Volunteer help just the tonic

Brian Ballin Bowls

St Francis bowls club

By Brian Ball

Our bowls club is part of the overall facilities of St Francis Hospital down in Sussex. The hospital grounds and buildings were originally built on a farm and the institution was self sufficient in terms of water supply, food and facilities. The hospital was a mental institution and at one time employed many hundreds of staff to look after its patients. The bowls green, along with football, hockey and cricket pitches were part of the staff social club.

The health authority sold the listed buildings off to a developer who turned them into apartments after the mental institution closedStfrancis.jpg

The health authority though still employs the services of two gardeners to maintain the grounds, which include the sports surfaces. We normally receive the services of one of the men for a few hours a week, but when Phil is not available we help to maintain the green.

We have not been certain about the future of the club because of the changes, so about three years ago; we decided to take a more active interest in the greens welfare. We started to purchase some equipment to maintain the green ourselves and stop being such a financial burden on the social club. We have a full sized green, but only about 65 members, so it's fair to say that the green is under used really.

There are three or four of us who normally look after the green and the surrounds, sometimes we get a few more volunteers to help when we ask for a work party commitment. We are all retired, but we bought and erected a new shed this summer to house our machinery and top dressing.

We have two Sisis machines, a lawnman, which we have to push, and a reconditioned rotorake. We are budgeting for and buying attachments for this machine. So far we have bought the spring tines, sorrel roller and we have just bought a brush attachment.

Our mower is a Ransomes Auto-certes 51, which we have set at the moment at about 4mm. We usually cut the green twice a week, but if time allows like to get in an extra cut if possible.

Our last game is tomorrow, so on Monday we will start to renovate the green. We shall be scarifying the green in two directions and removing the rubbish. Once the rubbish has been collected we shall hollow tine the green, and remove the cores.

Once the cores have been cleaned off, we shall over seed and then top dress with 275 bags of dressing. The dressing will be worked gently into the surface using hand lutes.

We are aiming to take full advantage of the weather and get the green renovated quickly, so the new grasses will establish quickly while the green remains warm.

We have some red thread on the green, but we will fertilise the green as the last operation in our renovation program.

We installed our own 9-point irrigation system around the green a couple of years ago, so watering isn't a problem, we have eight heads around the perimeter and one portable sprinkler for the middle. The system means that we can syringe the green as and when required.

Last year we had terrible problems with algae, to the point where we actually closed the green because it was dangerous for our members. With regular scarifying and spiking this problem seems to have resolved itself, and we haven't seen the re-emergence of the algae this season.

Hopefully we can put the green to bed next week, and although we will monitor the greens progress and do a little winter spiking, we will not get too actively involved again until the spring. As the weather warms up again next year, there will be all the other jobs to do, like cleaning the ditches, repairing the boards, painting and planting borders as well as getting the green ready for another summer of play.

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