This year, the Land Drainage Contractors Association (LDCA) is celebrating 30 years of unbroken service to the sports turf industry. Today's performance and environmental sustainability requirements make it essential to have drainage work carried out by specialist, experienced, properly equipped contractors working to recognised standards.
To celebrate this milestone, the LDCA is hosting their annual AGM meeting for their members in Londonderry in Northern Ireland, Ireland's only walled city and UK City of Culture in 2013.
Founded in 1985, the LDCA provides a range of services to its members, including technical help, information on business topics and industry/legislative development. It provides the opportunity for members to meet at technical events and social activities, exchange information and discuss matters of common interest with others in the industry.
The LDCA also represents the drainage industry on a number of government and other official bodies and works closely with other organisations in all sectors of the industry, including agriculture, sportsturf, amenity, utilities and civil engineering. This reflects the diversity of work carried out by members in all aspects of drainage and water management.
With over fifty member companies, the LDCA represent a large group of specialist sports turf contractors who are working in the sports turf industry and who have worked on some of the most prestige sports facilities in mainland UK and in Europe.
LDCA contractors undertake drainage of sportsturf, leisure and amenity areas. These include sports and winter games pitches at schools, colleges and universities, private sports clubs, football and rugby clubs, cricket pitches, golf courses, equestrian facilities, polo grounds and racecourses, as well as landscape and amenity areas in parks and grounds.
The LDCA have organised a number of events to help celebrate their 30 year milestone, a couple of recent events have seen the LDCA run a drainage seminars at Myerscough College and at The Mastenbroek Factory in Boston.
I was able to attend the seminar at the Mastenbroek Factory, where we had several eminent speakers talking about different aspects of drainage plus a tour of the factory. Over 30 delegates arrived for the seminar, representing a number of drainage companies, contractors and farmers.
First up on the floor was Mr LDCA himself, Bruce Brockway, who gave a very interesting talk on the principles of soil and water relationships, water tables, soil porosity and an insight into the current drainage techniques being used. He was then followed by Rob Donald, drainage consultant and ex MD of White Horse Contractors, who explained the processes required to ensure a proper professional job is completed in terms of planning, choice and selection of materials, installation and after-care of drainage systems.
We then had a presentation on the science behind soils and water relations, in terms of drainage potentials, by Dr Mike Hann from Cranfield University, who was my tutor when I was studying my MSc at Cranfield. Mike explained the difference between soils and sub soils, principles of drainage systems and how they work; he also delved a bit deeper into the relevance of water tables and how they affect drainage potential, referring to depth of drains and drain spacing.
Following this, we had a factory tour by Fred Clarke, Technical Sales Manager, who explained the processes involved in producing a Mastenbroek Trencher.
After a very nice lunch break, it was back to some practical workshops where the groups of attendees had to have a go at designing a drainage system for a golf course, taking into account the information detailed on the plan (layout of course and contour lines). The outcome was quite revealing, in terms of how differently each group's drainage plan turned out, depending on the experience and knowledge in the group.
As with most drainage schemes, they will be dictated by many aspects - amenity, sport, agricultural requirements, outfall choices, soil type, topography, selection of materials, installation technique and, finally, the budgets are available.
The final presentation was from Fred Clarke who talked about the technologies that are now available to help contractors work more efficiently, using GPS, laser grading and digital software programmes to aid surveying of sites, installing drainage and how machinery has been adapted to use this technology
All in all, it was quite an intensive look into the principles and practices of installing drainage, a vast subject when you take into account all the necessary processes to achieve a good, long lasting drainage scheme.
To help, the LDCA publishes a number of Technical Specifications for Field Drainage Schemes, Pipeline Reinstatement Drainage and Guidelines for Sportsturf Drainage Installation which set out the quality of workmanship and materials to be used in drainage and water management schemes.
These standards are recognised by industry bodies, and the LDCA Sportsturf Guidelines have been adopted by Sport England and the Football Foundation as the standard to which funded sportsturf drainage schemes must be carried out.
An LDCA contractor undertakes to work to these Specifications and Guidelines and to the requirements of the LDCA Quality Assurance Scheme, which also covers the use of British Standard materials, liability insurance, health & safety legislation and provision of a warranty with regard to workmanship and materials.
A list of all members can be found in the Members Directory. This list also provides links to member's own websites, where details of the other drainage related services each member provides can be found.
The LDCA Technical Specification is available for download from the website. Additionally, there is a facility to register online to receive a newsletter of drainage information and industry news.