A complete renovation programme has transformed the cricket pitch at Bradfield College in Berkshire from a tired, worn out surface, into a quality, fit for purpose cricket square and outfield.
Anthony Hough, the Estate Manager at the co-educational independent school, has only been in his post for six months, but his previous experience at Shrewsbury School has stood him in good stead to tackle the problem head on. "It was obvious to me when I joined as head of the estates team, that there were two distinct problem areas; firstly the condition of the square was very poor. There was a problem with layering in the profile so the pitch was always slow and low and secondly, the outfield had a serious thatch problem and although this made it nice to field on, it was not conducive to quality cricket."
"The different types of loam that had been used in the past were not compatible and as the surface dried, we were experiencing root break and a separation between the layers. This layering was taking all the bounce and pace out of the ball and although we managed to achieve some consistency this season, the square was never going to produce a decent wicket."
The plan for the summer was to re-lay five new wickets using Surrey Loam GOSTD, and to remove the top layers from the rest of the square and incorporate new loam into it.
To make the changes, Anthony considered the options available, then engaged the assistance of Campey Turf Care Systems to provide advice on the best approach and recommendations on appropriate equipment for the work. With the help of his 15-strong grounds team who are responsible for the whole 250 acres, including the general grounds, gardens, 9-hole golf course and sports fields, Anthony began the work in July. Contractors Souters Sports were drafted in with their equipment and manpower to tackle the outfield.
They used a 2.0m Koro by Imants TopMaker to remove 35mm of thatch and moss, then seeded the exposed surface with the Vredo compact 214 disc seeder. "Drilling the seed into the ground using the Vredo seeder gave really quick establishment and a very high germination rate as well as accuracy of application," observed Anthony. After seeding, 200 tonnes of Mansfield MM45 sand was topdressed onto the outfield using a Dakota 414 Turf Tender which can take almost four cubic meters in the hopper, covering the area rapidly while maintaining the highest quality of spread. The outfield was then vertidrained, brushed and fertilised.
The 2.0m Koro was also used to take the top 25mm off the square, before the smaller 1.2m machine equipped with scarifying tines cut grooves into the remaining soil at 35mm depth to help incorporate new loam into the newly exposed surface.
The Koro has been used to successfully restore cricket pitches, including some at 1st Class venues, for almost a decade. The process was first implemented for a club square and trialled under a year long supervision and has been continually monitored by ECB Pitches Consultant, Chris Wood.
"Examination of the soil profile of 'tired out' squares which are low and slow, often reveal surface thatch and layers caused by years of applications of topdressings of often different loams which have become incompatible or separated by bands of fibrous organic matter," he explains. "The Koro, when used by experienced operators, provides a quick and cost-effective method of restoring them, stripping years of history in hours and drastically changing the levels, quality of grass content and overall playing performance characteristics."
Anthony is certainly pleased with the results so far: "Having completed all of this renovation work and with the support I have been given by the college, we aim to produce an excellent surface for the pupils for many years to come. To assist in this goal, we've also installed irrigation in the form of pop-up sprinklers around the square and sections of the outfield. This was phase one of irrigation installation for this cricket pitch, which will see a fully-automatic outfield irrigation installation completed next summer."
"The square and outfield has taken well so far. The outfield is already in use just seven weeks after seeding, and I'm looking forward to seeing how it copes with a term of lacrosse and then hockey."
"The team here at Bradfield did a fantastic job, working long hours during the hot period in July. We're all looking forward to the 2011 cricket season in earnest, when we hope the quality of the square be a talking point for all the right reasons."