The Groundsman

February 2013

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AHEAD OF THE GAME 31 the Groundsman February 2013 Career development Dave, 32, joined the private school for girls seven years ago. He started his groundscare career after leaving Pangbourne College with short terms at a golf club and a school before a twoyear spell self-employed in garden maintenance. "Working for myself wasn't as great as it sounds; it was quite tough, so the challenges presented to me here when I joined weren't too onerous," he says. "While it is a heavy workload for a threeman team, plus one or two temporary/part-time staff who are taken on during the summer, admittedly the sports surface usage is not what you would call 'heavy' – there's perhaps 10 hockey matches a year and a handful of football games, plus four athletics meetings and an annual 5K fun run. Best in class "Of course, we have to ensure that everything is in order for every event," he says. The school won Gold and was Category Winner for the Best Commercial Display of Landscaping in 2012 in Rushmoor Borough Council's Rushmoor in Bloom competition. We've also gradually improved the playing surfaces (where instigation of the IOG's Performance Quality Standards have helped) so the demand for usage has increased along with the level of thanks from school staff – which is gratifying. The increase in demand for hockey is no doubt spurred by the success of the Olympic 2012 bronze medal-winning Great Britain women's hockey team, of which team member Alex Danson is a former Farnborough Hill pupil. Keeping within budget "For this scale of operation we try to be proactive rather than reactive in everything we do, to prevent problems 2012 Grounds Review Dave Bell's comprehensive Grounds Review for last year embraced summaries of the groundscare team's wide-ranging activities, including gardens and plants, amenity grassland, pitches and formal lawns, fencing, tree work, equipment, maintenance, health and safety, finance and staff training and development. It also showed a breakdown of how the grounds team's budget was allocated: Hire 1% Insurance/ New kit 1% Aggregates 3% Contingencies 4% Building 6% Delivery 1% Fencing 4% 10 Yr Payments 10% Fuel 8% Trees 5% Training 1% Gardens 9% Tools 5% Chemicals 3% Spares 9% Pitches 14% Servicing 12% PPE 3% from occurring and that includes maintaining our older kit," he says. "For example, we have an ageing five-gang Ransomes mower which we maintain ourselves. Because of its age, its maintenance is a concern but the argument for buying a new replacement would be hard to win because of the equipment's relatively low usage. So, we do our utmost to keep it running and cutting well." Dave says the 50 HP John Deere 3520 tractor is used heavily and very versatile. "We hitch it up to everything; to the Ryetec equipment (used for cutting, scarifying and collecting), the five-gang mower, the Tornado blower and various spreaders. We also have two ride-on mowers - a John Deere X300 and a Saxon – plus an indispensable Toro Workman utility vehicle and a host of hand tools, which are mainly Stihl." It is this equipment portfolio that helps Dave and the team keep things in order, coupled with their own high levels of expertise plus the skill and advice of suppliers such as Symbio (for organics – see page 33) and Rigby Taylor for seed. "For example, on Rigby Taylor's advice we no longer topdress the sports fields – the low usage doesn't demand it – but instead have a policy of scarifying regularly," he says, adding that the team has also replaced seed spreading with seed slitting and achieves much better germination results. t While Dave has completed IOG short courses including Winter Pitch Maintenance. He is also currently undergoing accreditation to IOG Level 3 in Sports and Amenity Turf Maintenance. "I'm completing this via the IOG's online iCampus virtual learning environment, but must say that because there are so many demands on my time I so far haven't given it the attention it deserves." Visit for more information and digital editions

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