Ladies Football christens new Army Pitch
By Carol Dutton
An army ladies eleven christens the new pitch at Larkhill Army Base on Salisbury Plain this month (Jan.) marking the end of a five-year plan to make the garrison a centre for sports.
"This is the final piece in the jigsaw," says Neil Wilkins, Contract Manager for J.V. Strong who is a contractor for Interserve (Defence) Ltd. facility managers of the Royal School of Artillery, Larkhill Garrison, in Wiltshire. "A new rugby pitch and an artificial hockey pitch were built four years ago and the cricket square went down in 2002. It's a big base and we've already got four football pitches, but this is the main one reserved for prestige matches and the army first team. There'll be no training or inter-barracks ties allowed on here."
Situated two or three miles as the crow flies from Stonehenge, the site of the new pitch had housed Nissan huts during the last war, and then been allowed to let go. "We put the construction work out to tender, and called in the archaeologists who were on a watching brief for finds." Wilkins continues. J.W. Bascombes had the job of stripping the top two inches of top soil before cutting and filling the sloped chalk field, redressing the approximate two metre drop from top to bottom. "We kept a slight gradient for drainage purposes, (which because we are on chalk, was all we needed) and put all the top soil into a heap the army had kept from previous sports ground constructions," explains Wilkins. "The top soil was passed through an industrial screener at a 15mm gauge and spread in a 150mm layer, becoming the new root zone." Bascombes completed their contract last August, and the new pitch was left to settle before John Pierson of John Pierson Specialist Maintenance arrived in early October to oversee the turf laying.
Nine thousand, five hundred square metres of Lindum's L.T.6 sports turf, (their special hardwearing ryegrass mix), was laid in the biggest rolls that the turf growers produce. "These rolls are 42 inches wide, compared with the conventional width of 29 inches," explains Pierson. "Using the hydraulic roll laying frame, designed and built by Lindum to fit onto the back of our Ford TN75 tractor with low ground pressure tyres, the turf goes down quickly and easily, and because it's so wide there are fewer joins. For this reason the surface is ready for play earlier."
Stephen Fell, Lindum's MD says that the company bought a special harvester two years ago in order to produce rolls of this size. "Our Bucyrus machine from the U.S. handles the turf very delicately. We've used our big rolls to turf several stadiums including the Lokturf pitch at Bournemouth and the training grounds at Chelsea," Fell continues, "and we now use them on all our pitches."
At the top end of the ground where the pitch had been dug out of the slope, the spectator's area was terraced and covered with 2,800 sq. metres of Lindum's "Festival" landscaping turf, harvested in conventional, 24 inch wide rolls.
"The weather was ideal during construction," remembers Neil. "We couldn't have asked for better conditions. There was no rain and we had temperatures of between 17 and 19 degrees. We all thought that by the time the turf went down in October we'd have some rain, but it didn't happen. That was the worrying part. We'd got over £10,000 worth of turf and we were struggling to get water on it."
A pump was hired and JV Strong brought in their irrigation equipment, which took the laying team over the first critical two weeks. Once the entire pitch was laid the watering stopped and the heavens opened.
"By early November everyone was happy and eager to play the first game," Neil recalls. "We ordered new goals, new nets, new substitute benches, and new corner flags. We even specified that our nets were made in the artillery colours of red and royal blue."
For further information on Lindum's turf, contact the company on Tel: 01904 448675 or visit their website at: www.turf.co.uk