Keith Exton, Head Groundsman at Glamorgan CCC, together with his Chief Executive, Alan Harmer, welcomed over 130 practising groundsmen from all parts of the country to the recent Dennis/Sisis Groundsman's Seminar at the Swalec Stadium.
The day was broken up into a number of presentations and practical demonstrations, given by a number of our industry's leading cricket groundsmen, staged in the stadium's excellent indoor facilities and out on the ground.
Keith had enlisted the help of Dennis/Sisis to coordinate and provide equipment for the demonstrations. There was also an added benefit in that Steven Pasks' team were on site undertaking the second phase of some wicket reconstructions, building two new tracks as part of the overall pitch replacement programme.
The day began with a short welcome speech by the Chief Executive who was keen to praise the work and commitment of his groundstaff and, indeed, all the practising groundsmen who have had to deal with such challenging weather conditions this year. He was very impressed with the turn out and wished everybody an enjoyable day.
The first presentation was by the ECB Pitches Consultant, Chris Wood, who gave an update on Cranfield University's Sports Turf Aeration in Cricket Pitches and Outfields research programme. The aim of the research programme is to gain a fundamental understanding of the effects of aeration processes on the soil physical properties and biological health of soil-based sports surfaces. Aeration in cricket is much debated, with some relying on regular aeration to keep their grounds healthy and lush while others do not aerate at all and appear to suffer no problems. This research aims to address the mysteries behind aeration through understanding the principles and actions of the process, with the purpose of providing a guide for users to maximise the benefit of aeration treatments on cricket pitches. See Link Cranfield University
Chris gave examples of current methods and practices being used around the country , which include the tried and tested Ecosol Drill and Fill technique and, more recently, Keith Exton's own practice of deep aeration using the very fast XF Weidenmann verti drain for both in season and end of season treatments on cricket squares. Keith was on hand to explain his technique and the benefits he gains from undertaking this work.
The next session saw three county groundsmen, Andy Pierson (Kent CCC), Stuart Kerrison (Essex CCC) and Keith Exton (Glamorgan CCC) take to the floor and talk about this year's challenging weather, how it affected them and what they did to combat it, whilst also explaining some of the pressures they face being a County Groundman.
Between them they gave examples of how they had dealt with and overcome severe weather conditions at their grounds, talked about issues of leaving covers on for a length of time, and how they utilised mopping equipment to remove water off flat sheets. They also referred to the pressures they get from umpires, players and coaches when preparing pitches.
The morning session was broken up with the chance to get out on the square and see at first hand what Keith and his staff had done in terms of their end of season renovations. Keith gave a practical demonstration of his aeration technique using the XF Weidenmann. He was also able to explain the work he had undertaken on the square since he came to the Swalec and what he has planned for the coming years. It was a great opportunity for many of the visiting groundsmen to see the building of the new pitches.
For me it was another great opportunity to meet up with so many dedicated groundsmen representing schools, clubs and local authorities. There were many familiar faces, Nigel Gray and Karl Mc Dermott from Hampshire CCC, Craig Feast from Wells Cathedral School, Roy Tackle from Brompton Ralph CC, Andy Richards and Andy Johnson from Shrewsbury and Blue Coat Schools respectively .
Like most seminar days, lunch time is always eagerly awaited, a time to catch up with fellow groundsmen and enjoy a bite to eat.
The afternoon session began with Dennis's regular sales team Andy and Ben, led by Toby, who did a great job of demonstrating a wide range of scarification equipment, with Keith giving an account on the methods he uses to scarify his pitches. This was followed with another demo of the XF Weidenmann vertidrain punching holes in the outfield.
At 2.00pm we made our way back inside to hear the final three presentations of the afternoon, the first being a look into the use of LED light technology for stimulating grass growth under covers. Mark Raper from Qudos Growth gave a powerpoint presentation on their new lighting rigs they had developed for both cricket and football. Keith had been trialing a set of grow lights under the hover cover. It has been quite an exciting development, with favourable results coming from the trials. See Pitchcare Article on the LED Lights
Mark explained the significant differences between Sodium and LED lighting technologies in terms of performance and cost. Although there is not much difference with set up costs the actually running costs are dramatically reduced when operating LED lighting rigs. Keith was happy to endorse the results, along with some other benefits of running the lights in terms of reduced condensation under the covers. It would seem there is a growing interest in the use of lighting technology in our industry. Further trials are being set up.
The next session was a quick resume by Mike Beacham (Cricket Development Officer) on the current grass root funding schemes on offer from both the ECB and other sporting organisations. There are still opportunities to get small grants and loans for machinery, equipment and club improvements.
Next up was Ian Lacy from the IOG who gave a thought provoking presentation on the role of the volunteer groundsmen. The day ended with a Q&A session.
I am sure Dennis and Sisis would like to thank a number of companies (sponsors) who also attended and supported the day - these included Limagrain, Boughton Loam, Total Play Ltd, Weidenmann UK Ltd and Qudos Growth.