By David Markham
Ilkley Tennis Club is one of the biggest in the north and head Groundsman Rod Wild is trying to ensure that all 14 grass courts are in prime condition ready for the target date for the start of the season on May 1st.
The highlight of the year at Ilkley is the open tournament, a week long British tour event from July 27th to August 3rd.
The club, which has more than 1,000 members also offers five indoor courts and six outdoor hard courts as well as squash courts and a fitness centre. The club is in a picturesque setting near the River Wharfe, but the proximity of the river poses problems and the Wharfe has burst its banks in the last month.
The floods have affected not just the tennis club but roads and homes near the river.
Rod, who has two assistants has worked at the club since 1980.
He said: "In winter we mend and service machinery and repair fencing. In dry weather during the winter we have been spiking the courts and getting rid of the bumps and holes, but it has been a wet winter. The Wharfe has burst its banks three times in the last fortnight, but the water was only deep once and there is no flooding now. Now we have got to wait until the courts dry so we can remove a lot of silt that has been left by the flooding".
Rod went on to say,"We use loam that we get from Surrey which we spread evenly over the surface to produce a bounce more suitable for tennis. The danger of the silt is that it produces a low bounce and we apply the loam that contains clay to give a better bounce. A clay based surface is good for tennis. If we use Surrey loam we need to apply it in the autumn, but conditions must be right. Unfortunately, the weather wasn't dry enough last autumn. We plan to have another try in October or November this year- after the grass court tennis season ends at the end of September.
At the end of the season there are worn areas in places along the base line where the players serve. We repair these areas by re-seeding, but in extreme cases we have to re-lay the worn areas which can be difficult to do because we need to establish a flat surface. We also carry out rigorous spiking and scarifying".