino and

bio stimulants once aeration takes place;

the aim is to promote microbial activity

in the soil profile, which helps improve

79


Paul Taylor mixing up his concoction for repairing

bowlers’ footmarks

80

L-r: Paul Taylor, Daryl Day, Paul Marshall,

Craig Harvey and Rikki Marshall

the soil structure, along with

maintaining a decent sward colour

during the winter months.

Ecosolve usually come back in

November each year to undertake

deep drilling and aeration on both

the square and net areas, drilling

down to a depth of 250mm (10”)

using 12mm diameter drills set at

175mm spacing. More aeration is

undertaken in December using a

Groundsman spiker set at 100mm.

This completes the renovation

programme, allowing Paul and his

staff to take some much earned rest

and recuperation.

However, the club always seem to

find additional work for the

groundstaff, who usually get a

number of interior jobs to

undertake. These may include

painting and decorating offices and

stands. The club, like many of the

older county grounds, are

continually trying to improve their

infrastructure with better facilities.

Many of the older stands are in

need of refurbishment and

modernisation.

During the winter, working hours

are 8.30am to 5.00pm. During the

season the set start time is 7.30am

and they finish ‘whenever’! On

match days, though, Paul staggers

the start times to give his team

slightly more sensible hours.

Paul does not have a great deal of

equipment to hand. His old Massey

Ferguson tractor is currently in for

repair, so he is having to hire one

(a Kubota STV40) until he gets it

back. He is hoping budgets will

allow him to upgrade his tractor

soon. All the mowers are serviced in

January to ensure they remain

sharp and fit for purpose.

Match wickets are cut using either

a Lloyds Paladin or a 24” Allett,

whilst a John Deere triple mower is

used on the outfield. A few years

ago, Paul decided to use only

pedestrian rear roller rotaries for

cutting the square, with the aim of

reducing compaction. The square is

kept at between 15-20mm in the

summer and 20-25mm in the

winter. The Paladin is set between

3-5mm for final cut.

Pre season rolling gets going as

early as possible to accommodate

the practice matches scheduled for

mid March. They begin by using

the weight of the Allett mower,

gradually building up to the 1.5

tonne heavy roller. Paul does not

roll ‘for the sake of it’, preferring to

roll as the weather dictates and

maximising what moisture is in the

ground. This year, he managed to

get all his wickets done with less

than thirty hours of rolling.

The square is fed with granular

and liquid feeds - 14:0:7 spring and

summer fertiliser along with a

17:2:5 liquid - throughout the

growing season, as and when

needed.

Time allotted to prepare wickets

is set between 10-14 days, which is

generally determined by weather

conditions and the time between

games. Both Pauls like to keep a bit

of grass on their wickets and not cut

too short. The wicket is prepared by

a combination of brushing,

scarifying, watering, rolling (the

pitches get an initial roll of 45

minutes at the start of preparations


and then rolled for twenty

minutes for subsequent

rolling days, with no more

than three hours of total

rolling carried out for each

pitch prepared), covering and

cutting.

The club have invested in a

number of covers, both flat

and raised, to protect the

wickets. These include three

85 x 50 feet TTS Climate

Covers, two sets of raised

covers (with side sheets) to

protect match wickets and net

areas. Having manageable

sheets and covers is essential

in the modern game.

With just twenty wickets on

the square allocation for

matches is crucial. The

central twelve are used for

first class matches, and two of

these have to be set aside for

international games, leaving

just ten to accommodate an

ever increasing fixture list.

This means that Paul has to

make the wickets last as long

as possible. For example, the

wicket used for the Twenty20

game against Yorkshire had

already had three games -

two 50 over A Internationals

and another Twenty20 -

played on it.

Pitch repairs are, therefore,

essential and Paul Taylor has

perfected a robust method

using, perhaps surprisingly,

Kaloam. This is mixed into a

solution of water and Permazyme,

a bonding agent

developed by Flicx Cricket.

300ml of Perma-zyme is

diluted into 20 litres of water

and the loam is mixed into a

tacky mass and left to air for

a couple of hours before

being bagged for use. The

Perma-zyme helps bond the

soil particles together, giving

it more strength. The

damaged foot holes are then

chiselled out to create a key

for the new loam mix and

then tampered down. This

method has proved very

successful. As soon as a pitch

is finished with, usually after

four or five matches, it is

soaked up, scarified in several

directions and sown with R9

perennial rye grass. It is

covered to speed up

germination.

With the square

approaching somewhere near

the standard that Paul wants,

he will now turn his attention

to the outfield which, he

admits, is some way behind

other county grounds. It

needs to have a pop up

watering system installed,

along with some work to

address levels and

undulations. Paul hopes that

this work will happen in the

not too distant future.

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Flexibility and value

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81


...Dateline Friday 2nd July...

N o r t h a n t s S t e e l b a c k s v Y o r k s h i r e C a r n e g i e . . .

I arrive at the county ground in

Northampton on the morning of the

Twenty20 match against Yorkshire Carnegie.

Accompanying me was Bob Stretton, former

ECB Pitches Advisor for Warwickshire and

current Head Groundsman at Massey

Ferguson Sports Club. It was to be a great

opportunity to see what goes on before,

during and after a match - and what a

match it turned out to be!

07:30

Paul Marshall arrives to check the pitch

and see what the weather forecast is

predicting for the day. The pitch was

covered overnight, with both the raised

covers and TTS Climate Covers, to protect

it from some forecasted rain.

08:00

Paul oversees the parking and setting up of

the lighting generator.

08:30

Paul meets up with other heads of

department for final team briefing.

09:30

Paul checks out the weather forecast and

briefs his staff on what was said at the

heads of department meeting whilst, at the

same time, reminding the team what they

need to do as their final preparations for

the game.

10:00

First cup of tea of the day. Met up with the

electricians who had come in to check the

generator. They would stay on site for the

remainder of the day.

11:00

Daryl gets out the John Deere Triple and

begins mowing and striping up the

outfield. This takes over three hours.

12:00

Groundstaff inspect and set up the practice

82

nets areas for both teams.

13:00

Paul keeps an eye on the weather to see if

he can take the covers off. He also liaises

with other departments to check when the

players, coaches and umpires are due to

arrive.

The staff take the chance to refuel with

some lunch, and keep an eye on how Andy

Murray is getting on at Wimbledon.

14:30

Paul decides to remove the covers and

begins setting up the pitch, and it’s all

hands on deck. It takes about 20 minutes to

remove all the covers and store them away.

Daryl is just finishing mowing the outfield!

15:00

Paul Taylor inspects the pitch - not too

much to worry about. He is confident it will

perform well, based on its performance in

the last two games (28th and 29th June). It

had been cleaned up and rolled the

previous day. It was simply a case of

marking out for tonight’s game.

16:00

A few of the home players begin to arrive

and wander out onto the ground to discuss

the condition of the wicket with Paul. Paul

Taylor and Daryl mark out the pitch using

a straight edge and paint brush. Paul then

decides to stripe up the square with his

Sarp pedestrian rotary.

16:30

Gates open and supporters start arriving.

Mark Tagg, the club’s Chief Executive,

appears out on the square to see how things

are. I am introduced to him and he tells me

that he receives the Pitchcare magazine and

how much he enjoys reading it. He is very

supportive of Paul and his staff, knowing

only too well the role they play in making

Northampton a successful club. A near to

capacity crowd of 4,000 is expected for

tonight’s game.

17:00

Both teams come out to begin their warm

up routines, utilising areas of the outfield,

practice nets and bowling on two of the

tracks.

17:45

The floodlight generator is started up,

lights are up and running after ten minutes

18:00

Paul and his staff carry out the final

preparations to the square and outfield.

This involves taking down the practice nets,

covering over adjacent pitches with coconut

matting, placing out the stumps, putting

out the infield markers and sorting out the

boundary rope.

18:30

The umpires and captains (Steelbacks’

Andrew Hall and Carnegies’ Jacque

Rudolph) meet out on the pitch, are

introduced to the crowd and carry out the

toss which Yorkshire win, choosing to bat

first.

19:00

The game begins. Yorkshire get off to a

flier, with Herschelle Gibbs (don’t worry,

we’ll mention an Englishman later) scoring

his first T20 century of the summer. The

innings closes on 180-3. The wicket

produces plenty of bounce and pace, with

the ball coming on to the bat nicely.


20:30

Between innings, Paul and his team have

just ten minutes to clean up the square

ready for the Steelbacks innings. This

involves sweeping the wicket, repainting

lines, rolling the wicket with a light hand

roller and resetting the stumps.

20:40

The Steelbacks are chasing a very

competitive score. Openers Chaminda Vaas

and David Sales (there’s our first

Englishman) race to 50 off just 27 balls.

However, wickets fall regularly and, as the

sun sets in stunning fashion, the Steelbacks

require 13 runs off the last ball to win. It

can’t possibly happen ... enter Englishman,

Richard Pyrah, to write himself into the

record books. An above waist height no-ball

from him is smashed for a six by Nicky

Boje (sorry, not English) totalling eight

runs scored. The rebowled ball is then hit

for four, resulting in ‘twelve’ runs off the

last ball, and a tied game. Henceforth are

the visitors to be known as the Yorkshire

Puddings? Incidentally, this was the second

tied game for the Steelbacks in four T20

matches!

22:00

With the game finished, the stumps are

removed as quickly as possible, to deter

souvenir hunters, and the wicket is covered.

It’s all hands on deck for fifteen minutes.

22:20

And then it’s time to go home. It’s another

early start the next day to prepare the same

pitch for a Twenty20 game against Pakistan

which starts at 15.00.

22:30

The floodlights are switched off and the

ground is plunged into almost darkness,

with just a faint red glow in the sky from

that fantastic sunset. It’s time for me to

drive home after a long, yet rewarding and

exhilarating day with a great team of

groundsmen who are a credit to our

industry and the cricket club they serve so

well.

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83


Life can be tough when

budgets are tight, but

even tougher when

premium playing

surfaces are demanded

across the board. Tom

James meets a man who

walks a fine line to

satisfy differing

sporting priorities

Demain man!

“I’M a great believer in the power of

nature to regenerate, and in turf ’s ability

to come back to life.” Head groundsman

Vic Demain voiced these sentiments

whilst gazing out over a baked, brown

expanse at Uxbridge Cricket Club,

currently Middlesex County Cricket

Club’s number one outground.

Vic has witnessed such sights before -

when the playing surface turns ‘white’ -

and he knew that the four days of rain

forecasted following my visit to him in

July would prove the remedy for the

parched playing surface.

Vic’s sanguine approach reflects his

generally more relaxed stance towards

his daily task of managing the sometimes

conflicting demands of, what is, a multisport

venue.

Passion for his job and a quest for

excellence under trying circumstances

had conspired to create an inner tension,

he reveals, but insists he is “far calmer

about things now. I don’t let the job get

to me as much as it once might have

done.”

He then expands on his earlier

reflection. “I never cease to be amazed

by the power of grass to compensate. It’s

84

an amazing species. When times are

tough, it shuts itself down and just ticks

over until conditions improve.”

One reason, perhaps, why grass, in one

form or another, has populated virtually

every square metre possible on the

planet.

Vic is now in his fifth season at

Uxbridge, having joined in 2006. Before

coming into the post, he had enjoyed a

multifaceted career, coming into turfcare

with “passion but little experience”, he

confesses.

“I’d worked as a painter and decorator

for many years but, once the housing

industry slumped, I decided to apply for

jobs in groundsmanship. I had little

hands-on knowledge or experience but

had enthusiasm in droves.”

He was lucky enough to land a

position at Ascott Park in

Buckinghamshire, a job he secured

thanks to the coaching qualifications he

had gained whilst still in the decorating

trade.

Joining there in 1996, he spent eight

seasons on, what is, the country estate of

financier Sir Evelyn de Rothschild. As

joyous as his arrival had been was the

shock and disappointment at the news

that his “over-zealous” estates manager

wanted to move towards a contractorbased

operation.

“They wanted to save money, so felt

that not employing a full-time

groundsman would help them do this - a

move I have always felt was a mistake on

their part,” he explains. Despite efforts

to save the position, the deed was done

and Vic moved on to work for Richard

Bryce (Sports Ground Services) Milton

Keynes for two seasons where he looked

after Campbell Park, a Northants

outground.

Vic moved to the position of Head

Groundsman at Uxbridge Cricket Club

in 2006, and can now claim to be one of

the club’s longest-serving groundsmen.

That fact, in itself, conceals the reality

that a high staff turnover has

characterised the club over the years.

“It’s a challenging club to work at,”

says Vic candidly, “given the scope of

provision here, which includes not only

cricket but also tennis, bowls and rugby.”

A major issue in that legacy has been a

lack of continuity in club chairmen, Vic

contests. “That’s made decision-making


problematic. You might agree a strategy with the

current chairman one year, then they’re gone the next

and the new chairman may well have other priorities,”

he continues.

“The chairman can be drawn from any section of the

club, so their knowledge will be confined largely to one

particular sport,” he adds. “That can make it difficult

to secure the right level of investment across all the

provision.”

Middlesex utilises three outgrounds - Richmond Old

Deer Park, Southgate and Uxbridge. The county’s first

choice, currently, is Vic’s domain, sometimes used

intensively during the season, and to a level dictated

by how many days the county side can play at Lord’s,

which now, more than ever, plays host to a gruelling

calendar of club, test and one-day cricket.

In 2008, Middlesex returned to Uxbridge after

around a twelve year absence, during which they

played most of their games at Southgate. This return

saw Uxbridge host no fewer than twenty-eight days of

cricket in that season. Last year saw twenty-two days of

action. This year, only six days are in the calendar -

two Twenty20 matches (the first, against Hampshire,

was played on the day I visited Vic) and a four-day

game later in the month that, together, constitute the

Uxbridge Festival.

The two cricket squares, one of thirteen strips, the

other ten, come in for a fair old battering - being used

every day of the week for either club or amateur level

“Preparing the finest

surfaces for county play

can be a real challenge,

yet still be a real thrill”

Vic Demain, Head Groundsman, Uxbridge Cricket Club


Vic Demain, parched outfield and Hampshire CCC warming up!

Vic with his ‘invaluable’ good friend Ramesh Patel

Players warm up ahead of the T20 game

between Middlesex and Hampshire

“We are expected to

work 12 to 14-hour

days for little financial

reward, and that’s

something that just

doesn’t appeal to

younger people now”

86

cricket. Vic and his

“invaluable” assistant,

Ramesh Patel, have a tough

job of keeping the square up

to the standards that

cricketers of all levels

increasingly demand.

“Preparing the finest

surfaces for county play can

be a real challenge, yet still

be a real thrill,” says Vic,

“because I’m seeking to

provide bounce, pace, spin,

seam and consistency. We

can only try and do the best

job we can with, what is, a

very limited budget.”

“When I do need

something extra, I have to

go to the committee and, in

most cases, our requests are

turned down.”

Not one to moan about

his plight, Vic is professional

enough to know that he just

has to get on with the job in

hand. “When Middlesex

come here, they take over

the ground. That’s the way

it is. You’ll never be able to

control them, just mop up

afterwards,” he jokes.

Given the daily grind of

matches, Vic’s key priority is

to try and protect the main

square as much as he can

and to maintain standards.

With the rugby pitch, bowls

green and grass tennis

courts to manage to boot,

he knows that he has to

devote the level of care and

attention to the cricket

surfaces that will deliver

results.

“It’s a bit of a change

from my positions at Ascott

Park and Campbell Park, as

I have to tend to these

facilities in the same

timespan as I used to look

after just one cricket pitch -

and here we have around

500 club members to keep

happy as well,” he explains.

For the four-day games,

Vic likes to leave a little

more grass on the pitch and

allow for a tad more bounce,

particularly on the first day.

“It can get a little one- sided

if we’re not careful,” he says.

“For Twenty20 games, my

aim is to produce wickets as

dry and hard as possible -

everyone wants to see the

runs pile on, so we’ll aim for

a wicket that can generate at

least 120 an innings.”

His wish came true in the

Hampshire game although

the result may not have

suited him - Middlesex

ramped up a total of 165,

but were outflanked by their

opponents Hampshire,

losing by three wickets.

“I like the strip ready two

days before the event so we

can keep it as hard as

possible. If rain does come

in the run-up, we have a

large Blotter ready in the

shed and plenty of cover, so

we can be out playing after

only a couple of hours if we

need to.”

Once the Festival, which

attracts crowds of up to

3,000 a day, is over, the first

task is to apply water to the

ground, and especially the

square, by hose or sprinkler,

as Uxbridge are unlikely

ever to see the scale of

outfield irrigation that is

transforming the top

venues.

With only an inch of

topsoil, then gravel below

that, the surface turns a

bright white in hot summers

as the grass shuts down and

lies dormant.

With daily irrigation on

the squares, his wickets

turns into, what Vic calls

poetically, “an oasis of green

in the centre of a white

desert,” scenes reminiscent

of the Oval in the

unprecedentedly dry

summer of 1976, he recalls -

a period many will

remember for the

appointment of Labour MP

and avid cricketer Denis

Howell as Minister for

Drought, and the

Government’s plea to the

nation to ‘Bath with a

friend’ to save water.

With so many fixtures,

and Uxbridge first and

second elevens using the

main square, Vic stresses the

need for caution to balance

the desire for hard surfaces

with simply keeping the

grass alive when so little

rain has fallen.

Irrigation is something

that Vic wishes he had more

control over though. “The

outfield is not in great

shape at the moment - it’s

built to a very ‘old school’

design and, unfortunately,

we don’t have irrigation to

deal with the dry spells. It’ll

be a long time before we see

the benefit of ECB grants to

transform the outfield,” he

adds wistfully.

“It’s something we have to

live with - there’s no point

getting worked up about

things you can’t control, so I

don’t worry about it

anymore.” The angst of a

turfcare professional, clearly

frustrated by a predicament

unlikely to change anytime

soon, is tangible enough to


“In a sector like ours, it

has be a labour of love

to put the hours in and,

for many youngsters, I

don’t feel the passion

is there”

touch.

Vic is a man who likes to go

back to basics, advocating the

benefits of the hands-on

approach. “I’m a big fan of

hand-scarifying, and we also

brush and rake manually each

day,” he explains. “It’s a

practice used widely at

Lord’s, and something that’s

not done enough these days.

The younger groundsmen

prefer to use ride on mowers

instead of getting down on

their hands and knees,” he

says stridently.

Benefitting from one

assistant over the summer, Vic

must knuckle down for the

rest of the year to complete

the necessary tasks himself.

Despite that, he relishes the

challenge and recognises his

need to ensure standards

always remain high - “the

long hours are a part of the

job you just have to accept.”

Still fired with enthusiasm

as he turns fifty, Vic fears for

the prospects of an ‘ageing’

industry. “I have real worries

about the future and the role

of the full-time groundsman

at this level. I don’t see

youngsters coming into the

job in the numbers that they

need to be. We are expected

to work 12 to 14-hour days

for little financial reward, and

that’s something that just

doesn’t appeal to younger

people now,” he states.

Such a trend could cause a

snowball effect, and he fears

that standards will fall if there

are moves to a contractor-led

industry. “In a sector like

ours, it has be a labour of

love to put the hours in and,

for many youngsters, I don’t

feel the passion is there. Not

enough is being done to

really address the issue.”

The future of the

groundsman is a subject close

to Vic’s heart, and one he’s

become increasingly more

active in over the last few

years, believing that

disillusionment over

workload, or their career

futures, can set in all too

easily. “We’re looking over

our shoulders more now than

ever, so we can’t afford to get

complacent. Top men like

Phil Frost at Somerset, Mike

Garnham at Kent and

Lawrence Gosling at Sussex

have lost their jobs

controversially, prompting

the onset of the First Class

Groundsman’s Conference,”

he explains.

February saw the first

meeting convened when,

high on the agenda, were

issues such as how to protect

groundsmen from being

chopped unceremoniously

after long years of service.

Talks of union membership

were rife, Vic reports, with

UNITE, among others, aired

as possibilities, whilst talks

surfaced of involvement with

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87


Bowls green with tennis courts beyond

the Professional Cricketers Association -

the players union - to reflect the reality

that turfcare professionals are now seen

as part and parcel of ‘the team’.

The Uxbridge site sits, like many a

London counterpart, on heavy London

clay. Whilst this material might provide

an optimum substrate for cricket, which

favours a hard base, it has caused untold

problems for one of the club’s other

sports facilities - the rugby pitch.

Leased from Hillingdon Borough

Council two years ago, the pitch has

proved one of Vic’s and the club’s,

biggest headaches. “We’ve managed only

eleven games on it in two years,” he

admits.

The problems started following the

lease agreement, when the council

agreed to install a new drainage system

to help solve the problem of drainage

88

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Equipment is ‘basic’

from the clay-base pitch.

Unfortunately, the design proved to be

“insufficient and totally inadequate for

the needs of the club and the teams that

play there. We’re now locked in an

ongoing battle with the council to

remedy the problem, and a series of poor

winters, coupled with the inadequate

drainage, has resulted in few games

being played and, ultimately, costing us a

lot financially,” Vic explains.

The council have since tried to remedy

the problem with sand banding, he goes

on but, as the job was undertaken “at the

wrong time of year”, it has been

unsuccessful. “The pitch was getting so

bad, we called in Keith Kent, head

groundsman at Twickenham, to give us a

second opinion. His diagnosis was a

pitch that was totally unfit for purpose.”

The upshot is that Uxbridge is forced to

hire other rugby pitches to complete its

fixtures.

Luckily for Vic, not all the site’s pitches

cause as sticky a problem as rugby has. In

contrast, tennis provision has come on

leaps and bounds since Vic took over.

“The grass courts here had always been

treated as somewhat of an afterthought,

so I made it a goal of mine to get them

up to a good standard,” he states. The

club has three grass courts and three

tarmacadam ones, yet fears linger that

the days of lawn tennis at Uxbridge may

end soon as real grass gives way to allweather

surfaces. “I’ve had an ongoing

battle with our tennis coach who’s been

pushing the idea of replacing the grass

with a hard surface,” explains Vic. “The

thinking behind it is mainly due to the

revenue capacity for hard courts over

grass, as all-weather surfaces allow

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“When the £60,000 installation cost and

maintenance overheads are accounted for,

grass works out no more expensive to run, so I

don’t really see the logic in doing it”

greater winter use. Yet, when the £60,000

installation cost and maintenance

overheads are accounted for, grass works

out no more expensive to run, so I don’t

really see the logic in doing it,” he adds.

“The life of a tarmacadam or artificial

grass court is usually around ten years,

depending on use and maintenance,

something which people often overlook

when replacing grass with other surfaces.

In many instances, it might be better to

stay put and make the most of what is

fast becoming a rarity across multi-use

sports sites.”

Preparing the bowls green is another

aspect of his job that has thrown up its

fair share of challenges for Vic. He had

never had experience of tending a

surface renowned for being hugely

labour intensive so, for him, the

challenge has been in balancing how he

allocates his time.

“The sand construction of crown bowls

greens was something I’d never dealt

with before, so it’s been the most

technically challenging side of the job for

me. I’ve been lucky to have contact with

As supplied

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game between bat and ball and is

designed to encourage and improve

player performance at all levels.

Mark Hammond, a man very

experienced in preparing these surfaces,

who I contacted through the Pitchcare

website. Although he is based in

Lincolnshire, I speak with him almost

daily by email and he’s helped me

tremendously. It proves to me the value

of sharing ideas within our industry.”

As a result of their brainstorming

sessions, Vic has greatly reduced the

volume of rolling on the bowls green,

which is showing signs of success. “Since

I’ve become more aware of the crown

green reforms, it’s really changed my

thinking on the value of rolling - we

restrict heavy rolling far more now.”

Whilst mostly working alone, Vic has,

over the years, established valuable

contacts, who have helped him improve

his skills and also balance his busy

summer workload. Stuart Kerrison, Head

Groundsman at Essex CCC in

Chelmsford, who chaired the

groundsmen’s meeting earlier this year,

has been an important sounding board

for Vic.

But, two assistants in particular have

made a huge impact, he notes. The first

is twenty-two year-old New Zealander,

Simon Hardy, who Vic praises

unstintingly as “the most knowledgeable

groundsman I’ve ever come across,”

adding, “his first visit to the UK, in 2008

- he was only here for a year - was an

invaluable source of help and

information to me, and was keen to get

involved in first-class pitches. We keep in

regular contact now and share ideas.”

Over the longer term, Vic’s biggest

influence has been Ramesh Patel, who he

met by chance in 1986 while attending a

cricket training course at Lilleshall

Abbey.

Despite spending a week together, the

two didn’t remember one another until

years later. The 55-year old Patel is now

in his second season at the club and he

and Vic have struck up a great

partnership. “Without those

two, I would not be here

right now,” says Vic.

“They’ve been a tower of

strength in the face of many

problems we’ve faced.”

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89


The last thing I want is

people giving me their

opinions whilst I’m trying

to get on with my job!”

Andy Dixon, Head Groundsman, Dean Park

Andy Dixon has had a

few ‘issues’ to deal with

since taking over as

head groundsman at

Bournemouth

University’s Dean Park

Cricket Ground. As he

tells Peter Britton, sod’s

law brought about a

combination of

unfortunate timing, bad

weather and a

congested fixture list

that led to season long

problems in 2009

The

Dean Park is an iconic ‘little’ cricket

ground that nestles in a leafy suburb of

Bournemouth. Okay, not iconic in the

Lord’s sense, but certainly for followers of

cricket on the south coast. Now part of

Bournemouth University it was, for many

years, a Hampshire County Cricket Club

outground and, for anyone old enough to

remember the last time Hampshire won the

county championship, it was at Dean Park that

the deciding victory was achieved.

That was back in 1973, just one year before

Bournemouth swapped counties in the

Government’s ‘reorganisation of local

government’ becoming Dorset’s largest town

in the process. In 2007, a First Direct Bank

survey found the town to be the ‘Happiest

place in Britain’.

But, all has not been happy in recent years

at the home of Dorset County Cricket Club.

When long serving groundsman, John

Fazackerley, retired in 2008, his replacement

was sought via the Pitchcare website jobs


law of sod?

section. The salary offered - £18,000 at

the time - was roundly and rightly slated

by members as being derogatory and

insulting. Enter Andy Dixon.

Andy left school to take a three year

apprenticeship in aircraft engineering at

British Airways, Heathrow but, after

qualifying, spent just three months in the

job, citing “acute dermatitis and a

loathing for working indoors” as his

reasons for getting out.

He joined Guildford Borough Council

Sports Department as a trainee

groundsman, working on bowling greens,

whilst studying at Merrist Wood College

under David Rhodes. Here he gained his

NVQ Level 2, passing out as top student,

followed by an HNC, which he passed

with distinction. “It was fitted in around

the day job,” he recalls. “I spent eight

hours a week at college and a further

twenty hours a week on homework.”

I interviewed Andy in the splendidly

named W. G. Grace Meeting Room in

Dean Park’s historic pavilion, which dates

back to 1869, during a Minor Counties

Trophy game between Dorset and

Wiltshire. When I arrived, the scoreboard

looked frightening for Dorset, with two

Wiltshire batsmen on centuries, 290 on

the board and still seven overs to go!

So, how did he get into being a cricket

groundsman? “Whilst working for

Guildford Council, I was given the

responsibility of looking after the astro

pitch at King’s College Secondary School

in the city. The adjacent cricket square

was looked after by head groundsman,

John Yates, and I just started to help out

in my spare time.”

So, was he your mentor? “No, that was

David Cooper at Burpham Park. We were

looking after four bowling greens and

three cricket squares, and that’s where I

truly got the bug. In addition, when

Surrey CCC played a first class game at

Guildford, myself, and around seven

other council groundsmen, were

seconded to help out head groundsman,

Bill Clutterbuck. He’s a bit of a legend in

Surrey groundsmen’s circles. I still speak

to him occasionally when I need a bit of

advice - that’s if I’m not on the Pitchcare

message board - and we met up last

Christmas for a pint.”

After thirteen years with the council,

Andy applied for the post at Dean Park -

he was due to start on 1st October but,

due to the small print in his employment

contract, was not able to take up his

position until the first week of November.

“John Fazackerley had, in effect, already

retired, so no renovations were carried

out on the square and, with the dreadful

winter we had, there was simply nothing

I could do.”

The result was, by Andy’s own

admission, some pretty poor wickets in

the summer of 2009 and, as is often the

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The Cooper Dean pavilion

case when a long standing

groundsman retires, the

blame was firmly laid at the

feet of the new boy.

“I simply could not

produce a flat surface. There

were clumps of rye grass,

thick basal sheath and just

two inches of root growth.

Chuck in 104 fixtures in the

2009 season and I simply had

no time to improve things.”

By the middle of the

season, Andy was receiving

flack from all quarters. “I

confess that it was really

affecting me. I spoke to my

boss at the university and

suggested I should hand in

my notice. His response was

great. ‘Tell me what you

intend to do at the end of the

season?’ he asked. So, I

explained to him the

circumstances that had led to

the wickets being so poor and

that I intended to thrash the

square to bits, outlining all

the methods I would use.

‘Then you have no need to

resign’ he said. ‘I’ll stand by

you’.”

Andy got through to the

end of the season, still

fending off criticism, and

began his ‘thrashing’ of the

square. “Officials at the

county club were horrified by

the work I was carrying out.

Dorset v Wiltshire

One even asked me if I knew

what I was doing!”

So concerned were they,

that they called in the

county’s ECB Pitch Advisor,

John Old, Head Groundsman

at Sherborne School (an

occasional venue for Dorset

representative sides), to

‘urgently’ come and take a

look.

“John asked me what I was

doing, why I was doing it and

what I expected to achieve?

After I had explained my

programme of work he just

said ‘well, done, carry on’. I

confess to breathing a sigh of

relief.”

The Dean Park square has

twenty-four tracks. The six

middle ones are kept

exclusively for first class and

minor counties games. There

are four junior and four

practice strips. The

remaining ten tracks are used

for ‘others’. These include

club matches and university

fixtures. This year, there will

be a total of ninety-seven

matches played across the

square, with the final game

scheduled for 19th

September.

The 2010 season started

well for Andy, with the wickets

playing much more

consistently. The strip for a


Clydesdale Bank 40 game

between the Unicorns and

Glamorgan received a ‘very

good’ report from umpires

Tim Robinson and Mark

Benson, and Andy hopes

that, on the back of their first

win in the tournament, the

Unicorns will eventually make

Dean Park their permanent

home.

I asked about preparation

for the Dorset v Wiltshire

match. “Typical really,” said

Andy. “I had a match on the

Saturday which, because

England were playing their

first world cup game, finished

at 6.30pm. That meant that I

could get on to the square a

bit earlier than normal. I did

a final scarify, followed by a

brush, cut and roll, marked

out and put out the 30 and

15 yard circles. I hand

watered the used ends and

put the covers and side sheets

on. Then I moved the

boundary rope and sight

screens, before finally cutting

the outfield. I finished just

after 10.00pm.”

“I was back on the ground

at 7.00am on the day of the

match, with the game due to

start at 10.00am. I tell

everyone that the gates will

be open two hours before the

game. This allows me some

Hand rolling and brushing between innings

time to do my work without

any interruptions. But, still

people moan about not being

allowed in. The last thing I

want is people giving me

their opinions whilst I’m

trying to get on with my job!”

“I’ve got the covers to take

off, the practice nets to put

up on the outfield and the

stumps to put in. Then, I’ve

just got to be plain sociable

with everyone!”

“The rules of the

competition state that final

cut and roll are to be

completed within 30 minutes

of the start so, as you can

imagine, it is pretty full on.

And, just to add to the

workload, the pulley system

on the scoreboard broke, so I

had to fix that as well.”

At the time of my visit,

Andy had no assistance, other

than a couple of cricket fans

to help with hand rolling the

strip on match days. It is a

punishing schedule that,

because of the extensive

fixture list, allows Andy little

or no spare time. “During the

season I will easily work a 100

hour week. When games are

on, I do set my alarm and

grab an hour or so’s sleep -

that’s if some bloke from

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93


early starts and late finishes are the only

way I can get everything done.”

At the start of the season, Andy allows

sixteen days for preparation, but that

reduces to eleven days through the

season due to the fixture schedule. “I’ve

got a Dorset Under 15 Twenty20 final

the day after the Trophy game. I’ll spoil

them and let them play on today’s

wicket,” he says with a smile. “I might get

an extra half hour’s lie in!”

The heavy fixture list means that Andy

can rarely use covers on his square to

assist with his preparation. Coupled with

a fairly regular on shore breeze,

controlling drying is very difficult. The

square is Kaloam to a five inch depth

and is susceptible to cracking when it

dries out too quickly.

But, it was the outfield that thwarted

Hampshire CCC’s attempt to return to

the ground they last played on twelve

years ago. A warm-up ‘friendly’ Twenty20

game against Dorset, prior to the start of

the Friends Provident T20, had to be

called off due to a waterlogged outfield.

“It’s another area I have got to address,”

says Andy. “I carry out regular slitting,

but that is not enough. It really needs a

good deep aeration programme but, with

John Fazackerley with Andy Top marks for the wicket

“Regardless of the hours I put in, there’s

nothing better than producing a wicket that

everyone praises. It makes it all worthwhile”

Pitchcare Comment

As a follower of Dorset cricket, and a known

employee of Pitchcare, I began to hear the

rumblings about Dean Park in the summer of

last year. It was almost as if those doing the

complaining wanted (or needed) me to endorse

their views, so as to give them more kudos.

When things go wrong, it is easy to look for a

scapegoat - Wembley has been a recent prime

example - and often, the person targeted is not

the correct choice! And I believe that is what

has happened at Dean Park.

Here are some of the rumblings I heard -

The bloke is unshaven - correct, he has a beard!

He is covered in tattoos - sorry, didn’t see any

tattoos. Perhaps the ‘rumblers’ have seen

something in the showers that I could not!

He is scruffy - He is a groundsman doing a dirty

and sweaty job. On the day of my visit he was

an annual budget of just £3,000, that

simply isn’t viable. And, anyway, I’ve

already allocated £2,000 of that to end of

season renovations!”

Andy is contracted to work a thirtyseven

hour week on the original wage as

advertised. He does get a one bedroom

flat thrown in but, I ask, why the hell do

it? “I love this job,” he says. “Regardless

of the hours I put in, there’s nothing

better than producing a wicket that

everyone praises. It makes it all

worthwhile. The flack I got last year,

whilst not justified for being targeted at

me, was a further incentive to put things

right.”

During the winter months Andy takes a

much needed holiday. His work time is

centred around doing the non-essential

jobs, like repainting the many benches

and generally keeping the place looking

tidy. And, of course, he will get his

fixture list - probably close to 100 - so

that he can plan the use of the tracks

over the course of the season.

As Dorset struggled to 98-5, I decided

that I could not watch my adopted

county get a bigger thrashing than Andy

gave his square, and made to leave. As I

walked back to my car, I bumped in to

wearing a Bournemouth University staff polo

shirt and black trousers and looked respectable

enough - for a groundsman.

All the machinery is left out around the ground -

partly true, the machinery was parked all

together, under trees close to the equipment

shed. The shed was full of other equipment and

materials.

The whole ground looks a mess - not on the day

of my unannounced visit - it looked a picture.

Now, those comments are all rather personal

and suggest that the person is not fit for the

job, regardless of his qualifications.

By turning up unannounced, I felt I would get a

clearer understanding of the situation. I had not

been to Dean Park for about five years and my

first impression was that I had not seen it

looking better - ever. I sought out Andy Dixon,

who was delighted to see me - a rarity in itself -

and found him to be personable and friendly,

and particularly open and honest about the

John Fazackerley, who had come down to

the ground to watch the game. In typical

forthright Lancastrian fashion, he gave

me his views on Dorset cricket,

groundsmanship and retirement, the

latter of which he seems to be enjoying.

It was good to see him looking so well.

Later that evening I went online to

find out just how heavy was Dorset’s

defeat. Imagine my surprise to find that

they had lost by just 22 runs.

Both teams had heaped praise on

Andy’s wicket: “That was the best wicket I

have ever played on,” said Wiltshire

captain, Michael Coles. Nick Park,

Captain of Dorset, walked out to the

square, whilst Andy was doing his

repairs, to say “thanks for an amazing

wicket!”

Barry Lewis, Dorset committee

member, said “that’s the best wicket I

have seen here for years,” whilst Dorset

batsman, Darren Cowley, son of former

Hampshire player and now first class

umpire, Nigel, said, “what do I think

about the wicket? It made 670 runs in

100 overs. Good, hard and fast, and

that’s what you want for one-day cricket.”

Whilst talking to the Dorset coach,

Alan Willows, Andy was explaining how

situation at the ground.

There clearly were some big issues with the

quality of the wickets throughout 2009, but

perish the thought that that may have been the

fault of the outgoing groundsman. He had, after

all, produced good wickets throughout his time

at Dean Park.

Well, actually, no, not if the rumblers have any

memory, for those same people used to

complain about the Dean Park wickets being

dead, slow, low, inconsistent ... well, you get the

picture.

No end of season renovations were undertaken

in 2008 because, as stated in the article, the

exact five week period when they should have

been carried out, the ground had no

groundsman. Could John Fazackerley have

stayed on? Should the university have called

someone in to do them? Quite possibly, yes to

both questions but, they didn’t.

And then, to make matters worse, the snow and


“I’ll just continue to do

the best job I can. If the

worse comes to the

worst, I’ll get a job in a

supermarket stacking

shelves!”

the square will get even better

once the advantageous rooting

system has established itself.

“What do you mean it will get

better? You can’t get any better

than that,” he replied. “Just

watch me,” says Andy.

Next stop for Andy is an

HND in Sports Turf

Management. Where will he

find the time, or will he be

doing it online? “I’m not sure

on both counts,” he says. “I’d

rather attend college, as I think

interaction with fellow students

is 50% of the learning. I’ll

probably have to go back to

Merrist Wood, although

Cranfield is an option.”

With the umpires reporting

good, even bounce, good, even

grass cover, fast pace, with

medium spin and no

inconsistencies, Andy looks to

freezing temperatures arrived in early

2009. So, Andy Dixon was on a hiding to

nothing! And a hiding he got, with

vitriolic comments the order of the day.

Fast forward to 2010, after an intensive

end of season renovation in 2009, and

the wickets are performing well. The

comments from umpires and players

must be music to Andy’s ears. But still

the rumblings go on. What appears to be

important to them is that they have a

scapegoat. And what will that achieve?

For seven months of the year, Andy

works around sixty hours a week over his

contracted thirty-seven. Of course, the

rumblers don’t see all that huge effort,

don’t understand that, as well as their

little game, there are ninety-six others to

contend with. And all that on just

£18,000 a year.

Peter Britton

Andy on his trusty Auto-roller

have come through a difficult

time. Whilst there are a few

‘grumpy old men’ who still hark

back to last season’s problems,

Andy wants to be judged on

what he is achieving now. As he

says “the grass is always greener

on my side.”

As we were going to press, we

learned that the university had

provided Andy with an assistant

“at his beck and call” and, also,

that the sports department were

supplying work experience

students to help out.

Sometimes, seeing things in

black and white (the original

text was a tad more ‘aggressive’)

highlights issues that go unseen

by the powers that be.

I am delighted for

Andy that his

concerns are being

addressed.

What’s in the shed?

Allett Tournament 20”

Allett Regal 36”

Kubota

B1550

tractor

Auto-roller

3 tonne

Hand roller

of unknown make

SISIS Autorake

SISIS Slitter

BMS Lute

BMS Ferret

Various hand tools, blood,

sweat and tears!

TWENTY

Questions

Andy Dixon -

Tomorrow’s

World would

include

Phillipa

Forrester, a

private jet

and a Lloyds

Paladin!

Who are you?

Andy Dixon, Head

Groundsman, Dean

Park.

Family status? Single.

Who’s your hero and

why? My best friend,

Alan. For having a hell

of a rough upbringing

but now being a very

successful father and

businessman. But, most of

all, for never giving up.

What is your dream

holiday? A week on an

international pub crawl with

Alan, in a private jet!

What annoys you the

most? Not being able to

afford my dream holiday!

What would you change

about yourself? I would like

to live a healthier lifestyle.

Who wouldn’t you like to

be? Elvis, mainly, as he is

dead.

Favourite record, and

why? Usually whichever one

I am working on at the time.

Who would you choose to

spend a romantic evening

with? Phillipa Forrester! I

have strange tastes.

If you won the lottery,

what is the first thing you

would do? Buy a huge

camper van with all modcons

and travel across

Europe while deciding where

to go next!

If you were to describe

yourself as a musical

instrument, what would

you be and why? Electric

Guitar, as I can change my

mood to suit the

circumstances.

What’s the best advice

you have ever been given?

If you’re not happy with your

life, change it. Don’t keep

trying when you know it’s

time to move on.

What’s your favourite

smell? Basil - the herb, not

the Torquay hotel owner!

What do you do in your

spare time? Enjoy the

Christmas festivities.

What’s the daftest work

related question you have

ever been asked? “Why

don’t you just cut a new one

out, soak it and roll it - it will

be fine tomorrow?” would be

one of them, but I have

many.

What’s your favourite

piece of kit? I love the

Lloyds Paladin but,

unfortunately, I don’t have

one at the moment.

What three words would

you use to describe

yourself? Kind, honest,

diligent.

What talent would you like

to have? The ability to

fertilise in one direction

without banding. I have seen

other people do it, so why

can’t I?

What makes you angry?

People not admitting to their

own mistakes and trying to

‘pass the buck’. Other people

that listen to them.

What law/legislation

would you like to see

introduced? More control

over the use of home

pesticides and herbicides. It

makes me cringe sometimes

when I see what home

gardeners have done with

chemicals, yet professionals

are subject to ever stricter

rules.


Much ado

about

Wenlock...

®

If something’s worth doing

then do it yourself. That is

Tim Pinches’ motto and, true

to his word, he has put this into

practice by transforming the

fortunes of his local cricket club

whilst, at the same time

achieving a life changing

experience of becoming the

Mayor of his town, Much

Wenlock in Shropshire.

When the retired farmer found

his beloved cricket club in dire

straits, through lack of facilities

and poor ground maintenance,

and hardly any support from the

town coucil, Shropshire Council

and Bridgnorth District Council

he, along with six others,

decided to stand for election to

improve the way the town was

being run. This new group of

people were all elected, and vast

improvements are now evident in

the town and, needless to say, the

cricket club now has more

support. After just a couple of

years in office, Tim found

himself serving as Mayor in

2009-2010.

All this in the town where the

modern Olympic Games, as we

know them, started. The town,

with a population of just over

2,600, is soon to become known

worldwide with the recent

When Wenlock and

Mandeville were

unveiled as the 2012

Olympic mascots, the

little Shropshire town of

Much Wenlock was

thrust into the limelight.

For it was here that the

modern Olympic Games

were born. And it was

also here that a council

coup took place to save

the town’s cricket club!

Laurence Gale MSc reports

introduction of the London 2012

Olympics’ mascots, one of which

is called ‘Wenlock’.

Strongly supported by former

Olympic gold medal triple

jumper, Jonathan Edwards, and

former 5,000 metres world

record holder and now head of

British Athletics, David

Moorcroft, the town also believes

it will play host to the Olympic

torch - an incredible honour for

this most modest little town.

It has also been suggested that

Tim, because of his knowledge

and love of sport, should be

Mayor again during Olympic

year.

Much Wenlock abbey predates

William the Conqueror, and the

town itself has buildings dating

back to 1540. But the story of the

modern Olympics began here. A

local doctor, William Penny

Brookes, started an annual

athletics meeting. This became

so popular it reached the ears of

Baron de Coubertain, who

visited the doctor to see the

games and took the idea away

with him. The rest of the story,

as they say, is history.

To this day, the priceless

documents relating to what was

the inspiration and founding of

today’s Olympic games are still

in the possession of the town.

Now the council are trying to

raise the money to create an

Olympic museum in Much

Wenlock.

Much Wenlock Cricket Club

has been at the heart of the

community since 1870 and, for

well over one hundred years, has

played on the town’s Gaskell

Field, next door to where the

Wenlock Olympic Games were

first held in 1850, the same year

the first cricket match was

played in the town. But, despite

its sporting inheritance, the

village cricket club had declined

in recent times.

Tim, who had retired from

farming after a heart attack and a

coronary by-pass put an end to

his working life, took the

opportunity to help revive the

club’s fortunes.

With just twelve playing

members and a ground that had

long been neglected, he sought

the assistance of friends,

including the club’s current vicechairman,

Mike Grace. Between

them they wrestled control from

the county council, first, by

taking over the maintenance of

the square and, subsequently, the

outfield.

“I never put in less than a


Getting cricket club members on to the

Town Council has paid off handsomely,

both on and off the field of play


Tim Pinches and Keith Banks

with their new Allett C24

98

couple of hours a day,” says

hardworking Tim, for whom

it is plainly a labour of love.

Together with another Much

Wenlock CC enthusiast, Keith

Banks, they became the club’s

groundsmen.

The club put together a five

year plan and approached the

English Cricket Board (ECB)

and other funding agencies

for help. Having played

football for Wellington Town,

and been good enough to

have had a trial for Wolves,

Tim had plenty of friends in

the sporting world he could

call on for advice. Their early

aims were to:

• build a new sports pavilion

• improve the wickets and

invest in new machinery

• achieve Club Mark

accreditation

• establish a youth section

and extend coaching into

local schools

• increase the number of

teams

Now, five years later, the

world of Much Wenlock

cricket has changed

immeasurably. The club has:

• permission for a new twotier

pavilion

• got a long term agreement

with the local council, as

owners of the field, that the

club are its principle

user/occupier

• taken on full responsibility

of all grounds maintenance

issues

• completed a playing surface

review with Shropshire

County Cricket Board

resulting in a good report

• achieved sponsorship for

two new site screens costing

£1,500; three raised covers

costing £8,000 and secured

an award from the ECB of

£3,500 to buy a new

dedicated cricket mower

• achieved Club Mark status

and now employ an

overseas player/coach

The club now runs three

cricket teams. Their coaching

extends all over the area, with

ECB accredited members

coaching at six local primary

feeder schools and the

adjacent secondary school.

They have attracted one

hundred and twenty new

youth players to join the club.

Sunday morning sees a twohour

coaching session in their

nets, and there are plans to

start a girls team. The club

also hosts an annual Kwik


Cricket Tournament which is

held as part of the town’s

‘Olympian Games’, with over

eighty local children

participating.

The club is going from

strength to strength under

the new management

structure, with plenty of

volunteer members pitching

in to help with coaching and

running the club.

Tim and Keith have formed

a formidable grounds team,

who spend over thirty hours a

week preparing and repairing

the playing surfaces.

Having to cater for three

teams and a large junior

section, plus other bespoke

games, involves a lot of work

for both of them.

The outfield is cut two or

three times a week using a

Hayter LT324 triple mower,

which has been kindly loaned

to them by The Edge

Adventure Centre. They also

have an old Atco ride on

rotary mower as back up. The

square is cut and prepared

using their brand new Allett

C24 pedestrian cylinder

mower.

“We have a ‘very fast’

outfield,” Tim chuckled, “and

some very fine batsmen.” He

rejoiced in telling me of a

recent game when, having

scored over 400, they skittled

their opponents out for just

over 50. “It could be the

biggest winning margin ever

recorded in these parts.”

The square, at present, only

provides eight strips. Tim is

looking to increase the size of

the square by adding a couple

of new junior tracks, as soon

as possible, to accommodate

the ever increasing youth

teams.

The club has been using

Kaloam (31% clay content)

for a number of seasons and

are pleased with its

performance. Tim and Keith

like to spend at least ten days

prepping new wickets to

ensure they perform well and,

once it comes into play, they

try and keep it going for at

least four matches.

The club also works very

closely with the adjacent

William Brooke School,

accommodating many of

their matches on the square

and artificial strip during the

summer months. They also

welcome a number of touring

sides. Whilst I was there, Tim

and Keith where busy

preparing a wicket for an

evening match against a

strong touring party of twenty

Tim and Keith with the Delhi

Students touring team

New raised covers have been purchased

99


Tim with Town Clerk, Sharon Clayton, and a presentation from the

British Olympic Committee. The handwritten inscription reads:

“To the people of Much Wenlock. We hope you are as proud of

Wenlock as we are. It was very important to us that our mascots

are anchored in Olympic and Paralympic heritage. Thank you for

letting us share your story, and we hope that you will follow

Wenlock and Mandeville’s journey to 2012.” Sebastian Coe

Tim Pinches in the Mayor’s office

Who are you? Tim Pinches, one of two

groundsmen at Much Wenlock Cricket Club.

Family status? Married to Kim, with one

daughter, Hannah, and two grandchildren,

William (3) and Felicity (9 months).

Who’s your hero and why? Nelson

Mandela, one of the greatest men on earth,

who never gave up on his principles.

What is your dream holiday? No particular

place, but I would like to travel the world to

experience all the different cultures.

What annoys you the most? Arrogant,

pompous people who always think they know

it all!

What would you change about yourself?

I’m young in mind, but the body is getting

worn out - ask the wife!

Who wouldn’t you like to be? Anyone who

is responsible for war, where innocent people

are slaughtered, especially women and

children.

Favourite record, and why? My Way,

because it typifies me, although I’m always

keen to learn.

Who would you choose to spend a

romantic evening with? Tina Turner,

five students from Delhi.

These games are great for

promoting the club and give

their players the opportunity

to improve their skills against

good opposition.

Raised covers have recently

been purchased, and are used

to control the moisture in the

wickets during preparation. An

increased cutting regime on

the outfield has improved

smoothness and levels.

However, there is still a large

plantain problem that Tim

wants to address with some

deep aeration and spraying off

with a selective weed killer.

The club undertakes end of

season renovations themselves,

cleaning off the square,

scarifying in several directions

and topdressing with new loam

and seed. Tim applies between

five and eight bags of Banbury

K loam to each pitch and

overseeds with a perennial rye

grass mixture.

In April 2009, the club

members took part in a very

successful Cricket Force

weekend, installing new shower

facilities and undertaking a

complete makeover of the

existing clubhouse to ensure it

complied with Shropshire

County regulations. They are

hoping that it will just be a

short-term fix until they get

their brand new

clubhouse, which is

scheduled to be

TWENTYQuestions

Tim Pinches - has a soft spot for Tina Turner, Rod

Stewart’s violinist and, of course, the wife!

particularly in her earlier years. And, of

course, the wife, just in case she reads this

magazine!

If you won the lottery, what is the first

thing you would do? Look after my family,

closely followed by providing the cricket club

with the best machinery and facilities that I

could buy.

If you were to describe yourself as a

musical instrument, what would you be

and why? A violin - I’ve got a soft spot for

the lady violinist in Rod Stewart’s backing

band!

What’s the best advice you have ever

been given? Always do the best you can,

and don’t expect others to do what you can’t,

or won’t!

What’s your favourite smell? Bacon, as

part of a full English breakfast.

What do you do in your spare time?

Being a town councillor, groundsman, child

welfare officer and general dog’s body at the

cricket club, what spare time?

What’s the daftest work related question

you have ever been asked? “Why do you

cut the grass so short when you’ve

encouraged it to grow, and then roll it?”

completed in 2012.

The planned clubhouse will

take the club to a new level,

providing excellent facilities

for both off and on field

activities.

Tim is hoping the local

football club, who play on the

outfield, will buy into this new

facility, along with the local

community using it for

weddings, corporate hospitality

and many other functions.

The benefits, in terms of

sports provision, are enormous

for the town. Replacing the old

clubhouse will also

complement the brand new

William Brook School building.

Tim has thoroughly enjoyed

his dual roles of being an

ambassador for the town and

helping to mastermind the

improvements to Much

Wenlock cricket club and

ground.

A final extraordinary fact in

this extraordinary town is that

Mike Grace, the crickets club's

current vice-chairman, has now

taken over from Tim as the

Mayor of Much Wenlock. It

would appear that the idea of

getting cricket club members

on to the Town

Council has paid off

handsomely, both for

the club and for the

town.

What’s your favourite piece of kit?

Anything that makes outfield and square

work easy!

What three words would you use to

describe yourself? Passionate, very

competitive, humanitarian.

What talent would you like to have? To be

a politician of the people.

What makes you angry? Players

complaining about the wicket, usually after

they’ve had a poor game, yet they aren’t

prepared to help!

What law/legislation would you like to

see introduced? A relaxation in Health &

Safety legislation. Whatever happened to

common sense?


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Cricket end of season