Head Groundsman's labour of love
When Peter Smith sold his grounds maintenance business and put his feet up to enjoy a well-deserved early retirement, there was one thing he was longing to do - get back to the outdoor life!
He didn't have to wait long, since he was soon approached by Watton Sports Centre in Breckland, Norfolk, to take on the role of head groundsman. And he accepted without hesitation.
Now, not only is he in charge of grounds totalling 28 acres - of which 26 acres are devoted to Watton's comprehensive indoor and outdoor facilities - but he is also responsible for ensuring they meet the needs of a wide range of sporting requirements.
The centre supports five football pitches, one rugby pitch, two mini football pitches, one full-size astro surface, a large floodlit training area, a cricket square, as well as tennis courts, bowling green and other all-weather areas which are used by some 120,000 people per year.
Maintaining the courts and grounds is a constant challenge, but one that Peter Smith clearly relishes. As such, he is a firm believer in keeping up to speed with all the latest developments in grounds care machinery and grass-cutting equipment to make life that much easier. Events such as IOG SALTEX, Europe's leading exhibition for those involved in open space management (7-9 September 2004, Windsor) are regarded as essential.
Since his arrival at the sports centre three years ago, Peter Smith says the trustees have freed-up capital to spend on equipment, which has given him the luxury of investing where he sees fit - and to use IOG SALTEX as a shop window.
"I need equipment that will allow me to cut the whole 26 acres of grassed area in six hours, because working on my own as I do, I can't afford to spend any more time on it than that.
"IOG SALTEX is the only venue where I can see the complete range of ground equipment in one place. If I spot something that looks the part, I talk to the suppliers and arrange a demonstration. If I like what I see, I buy it."
Peter Smith will be back at this year's show, casting an expert eye over the vast range of wares on display from the 400 or so exhibitors.
But there is an equally pressing reason for his return appearance at Windsor, because he has been shortlisted for the Football Association's regional 'Groundsman of The Year' award. Last year, he finished in third place. "I'd settle for going one place better this time," he says modestly.
However, Peter Smith is no stranger to winning accolades as well. He has been 'Norfolk Groundsman of the Year' for the past three years and has also taken the title, 'Groundsman of the Year for the East Midlands and East Anglian Region', two years in succession.
Peter Smith doesn't see his role as head groundsman as a job as such, more a "labour of love". The IOG SALTEX show is one key factor in ensuring the object of that affection stays in tip-top condition.
IOG SALTEX 2004 (7-9 September, Windsor Racecourse, Berks) embraces fine turf and sports, turf maintenance equipment, children's play and safety surfacing, commercial vehicles, leisure and facilities management and software as well as security equipment, and is aimed at everyone involved in open space management - from local authority managers, groundsmen and greenkeepers through to architects, designers and surveyors as well as leisure facility managers. Log onto www.iogsaltex.co.uk or call 020 8232 1600 for more information.