The Groundsman

March 2013

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Page 32 of 51

GET INTO GROUNDS 33 the Groundsman March 2013 "Keith's visit was inspirational," reflects Gerald. "He took a spade to the ground to investigate the drainage, which was OK, and he advised us to give the pitches plenty of fertiliser to eliminate the Red Thread and to regularly harrow them and cut at twoand-a-half inches. "He assured us that this would be sufficient to maintain quality playing surfaces, coupled with the annual endof-season renovations and frequent (three times a year) aeration by a professional contractor. Judges of Ashford do this for us and this year, for example, they will be putting more than 400 tonnes of sand across three pitches plus a topsoil 70:30 mix then re-seed with a rye grass mix. And Keith was right." The money for the contractor's work comes from club fees and fundraising, "and this year we are grateful to the RFU for help with an £18,000 project to level one of the pitches, which will be the second pitch we've had levelled", adds Mel. This is understandably a major task; a bulldozer will work in conjunction with GPS mapping and laser levelling, taking off the topsoil, levelling then topping off with topsoil-sand mix. Future success Complemented by a generous amount of time spent at the ground, nothing seems to faze the enthusiastic can-do attitude adopted by Gerald and Mel – except for dog walkers and the footballers who, "despite constant reminders, always walk across the rugby first team pitch, rather than around it, to reach their pitches". And the fruits of their labours are clear to see: the ground now accommodates the busy training and home game schedule for the club's squads (five senior teams – the 1st XV play in the ultra-competitive London South East 2 League – plus teams for veterans, ladies, youths – under 13s to under 17s – girls, from 10 years of age and the Minis of under 6-under 12s), plus the local Medway University team, as well as County and cup games – last year it hosted the Kent Cup Final. With such quality pitches, it is no surprise that the squads are enjoying unprecedented success and, surely, is only a matter of time before Medway RFC produces another player to follow in the footsteps of Rachael Burford, daughter of the club's former secretary/treasurer Michael, who is a 42 times-capped member of the current England Women squad. l " This year we are grateful to the RFU for help with an £18,000 project to level one of the pitches " Gerald and Mel then went from strength to strength as groundsmen, learning more every day as they went along and, importantly, buying a John Deere X320 tractor with 48-inch cutting deck to supersede the hover mower (which is now 11 years old but still in use around the ground for odd jobs). The John Deere cutting deck now enables the pitches to be cut in under two hours. Professional advice Also, as a result of a visit by Twickenham's Keith Kent under the auspices of the Rugby Football Union (RFU) facilities team, the club also invested in a fertiliser spreader and a harrow. Gerald (left) and Mel with their trusty Flymo and John Deere tractor Eddie Seaward at the AELTC Visit for more information and digital editions

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