The Groundsman

June 2012

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20 FEATURE the Groundsman June 2012 Taking pitch quality to the bank Colin Hoskins travelled to Stockport to view the facilities at the winner of the 2011 IOG Industry Award for Best Grass Roots Sports Ground of the Year Nick James: "We had to have proper pitch renovations" With four sand-filled floodlit tennis courts, two rugby pitches and a cricket ground that doubles-up during the winter months as two lacrosse pitches, Nick James certainly has his hands full as Head Groundsman of the Heatons Sports Club. Regularly (during the summer) spending up to 30 hours a week at the heavily-used site in Stockport (he is the only groundsperson involved there), Nick's time is also under pressure as an ECB/IOG Pitch Advisor for Cheshire and as Chairman of the Cheshire Groundsmans Association (an Associate Member of the IOG) which, among many other things, also involves hosting IOG training courses. Formerly involved in the financial services industry for over 30 years, Nick took early retirement in 1998. He has played cricket all his adult life, and while around 11 years ago he (like other players) recognised that the pitch and square at his local club "weren't very good" he decided to do something about that by signing up for a series of IOG cricket pitch (outfield and square) maintenance training courses to Level 3 standard. "When I joined here as groundsman, it was at the start of a cricket season and instead of going in like a bull in a china shop, I actually spent time – the whole season, in fact - watching what was happening on the pitch," he says. This observation, combined with the knowledge gained via his Level 3 training, gave him the ammunition he needed: "I immediately knew we had to have some proper pitch renovations." That was the start of a concerted annual programme of pitch maintenance that was subsequently (about five years ago) also applied to the adjoining rugby pitches which, jointly with the existing playing surfaces, have made the club's facilities the envy of the area. "The rugby pitches were poor – they needed some proper maintenance and I came up with an appropriate plan, as I did for the cricket square," he adds. Nick's remit also includes setting, and adhering to, a budget that is put together on a "needs-must basis". He continues: "While contractors are used for the end- of-season renovations, thankfully the club committee is well aware that we need to invest in these facilities to continue to attract use, so I instigated a regular programme of overseeding, fertilising (I use a cyclone spreader), vertidraining (twice a year) and topdressing (the biggest annual cost) using Boughton Club loam on the cricket pitch and up to 60 tonnes of sand each year on each rugby pitch. "We've also regularly invested in both new and secondhand turf maintenance equipment, including a John Deere triple mower which has been an absolute boon; it's great to be able to use a proper cylinder mower on rugby pitches." A view of the cricket square Photos: Colin Hoskins

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