Life as a contract cricket Groundsman
I look after three cricket grounds, which keeps me very busy through the summer months but inevitably means having to look for alternative work in the winter. The three grounds are all within a few miles of each other at Himley, Wombourne and here at Stourbridge in the West Midlands.
I am flat out at the moment, repairing and preparing the wickets. Currently with this spell of hot weather I aim to do an hour or so of watering in the morning, followed by up to three to four hours of rolling in preparation for the games. The roller was purchased from another local club recently, it weighs about 2 tonnes and is ideal for what we need here. Although there is a slight oil leak somewhere so I have an old tarpaulin tied underneath the engine to catch the odd drop before it gets on the square.
The dual use obviously causes some problems for both clubs, but relationships are good.
I have fifteen grass strips and one artificial strip, and with around sixty-five to seventy games the square takes a fair bashing. Usually we have two mid week games and then matches on both weekend days.
We occasionally host the Worcester County second team, but up until 1981 the first team would host an annual fixture here as well.
My biggest problem with the square is the overall level, I correct the levels slightly each year during renovation with top dressing, but it would be nice to strip off the surface and redo the overall levels properly, money though is the determining factor. Having said that all of my clients will within reason, find funding for my projects.
There is some clover on the square at the moment, but it isn't a major concern for me. I will spray it out in the autumn after the renovations.
Although it is a little early yet to finalise the renovation works, it will include scarifying in two directions, 4" solid tining, top dressing with approximately three and a half tonnes of Banbury loam and an over seed. I will work the seed and dressing in with a drag mat and brush and then feed the square with an appropriate fertiliser.
I am a great believer in spiking the ground; getting air to the roots is the key to success. I try to spike the squares every couple of weeks with a Sisis Auto-turfman. At the end of this season I am hoping to vertidrain the squares as well.
If vertidraining is done in the right conditions there will be a minimum disturbance to the ground, but I feel the benefits will be tremendous to these compacted squares.
I use an 18" Ransomes Certes cylinder mower to cut the square, usually cutting the strips down as low as they will go for matches. Prior to cutting, I use the Sisis lawnman scarifier to pull the grass up, so I get a nice even cut with the mower.
I have been in charge at Stourbridge for thirteen years, and I thoroughly enjoy the work. One thing that Groundsmanship has taught me is there are no short cuts so if you want the right results there is only hard graft!