130 Year Old Square gets timely renovation
By David Markham
Groundsman Mick Stewart is relaying pitches as part of renovation work on Scarborough's 130-year-old square.
The North Marine Road ground, famous for Scarborough's annual festival, is one of the busiest in the country with 55 days of cricket, including two four day championship matches as well as league matches every weekend plus lots of junior cricket.
It is a favourite ground for Yorkshire members, who travel many miles to sample its unique atmosphere and super viewing facilities, but the playing area needs improvement and that's a major task for Mick Stewart.
Mick, who arrived at North Marine Road from Hull CC two years ago, said: "The square is old and a lot of it is very tired. I have re-laid eight new pitches on the square, but we are still playing first class matches on the old pitches because the new pitches are still bedding down. Our Yorkshire League side are playing on the new pitches so that if there is something wrong with them it would not be seen as a catastrophe."
Scarborough has always been a good ground for scoring runs and the new pitches have played very well at league level although it must be said that we have got some very good batsmen at Scarborough this year. I would like to play first class matches on the new pitches next season. I cannot see any reason why not.
A typical Scarborough wicket is easy to bat on, but lacking in pace. The pitch used for last week's county championship match against Hampshire was a typical example of Scarborough wickets - easy to bat on, but no quicker than average with a consistent bounce, neither particularly high nor particularly low. I cannot inject any more pace into the old pitches, but I am hoping the new pitches will be faster and then I have got to make sure that they also have consistent bounce.
We have 20 pitches on the square although there are three on either side that are used for junior cricket and they will never be re-laid because they are on the edge of the square. I will relay another three pitches next winter, but I will leave two old pitches in the middle of the square for Yorkshire matches as a fall back if I am not happy with the new ones."
Mick has dug down to a depth of eight inches to re-lay some of the pitches and five inches for others using ongar loam although he said: "All the loams are good. I re-lay the pitches in September or early October and then use them for matches in the middle of the following summer for Yorkshire League matches. You have got to treat each re-laid pitch differently."
As well as renovating the square, Mick also plans to improve the quality of the outfield. He said: "I intend to do a lot of levelling up and re-seeding on the outfield. I intended doing the work last year, but I ran out of time. I was held up by re-laying the pitches."
Mick is also hoping to renew the machinery at Scarborough. "We have only got moderate machinery for a ground of this class," he said. "I hope to start building up more modern machinery. I need some new outfield cutters - it takes four man hours to cut the outfield."
Mick had two spells at Hull's old Circle ground, which has now been swallowed up by the new, highly acclaimed Kingston Communications Stadium. An older generation of Yorkshire members remember the Circle and Mick said: "I was the last Groundsman there. I had two spells at the Circle, the first for three years, the second for four years and I worked at Bridlington CC in-between.
"The old square at the Circle is almost on the centre spot of the new stadium, which, of course, is used by Hull City football and Hull FC rugby league clubs. When the Circle was abandoned for the contractors to start work on the new stadium, I got the chance to move to Scarborough. The move has worked out well for me."