The Groundsman

July 2012

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16 FEATURE the Groundsman July 2012 A taylor-made lesson in excellence… The grounds team at Merchant Taylors' School knows that raising standards long-term requires continuing professional development and a willingness to take professional advice, as Will Collins reports Rugby pitch being drained before overseeding at the Hertfordshire school Embarking on major pitch construction is often a case of aligning cutting edge turf science with engineering and traditional groundsmanship - a task that can be easier said than done. But not in the case of Merchant Taylors' School in North London, which in 2010 began a multi-million pound development of new natural and artificial sports pitches. Two years on and the works are complete, with this summer set to mark the final unveiling of some of the most recently completed playing areas. The project has proved a challenging one, working with a difficult playing surface and to a timeline that required a fast turnaround from finished works to first action. Since 1933, Merchant Taylors' School, one of the country's leading independents, has been based on 250 acres in Hertfordshire. Founded in 1561 by Sir Thomas White and Sir Richard Hilles, the school is one of the original nine English Public Schools as defined by the Public Schools Act 1868. Today, it caters for 860 students aged 11 to 18 and enjoys a longstanding tradition of sporting excellence. Grounds Manager, Richard Ayling, arrived at the school in 1995, moving from nearby Uxbridge Cricket Club to take on the not inconsiderable task that such extensive grounds creates. "I'm responsible for everything that is green and grows," he jokes. "There's nearly 80 acres of sports fields here so it's no mean feat keeping on top of things." Richard runs a full-time staff of ten including two apprentices, to help tend to the 11 rugby pitches (six full-size), two full-size football pitches (in the autumn term) with related training areas and nine school cricket squares. It is on the 20-acre 'Old Boys' side of the site where the new developments have taken place. Richard and his team have the responsibility of maintaining the newly added two full-size rugby pitches, two cricket squares, a six-lane artificial running track and a new water based (Tiger Wett) hockey pitch. A full irrigation system was also added. The

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