By David Markham
Have equipment will travel is Ray Horrocks' motto as he travels around the Huddersfield and Wakefield areas maintaining bowling greens.
It is unusual for someone to make a full-time living looking after bowling greens, but it is a business Ray has gradually built up since he left his job as an engineer.
Ray, 57, said: "It has taken me ten years to get to this. At first people didn't know who I was, but I have gradually built up a reputation since then and now it is has become a full-time job".
"I had been an engineer all my life and my engineering background helps me to look after my machinery. If I can't repair it myself I know someone who can.
I could have carried on in engineering, but I used to play cricket and I always did some work on the ground as well as on bowling greens so it suddenly became a good idea to take it up full-time".
"Ninety nine per cent of bowls clubs have not got much in the way of equipment apart perhaps from a mower so I am able to help with other machinery that I have built up".
"In my experience most bowls clubs have some money because of their bar income, but they always tend to spend as little as possible on the greens. However, if they ask me to come in I tell them what to do. It seems a false economy, but if clubs were prepared to put their playing subs up even 25p a game, then there would be enough money available to do some decent end of season renovation. All too often, I go to clubs where the green has been neglected for many years and the problems have become compounded.
Among the bowls clubs that Ray looks after are Golcar Liberal Club, Marsh United, Netherton Conservative, Rastrick, Alverthorpe WMC, Sandal and Lower Hopton WMC.
He also prepares pitches at two Huddersfield League cricket clubs, Scholes and Shepley and the end-of-season work at Leeds Caribbean CC.
"It is a 12 months a year job," he said. "There is always something to do."
Ray added: "It has been a good winter for growing grass. I have not had much snow or frost compared with what we have had over recent years. I do the main end of season work in October. I look at the greens and decide whether to re-seed, scarify, spike and top-dress.
If you don't do the work then you will be in bother the following season. Bowling greens and golf greens are similar surfaces, and with play and season maintenance, the greens compact and need to be freshened up and opened to let them breathe through the winter".
"At Marsh United I completely re-seeded using a Jacobson machine which scarifies at the front while seeds drop out at the back. After that I do top dressing.
Rastrick is in a bit of a mess. They are bowling on it at the moment, but I will get to work on it at the end of this season. We have had to clear out the moss, which had taken a good hold; this has left the green with unsightly, black marks on it. It is fit to bowl on but I am looking forward to working on it in the autumn."
Ray is currently using a scarifier and mower to keep the grass sward clean and upright. He aerates using chisel tines for pruning roots to encourage more grass growth and solid tines to let air and water into the ground. In the autumn he will hollow tine, taking out cores, helping to alleviate compaction.