Students at Askham Bryan College are making the most of the experience of a life time as their studies now involve working on the hallowed turf of Super League champions Leeds Rhinos at the Headingley Carnegie Stadium.
The would-be sports surface managers are being given the chance to improve their skills thanks to a unique partnership between the North Yorkshire agricultural college and the championship winning Club. The horticulture students from across the region are gaining a unique insight into what goes into maintaining a high-profile stadium - and also invaluable experience.
Leeds Rhinos have linked up with the college to offer students studying for the two-year National Diploma in Horticulture fortnightly visits to the stadium. As part of the turf production and maintenance module of the course, the group of 10 boys and girls is helping Stadium Groundsman Jason Booth and his team on the pitch. Mr Booth recently beat off fierce competition from other groundstaff across the country to be voted 2007 RFL Groundsperson of the Year.
The students are split into two groups, with one group having practical experience on the pitch with Mr Booth, and the others using the classrooms at the stadium for lectures.
Askham Bryan course tutor Dan Prest said: "While other colleges will have connections with clubs around the country, the unique part of our collaboration is how we split the students into groups - one half has the practical experience whilst I also lecture on site.
"At the end of the term, we will switch the groups around. The arrangement is working very well so far. We have our own pitches at Askham Bryan but this year I thought I would try and arrange something with Leeds Rugby.
"The students are doing some key work for the Club and it is wonderful experience for them. They are learning a variety of skills from general mowing to scarification, aeration and top dressing.
"The pitch at Headingley comes under such close scrutiny that it has to look in top condition all of the time. It is also in use constantly with both the Rugby League and Rugby Union seasons so it only has 17 days' rest a year. The amount of work that goes into maintaining it in first class condition is incredible," said Mr Prest.
Leeds Rugby Ltd Chief Executive Gary Hetherington commented, "We are delighted to be joining in partnership with Askham Bryan and it continues our policy of ground breaking partnerships to strengthen our own organisation. Ryan Golding from our groundstaff is a highly successful graduate from the College whilst our Head Groundsman Jason Booth is recognised as the outstanding groundsman in British club rugby."
Askham Bryan College is based near York, North Yorkshire and offers full and part time courses in agriculture, horticulture, floristry, arboriculture and sports turf. Full time programmes include first diplomas, national diplomas and foundation degrees in horticulture and related subjects, as well as BSc (Hons) in Sustainable Land Use.
The College has a 26 hectare horticultural unit with an extensive glass house complex to provide facilities for plant production, tropical display and interior plants as well as student project work.
A further six hectares of sports fields, golfing facilities and bowling green are also used for teach turf management and groundsmanship. Landscape features such as a lake, woodlands, rock gardens arboretum as well as demonstration gardens, borders and meadows are also used.
The College also has centres at Harrogate, Bedale, Guisborough, Pickering and Thirsk.
Photo A shows left to right: student Aaron Hickman, Groundsman Jason Booth, lecturer Dan Prest and Allan Gray of Sisis , manufacturers of turf maintenance machinery
Photo B shows left to right: student Katy Brown, Groundsman Jason Booth, Leeds Rhinos player, Ian Kirke and student Liam McKendry