The Groundsman

May 2014

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"There's no doubt that such ongoing education is a great person-motivator. It's good for an individual's progression and it continually spurs us to question what we do." He continues: "Player safety is our priority in producing a variety of playing surfaces for professional sportsmen, sports associations and schoolchildren, ensuring that the pitches are as perfect as we can get them. We do our utmost to ensure that everyone comes in fit and healthy after every training session or match." Popular facilities When opened in 2002, the school's new sports complex at The Woollam Playing Fields, was the largest school playing field development in the UK with 21 natural sand-ameliorated pitches (ryegrass and smooth stalk meadowgrass). Traditional users of Rigby Taylor and DLF Johnsons' seeds, the team is this year implementing Barenbrug's new BAR 7 on most of the winter pitches, following successful trials. This new RPR (Regenerating Perennial Ryegrass), which produces determinate stolons, promises fast establishment and good wear tolerance and recovery. The site – which also has 91 cricket strips; eight grass squares, two grass practice areas and two artificial pitches for hockey and tennis - was constructed on an area that effectively was 40 per cent stone. This was screeded and the resulting 'waste' was used as a stone carpet 'foundation' for the pitches that have drainage at 4m centres. The result is that the pitches drain well - which can sometimes be a problem because there is no automatic irrigation; there is one water point to each cricket square and the rugby pitches are watered via snap-on hoses, which makes the process very labour-intensive and inefficient. All areas are used heavily – some pitches are in action seven days a week, 11 months of the year. The Saracens' training pitches might only be closed for three weeks each year [yes, they prefer to train on natural pitches, though heavy impact (on the soil) routines like line-outs are practiced on synthetic]. So, end-of-season renovations are primarily based on the addition sand, perhaps 80 tonnes per pitch, though Steve says, "we'd love to be able to Koro off but we simply don't have the timeframe". A liberal amount of Terraspiking gets the sand into the soil (and a new addition this year is a Terrarake) then seeding and vertidraining, which works well. This is complemented by regular STRI soil sampling, followed by fertilisation to suit, plus what Steve describes as "motivational input" from Chris Wood, ECB pitches consultant, who has a satellite office at Woollam. Proactive team tactics Always with an eye on budgets, the idea is to constantly work smarter; hence the recent investment in new kit via Ernest Doe (mowers, tractors and utility vehicles) to replace and enhance the team's existing machinery. "Use of modern kit allows more to be done in the same time," adds Gary Douglas, "for example, we're replacing a three-unit fairway mower with a five-way unit; also, newer machinery is more economic on fuel and running costs/maintenance." Ian adds: "In addition, there is nothing better than seeing how other groundsmen operate, and we encourage visits to other sites; during the wet weather earlier this year, after a call to Tottenham Hotspur's Darren Baldwin, we went to view Spurs' training ground and to talk to Darren and his team about the site." Such events are great for motivating the team according to Steve: "We don't want to stagnate, and viewing other sports surfaces and talking to the guys responsible all adds to the interest and the motivation." Importantly, everyone in the team has a voice that is heard; daily meetings include breaks that are taken as a team which allows them to communicate at all levels. The communication policy even applied to the recent machinery investment, when all team members The oldest school in the world? St Albans School Woollam Trust is a registered charity whose aim is to "provide and maintain playing fields and other recreational facilities for the pupils of St Albans School…as well as to encourage participation in sporting events at all levels". St Albans School is an independent academic day school that was founded in 948, making it one of the oldest schools in the world. The school is sited in the historic centre of St Albans, opposite the Cathedral and Abbey Church of St Alban, with which it has had a long association. IOG BEST PRACTICE 33 the Groundsman May 2014 Visit www.iog.org for more information and digital editions The site has 91 cricket strips visited SALTEX to look at potential products and those selected were then brought in for demonstration. "Everyone was involved in testing the new machines and deciding which models they would like," says Ian. In addition, there are regular meetings with facility users and the weekly management meetings also facilitate regular communication with the trustees of the site (see panel item). "Also, a fortnightly in-depth programme of events is distributed to all users; this proactiveness dictates our workload and reduces wasted effort, thus saving time and money and effectively boosting staff morale." l

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