The Groundsman

September 2014

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first-class rugby pitch is the last thing you expect to find in the Lake District. Plenty of sheep and fell walkers, yes, but a pitch that is hailed as "the best rugby pitch in Cumbria"? As you meander through the Cumbrian hills, past Windermere and Keswick, and arrive in the north of the county, Aspatria RUFC sits as a shining beacon of what can be achieved with a playing surface that 10 years ago was less than perfect, to say the least. With Skiddaw – 3,054 feet above sea level – as a backdrop, the club's Bower Park ground has three pitches, two of which are training pitches, and all are based on a boulder clay subsoil with a 150-250mm rootzone that is described as clay loam (according to a soil profile in 2002 A Enthusiasm plus grant aid – a mix for success The Cumbrian fells is not the most likely location for a first-class rugby ground, but thanks to the efforts of people like IOG Award winner John Heyworth, Aspatria RUFC has "the best rugby pitch in the county" By: Colin Hoskins by STRI). The slow-draining 1st XV pitch, which most years suffered from a muddy, slippery surface between November and March, has been considerably improved without the need to install new drains. This is thanks to a regular maintenance programme that includes Blec Sandmaster sand slitting and vertidraining three/four times a year (the tine depths are up to 14inches) combined with an average annual 'top up' of 50 tonnes of sand – "though I'd like to put 100 tonnes on it every year", says the club's volunteer groundsman John Heyworth. However, he admits, the pitch will require levelling and new drainage in the future. The training area/2nd XV and junior pitches – which due to their condition used to be known as The Swamp – got so bad that in 2003 the players refused to use them, mainly owing to the smell coming off them which was created by anaerobic bacteria. "The problem was initially solved by an intense maintenance programme to improve drainage and subsequently by installing new drains funded mainly by the Rugby Football Foundation (Turfdry installed the Hydraway system). This was complemented by a programme of continual improvement based on scientific analysis and a team of willing volunteers," says John. "And the result is that the ground is now constantly in demand for rugby league matches that were previously held elsewhere." IOG BEST PRACTICE 26 the Groundsman September 2014 Visit www.iog.org for more information and digital editions

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