All Change at FISSC
I have worked at the Farmers Insurance sports ground for twenty years, but took over the position of Head Groundsman last week when Brian Pickett retired after twenty-eight years of service.
The Mutual Insurance ground is set in the valley of Evesham next door to the Stratford Golf Club and offers a range of outdoor sports.
We are quite lucky with the surfaces here in as much as the whole ground is built on the historical flood plain of the river Avon. This side of the river is sandy whereas the other side is much more silty. The grounds tend to drain very well and so far this season we have not had to cancel a single game.
As we emerge from the winter the football and hockey seasons are coming to a close. So far we have had thirty-five games on the first team pitch and forty-five on the reserve team pitch. There are three teams currently using the pitches but we also cater for training three evenings a week, although we have another area set aside so the pitches don't get abused.
The pitches are cut with a set of trailed gangs at about 25mm, we also have a Kubota ride on triple but the units are in for service, having a re-grind and new bottom blades. The Kubota is a great machine that we use on the landscaped areas and banks as well.
The hockey pitch isn't used as intensively, but we have an annual hockey tournament in a couple of weeks time and one of the football pitches will have to be changed over to accommodate some of the matches.
The hockey and football pitches get fertilised twice a year, once with an Autumn/Winter and then a Spring/Summer feed. It would be nice to feed the field perhaps once more, but there are budgets to work to and the money is more useful on the finer turf sports.
Over the next few weeks I will aim to bring the height of cut down gradually. Our season doesn't start till the fourth of May, so I have time to get the grass down. One of the first problems to eradicate on the square is the continuing re-occurrence of fairy rings.
The three grass tennis courts may now only have one more year of use. The plans are that the area, including the two hard courts, is designated for a new all weather, floodlit surface that will have three new tennis courts and a training area for the footballers.
Our bowling green is also under used, with many of the team players using another local green for practice, tending to save this surface for match days. In some ways it's great because we don't get the wear on the green, but on the other hand there is no excuse for a poor surface. Like the rest of the ground the drainage is very good on the green. I will be trying to incorporate some more soil based dressings into the green via 60:40 root zone dressings worked into holes made with a hollow corer. I have just dressed the green with an iron-based feed to eradicate moss and give the grass a boost as we enter the spring. I want to avoid using a chemical moss killer. We have spiked the green through the winter on a fairly regular basis, but the green has remained dry most of the time.
The green has now had two cuts so far using a Ransomes 24" cylinder mower, cutting corner to corner both ways. My Auto Certes is in for service, but as soon as it's back, I will use it to bring the cutting height down from 15mm. The season doesn't start for another seven weeks
I talk regularly to the different sports sections, and I have attended the AGM's for the last three years. I think it is important to understand where the committees are coming from and that they understand what we are up against. Joint discussion is important to our on going relationship.
On a separate note, there are six hundred trees on the site, and we get involved in some of their upkeep. If the older trees require work at height we use an outside contracting specialist, but much of the work is done ourselves. Both Tom and I have Chainsaw and Chemical spraying certificates.
I have my own ideas for improvement, so both Tom and I have got some interesting times ahead as I look forward to the challenges of being Head Groundsman.