0 An uphill struggle proves worthwhile


An uphill struggle proves worthwhile

By Dave Riley

We have a bit of rain today and so I thought I would write about my experiences here in Bridlington SCC.

I started work at the sports club some 14 months ago and when I took over I was shown around the grounds of approximately 5 acres. There were two football pitches which could only be described as mud baths and a cricket square covered in red thread. In other words one big mess!

I remember my first job was to move the goal mouths. When you walked on them you literally sank into the ground, unfortunately the football teams, especially the junior football played wherever they wanted and in any weather. I let this go on to the end of the season and started planning for the next season. As you can imagine I am not very popular with junior football managers, all 10 of them in total, but I am not doing the job to be in the popularity stakes.

I was then told I had to get the ground ready for the Easter hockey festival which was very difficult as you can imagine. I worked very hard to get the ground something like flat, and only managing it due to some good weather at the time. I promised them better things for the following Easter but the hockey festival was a huge success and a good weekend was had by all.

I also had to get to grips with the cricket square, it was uneven and as I said thriving with disease. It appeared that very little maintainance had previously taken place. My first job entailed feeding it, repairs to the wicket ends, and a fair amount of rolling to knock it into shape. Although I was not very happy with it I did the best I could with it, and the players said it was the best it had been for a long while.

After investigation I did find out why the square was not even, one of the previous Groundsman had used clay from the Humber to rebuild several wickets, which appeared to be every other one, it was a disaster.

Whilst working on the ground I had a visit from Ian Powell at the Yorkshire Cricket Board. I explained to him the dangers of the wickets and after inspecting them, he explained how the club could put in for a grant to the English Cricket Board. To do this though we needed a proper inspection from an ECB Pitch Advisor. I explained this detail to the club and it was agreed by the club committee.

Jon Buddington (not an unfamiliar face on this site) arrived and carried out the ground examination, he could not believe the state of the square. The analysis results were as follows:

CORE SAMPLE Top Soil

TEXTURE: Texture is a measure of the proportion of sand, silt and clay in a soil. It is important that cricket pitches have soils with sufficient clay in them to allow strong mechanical binding, but also enough sand and silt to encourage water movement through the soil. The following results are based on the average for two replicate tests.
Size class Percentages

Coarse sand 12.02
Medium sand 13.89
Fine sand 13.63
Total sand 39.55
Silt 59.95
Clay 0.51

This particle size distribution puts the soil in the Sandy Silt Loam textural class. This texture is totally unsuitable for cricket purposes as it will have a poor binding strength and be highly prone to mechanical damage due to the high silt content. This material should be heavily dressed with suitable cricket loam or ideally removed back to the top soil and reconstructed with suitable cricket loam.

This is a measure of acidity of the soil, Most grasses are happy in soil with a ph range between 7.5-5.5. The soil tested has a ph of 6.35 which is the ideal range.

The level of organic matter in the soil effects how it stores water and relates to how it will compact. Some organic matter is vital to ensure good water holding and fertility. In addition certain types of organic matter are vital to create and maintain the stability of soil aggregates- this is vital for good rooting. This soil has an organic matter content of 12.72%.

This is a high organic content that makes it difficult to achieve satisfactory levels of compaction and service strength. A rigorous programme of scarification to reduce thatch levels may well be a sensible approach if the surface layer cannot be removed.

Core Sample (subsoil)

Texture: Texture is a measure of the proportion of sand, silt and clay in a soil. It is important that cricket pitches have soils with sufficiant clay in them to allow strong mechanical binding, but also enough sand and silt to encourage water movement through the soil. The following results are based on the average for two replicate tests.
Size class Percentage

Course sand 6.67
Medium sand 11.45
Fine sand 25.63
Total sand 43.75
Silt 32.04
Clay 24.21

This particular size distribution puts the soil in the clay loam class. This texture is generally suitable for cricket purposes and will make ideal sub-base for a square. Any cricket loam used on top should be compatible in terms of its swelling characteristics to ensure it does not separate from the underlying material.

Ph: This is a measurement of the acidity of the soil. Most grasses are happy in a soil with ph range between 7.5- 5.5. The soil tested has a ph of 6.24 which is the ideal range

Organic Matter: The level of organic matter in the soil effects how it stores water and relates to how it will compact. Some organic matter is vital to ensure good water holding fertility. In addition certain types of organic matter are vital to create and maintain the stability of soil aggregates- this is vital for good rooting. This soil has an organic matter content of 3.26%. This is a low organic matter content that will allow satisfactory levels of compaction to be achieved.

The next layer below 100mm was in the clay loam class and would make a good sub base in which to construct a square, making sure the surface has similar swelling characteristics to the sub base. The ph level was between 6.14 & 6.35 this being in the range of 5.5 to 7.5 most cricket grasses are happy in this range. There was low organic matter content thus allowing good compaction but only if the surface was a clay loam and not sandy silt loam.

Root Depth: Depth of root was 100mm

Thatch Depth: There was visible thatch present

Disease Evidence: There was 5% red thread disease.

Ground cover: There was 65% ground cover of which 40% was rye grass 60% was annual meadow grass.

That report was made by Jon Buddington and he has recommended reconstructing the square and with the outfield being undulating to be severely scarified and top dressed. I now hope that this will be passed by the ECB for grant funding.

I do have a problem at present as thieves broke into the garage twice in the last year and stole a lot of my machinery plus setting fire to the shed on the tennis courts, and to add insult to injury thieves broke into the club over Easter and got away with £10.000. So with a club left with little budget I am struggling with what little machinery I have left.

Last season the cricket went well for us and our two Pakistani over seas players, both of whom had a good season.
The start of the football season did not go down too well with the junior footballers as they wanted to carry on as before. I worked every Saturday & Sunday to ensure they could only play where I told them they could play, I got into some very heated arguments with them and stuck to my guns and at the end of the day the field resembled a sports field.

With the senior football I started the season with the football pitch 10ft shorter than the previous season then after the Xmas break put it back to full size ensuring I had grass most of the season as you will appreciate I had to put a hockey festival on over Easter so it was important to have the ground in a good state of repair. The second & third team pitch was moved from one side of the field to the other after the Xmas break and fitted all the juniors around the to give the ground a chance to recover.

At the end of the season I felt everything went well and had lots of compliments on the state of the ground and the first team pitch was one of the best in the Humber League. After the football it was the turn of the hockey festival again and the four pitches were all in good condition or as best I could do under the circumstances. When they all turned up on Good Friday in their fancy dress outfits and the sun shining I could tell we were in for a good weekend. The compliments about the field were flooding in and I felt as proud as punch after all my hard work and what a delight to hear they will all be back next Easter. If there are any hockey players out there come and join them.

My synopsis is that over the last 14 months I have worked very hard to achieve what I have now and have worked far in excess of the hours I have been paid for. I do not have a budget to work from apart from except the ethos of 'don't spend unless you have to'. It would be a dream come true if I could find a sponsor so I could do all the work I would like to. The next 12 months are going to be just as hard as the last, but if I get the results it will be worth it. As most of the people that will read this will know there is nothing like job satisfaction and the appreciation of the compliment that you receive from players and spectators alike.

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