Following the successful cricket seminar at Uxbridge Cricket Club earlier in the year, Dennis and Sisis were keen to promote another seminar at the end of the cricket season and, after some discussions with Vic Domain and Stuart Kerrison, they were able to come up with another date and venue. Stuart offered the Essex County Cricket Ground as the venue.
Some 120 plus groundsmen attended the event held on the 22nd November at Chelmsford.
Dennis played their part in helping secure a number of sponsors to help support the event, including Weidenmann, Bernhard Grinders, Binders and Cricket World.
The day was organised and put together by Stuart Kerrison the Essex counties Head Groundsman who managed to persuade a number of top professional cricket groundsmen, Chris Wood (ECB), Vic Demain (Uxbridge CC), Keith Exton (Glamorgan CCC), Andy Mackay (Sussex CCC), to come and talk about their experiences, along with an innovative demonstration by Keith Exton on the merits of deep spiking on cricket squares.
I arrived at the ground at 8.00am to be met by Keith Exton and Gordon Gill who were unloading Keith's Weidenmann XF Terra spiker, one that had been specially modified to run much quicker (tine speed) to help undertake the type of work Keith promotes. Keith had come to aerate Stuart's square, and the day before had done Simon Lawrence's square (county outground) at Colchester.
By 10am the room was packed with delegates representing over sixty cricket clubs and local authorities, a great turnout. Robert Jack of Dennis welcomed us all and introduced the host, Stuart Kerrison. Stuart mapped out the day in his inimitable and humorous way and introduced the first speaker, a somewhat nervous Robert Gurney from a local village club. But, Robert soon relaxed as he got into his spiel about the delights and problems facing a small village club.
Next up were Stuart and Vic Demain who spoke about the role of the county outgrounds and what it costs the counties to put on these cricket matches at these outground venues. By the time you have invested in the playing surface, provided covers, machinery, scoreboards, tents and marquees, catering, toilets and all the H&S issues that have to be met, including signage, Police, Fire and Ambulance services, it is not surprising to find it costing the county in the region of £70,000 to put on. Yes, if the weather is fine, the likelihood is the event will go well and make money, however there is always the chance of the game being curtailed by bad weather. So, it was interesting to hear about the logistics of putting these events on, let alone all the time and worry for the HG.
Next, came a practical demonstration on the county square of deep spiking, introduceded by Keith Exton, Head Groundsman at Glamorgan CCC, using the tractor mounted Weidemann deep spiker. A somewhat nervous Stuart watched as Keith expertly started to spike down with a close patterned set of pencil tines over his beloved and lovely looking square, a process he had not had performed before. But Stuart's apprehension was soon relieved as Keith expertly worked his way across the square with no heaving problems at all, spiking down six or seven inches.
Seeing was believing. Keith has been preaching deep spiking for many years and, while not many have dared undertake deep spiking on their square, this was an opportunity to dispel any myths. Keith was able to allay any fears and was happy to talk and describe the technique he uses at Glamorgan and, indeed, at his previous place of work, Oakham School, where the squares were highly regarded.
We then enjoyed a buffet lunch all at the expense, as was the whole day, of our sponsors. More networking, moaning about players, committees, umpires, birds, dog walkers and just about everyone else who wasn't a groundsman!
The afternoon session began with Andy Mackay (on the right), Head Groundsman at Sussex CCC, presenting on the role of the first class groundsman. Andy explained his entry route via the club game into the county scene. He then went on to give a frank and detailed explanation of how he tries to make working at Sussex for his staff as decent as he can, regarding working conditions and hours worked. He then went on to discuss the improvements he is planning with regard to relaying some of the wickets at Hove.
The next presentation was made by Chris Wood, ECB Head pitch Inspector, and Keith Exton on aeration. They discussed the different modes of aeration and what equipment was available, and also brought us up to date with the latest developments of the aeration research project being led by Cranfield University.
With the light fading fast, Stuart soon arranged for the floodlights to be put on for his next presentation - a tour of the ground and machinery sheds. It was then time for tea, and another chance to catch up with the sponsors who were on hand to give advice on their products and services.
The final part of the day was a spent in the bar, beer in hand, listening to the final three short presentations by Chris Wood on the role of an ECB Pitch advisor, and Graham Pryke, Essex CCC development officer, who spoke about his role, and Andy Peirson (Kent CCC Head Groundsman) who talked about his experience of using the drill and fill aeration techniques to improve his square.
Without doubt, a very long but rewarding day for all who came but, like the Uxbridge's event, a very successful one. I managed to talk to many of the delegates and they all thoroughly enjoyed the day, and got a lot from the presentations.
As Dennis advertised, it was a day for groundsmen presented by groundsmen. I am sure the format will continue with Dennis looking to secure more of these type of events in the coming years, especially they now have a full range of machinery on offer with their complete range of Dennis and Sisis products.