The Groundsman

September 2014

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The club has a willing team of volunteers – including local farmers who came to the rescue last year with five large tractors, portable pumps and slurry tankers, to take away up to 200mm of flood water from the first team pitch in three hours of intense activity. This allowed the game to go ahead and the club received a big thank you from Bill Beaumont, RFU chairman. There is also an enthusiastic committee led by John, who is also the club's chairman, to ensure the success of the club's continual improvement programme. "This has been underpinned in recent years by a successful series of grant applications with organisations like the Rugby Football Foundation and Sport England," John says, "plus overwhelming sponsorship support from local companies which our honorary treasurer Barney Clegg organises." Make a difference John took on the responsibility of pitch maintenance at the five-hectare site as a 'hobby' when he retired in 2000. He joined the club committee in the early '90s - under the condition that the club would fund his training to "help resolve all the grumbles about the state of the pitches. These were maintained by a mix of volunteers and contractors who seemed to come in and do their work on ad hoc basis rather than at times to suit our playing schedules". He continues: "In addition, of course, players' expectations of the surface are so much higher nowadays compared to when I was playing, and I wanted to make a difference. I do emphasise, however, that the pitches were constructed in the early 1970s from farmland and club volunteers have maintained them since then." He attended IOG courses in winter sports pitch maintenance up to Level 4 (within 18 months) as well as LDCA drainage seminars. He also holds a P2A2 certificate for pesticide spraying and is, he says, an avid reader of relevant technical literature. Indeed, he now passes on any knowledge he can to other club volunteers, especially retired electrical engineer Barry Brown who John describes as his 'batman'. John has also nurtured industry links with people such as Twickenham's Keith Kent, and he is chairman of the Cumbria RFU Management Committee and chairman of the Cumbria RFU Facilities Committee. Since December 2013, he can also add IOG Volunteer Sports Groundsman of the Year to his accreditations, following his industrious efforts at the club. John, who holds BSc and AMUMIST degrees from Manchester University, says his career in the paperboard industry (latterly as a company director of a large enterprise) played a key role in helping him understand the ground's drainage issues. His experience, albeit in a different application, he says gave him a scientific base on which to make relevant judgements about the pitch. Also within the club's ranks are retired electrical and mechanical engineers, welders, a banker, a training manager, project management and safety experts and an accountant - a skill set that regularly pays dividends in the running of the club. Best in Cumbria With an ongoing programme of improvement, Bower Park is now classed by John as the best rugby pitch in Cumbria – "and that includes the county's professional rugby league pitches", he adds, pointing out: "We have also hosted amateur association football training and matches as well as amateur rugby league games and social cricket." Indeed, the rise in usage levels is clear: in 2012, 2,000 visits (number of players at the ground); 2,150 in 2013 and 2,300 targeted this year. The club's 1st XV (the Black Reds – currently in the RFU North Lancashire/Cumbria League) normally play 14 home matches and at least two cup matches a year; the second team has nine home games and at least one cup match. Senior players train twice a week from July to April inclusive; soccer players train twice a week, and soccer cup finals are hosted. The Aspatria Hornets rugby league club trains there twice a week and plays six games there. Bower Park has also hosted two rugby league cup finals and a seniors tournament. The rugby union club's juniors (up to 30 schoolchildren) play and train on Sundays, and schools tournaments occasionally take place. In days gone by, grass coverage on the main pitch would normally have been just 10 per cent John Heyworth (right) with his 'batman', Barry Brown t IOG BEST PRACTICE 27 the Groundsman September 2014 Visit www.iog.org for more information and digital editions

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