It is always pleasing when you hear of a sports club doing well and offering their community a vibrant place to play and enjoy participating in their chosen sport.
One multi sports club that is enjoying this success is Bromsgrove Cricket, Hockey and Tennis Club situated on the outskirts of Bromsgrove, Worcestershire. A recent visit enabled me to meet some of the key personnel who spend most, if not all, their spare time running the club.
Bromsgrove Cricket Club was formed in 1842. Its first ground was located near Bromsgrove town centre at the Recreation Ground, with its first ever game being played against Bromsgrove School, a fixture still played today. The club then moved to a new ground (New Road, Aston Fields) in 1907, having paid the princely sum of £700 for the purchase of the land.
The club remained at the New Road site until 1970 when they had the opportunity to sell the ground for development. This gave them the chance to move to their present site at St Godwald's Park, a nineteen acre greenfield site which was officially opened by Lord Cobham on June 9th 1973, with the first match being played against an MCC XI.
The hockey club was formed in 1895, with the tennis club added five years later. The club only changed its name to Bromsgrove Cricket, Hockey and Tennis Club in 1969.
Like many a well run club, its success is down to the drive and ambition of certain individuals, both on and off the field of play. The current cricket club President is Rex Ingram who, along with other committee members, notably Nick Taylor, Nick Husbands and Robert Green, are responsible for the day to day running of the clubhouse and pitch facilities. All are volunteers and either past/current players or people who have children playing at the club.
In the case of Nick Taylor, he moved to Bromsgrove from Cirencester in 1997. He played for the club and then joined the committee in 2000. In the same year, together with a fellow committee member, he formed the Worcestershire Sunday Club Cricket League, which provides useful competition for young players trying to make the transition from junior to adult cricket.
Nick stopped playing about seven years ago, when the hamstrings cried "enough" and, since then, he has done some umpiring and been on the committee, looking after the membership, sponsorship, production of the annual handbook and being generally involved in raising funds.
Nick believes, very strongly, that cricket clubs like Bromsgrove play a very important part of the fabric of a community, in particular by helping young people to develop social skills.
Nick Husbands has been the cricket chairman for the past ten years. He took on the job at the same time as being 1st XI captain and the club's leading strike bowler. He believes that the continued success of the club is down to a forward thinking committee and a good number of volunteers; "We are more of an orchestra than a one man band."
The cricket club currently runs four Saturday teams (The 1sts and 2nds in the Birmingham League with the 3rds and 4ths in the Worcester League) with two Sunday teams in the Worcestershire Sunday League and two midweek Twenty20 teams. The club have a very healthy junior section with nine teams.
There are two squares at the ground which have been maintained by volunteer groundsman, Robert Green, since 2006 when his son joined the club as a player. Robert had previously been groundsman at Flyford Flavell Cricket Club.
His interest in groundsmanship came from his grandfather, who was a very good gardener and taught him the "art" of cutting grass and maintaining equipment. Over the years, he has undertaken several grounds maintenance courses and worked with the former Worcestershire CCC Head Groundsman, Roy McLaren.
Robert explains his role; "We have two cricket grounds. There are fourteen strips on the top ground and nine on the lower ground, with one artificial strip. Both squares are made up of Kaloam. In 1973, when the club moved to the present site, the top ground had a prominent slope away (south) from the clubhouse; this was levelled using heavy equipment.
We have three large flat covers and three roll-on covers for the top square and one flat sheet for the lower ground, with the provision to purchase another two covers this year.
In the past, the outfield was used during the winter months by the club's hockey section, however, due to the nature of the sub soil, the ground was often waterlogged and unplayable for many weeks. This resulted in the hockey club seeking an alternative site to play their games.
We have started to address the problem by installing some localised herringbone drainage in the worst areas, with a rolling five year plan to complete the scheme when further monies become available.
The hockey club currently play on a local 3G artificial pitch, but use the clubhouse for after match socialising. Happily, following years of fundraising events and a successful bid for lottery funding, the club has managed to raise over £600,000 for the installation of a new 3G artificial hockey pitch, which is due to be constructed on the lower playing field later in the year.
We employ a contractor, ALS Contract Services, to undertake our end of season renovations on the two cricket squares, which involves scarification, aeration, topdressing, seeding and feeding.
The operations included the use of a Sisis Rotorake TM1000 in preparation for seeding, loaming etc. We find this machine to be extra beneficial in seedbed preparation as, not only does it remove huge amounts of organic matter, the deep grooves that the blades create (circa 20mm) provide a perfect environment for seed germination and establishment.
The grass seed used at Bromsgrove is the 'Wicket Renovation' mix from the Limagrain Designer range - which thrives on both First and Second X1 squares and offers what I consider to be a balance between cost and performance.
Like many clubs, material costs are a big factor in our decision making process. I spend every pound of the club's money as carefully, if not more carefully, than I spend my own! With the Limagrain mix, we feel we are now squarely hitting both targets of quality and cost - which means I get a great product, whilst still being able to face our club treasurer when I walk into the clubhouse!
One key aspect of the renovation process I have been keen to implement, since I took on the role of groundsman, is the inclusion of deep sub-surface aeration using a tractor mounted verti-drain.
From a loam point of view, we have been long-time users of Kaloam, which the contractor both supplies and applies as part of the works.
Even though we have a good technical knowledge base within the grounds team, and can operate on a day to day basis quite happily through the playing season, I would never again fiddle around trying to carry out heavy end of season work with a small scarifier, a wheelbarrow and three senior citizen labourers! Having the right machine at the right time is key to getting the renovation work put to bed quickly and thoroughly - and, with ALS and Bromsgrove Cricket Club working happily together, we now have a partnership that delivers genuine results in terms of cost, performance and quality.
As a qualified electrical and mechanical engineer, all of the machinery we use is serviced and repaired by me. I start in January with a finish date in early March; it saves the club a considerable amount of money and I can also monitor the equipment reliability.
Our work on the grounds starts as soon as possible in late Feb/early March, but this is very much dependent on the weather and ground conditions. One of the first jobs is to use a farmer's roller to flatten the outfield, which is generally uneven, caused by frosts and water. Timing is critical; not too soft or too hard.
Whilst this is being done, I start on the squares, usually on the top ground first. Having so many trees around the grounds causes quite a lot of leaf debris, so I use a leaf rake first, followed by a rotary mower, as this tends to suck up the leaves and makes the square 'clean' and ready for rolling.
The next task is 'squaring up', followed by marking out strip positions. Once having decided the pattern of strip selection for up and coming matches, I string the ten foot dimension, then make a first cut followed by rolling for approximately twenty minutes. I leave the final cut as late as possible before a match, but with a watchful eye on the weather forecast. With the final cut finished, I then go about marking the wicket using a marking frame, and finish mowing the rest of the square. I always cut upward towards the clubhouse, as the swath of the grass along the strip turns darker and highlights the colour.
I apply a high nitrogen fertiliser (19%) as soon as possible in April, which produces excellent results. As the season progresses, should the weather be very warm, it is essential to keep the square grass height higher (about 30/35 mm), coupled with watering. This helps to stop cracking of the top surface and it maintains moisture.
The outfield is cut using our Isuzu Jeep and the Ransomes 3-gang units.
Safety is an important issue. No one is allowed to use any equipment unless they have undertaken a course and/or been instructed by myself.
End of season work is vitally important. What is not carried out at that time is reflected in the next season's pitch performance. In so far as the budget is concerned, I work closely with the cricket committee and try to ensure a healthy bank balance is in place by August."
From my visit, I could tell that that the club is in safe hands, with such a large number of passionate members working hard to ensure the future is bright.
Without this hardcore of dedicated volunteers, clubs like Bromsgrove would cease to exist. We need community sports clubs; they are, without question, valuable assets for the local community, they offer so much and, importantly, a safe haven for the development of children in sport, providing a springboard for the next generation of sports stars.
Footnote: As we were going to press, we learned the sad news that Robert (Bob) Green passed away suddenly on Saturday 11th April at his home and will be sadly missed by Bromsgrove CC and all that knew him.
About the new hockey pitch
The build began on 9th February and should be completed in 13-16 weeks. This will be dependent on the weather. The scheduled completion date is mid May.
What is being built?
A full size sand-filled monofilament England Hockey, FIH compliant, category 2 Astro Turf pitch. There will be a spectator area and team dug out area. There will be inlaid lines for hockey and painted lines for cross pitch hockey. The facility will also be able to be divided into thirds for hire, with 5-a-side cross pitch football goals and hockey goals
Will there be floodlights?
Yes there will be floodlights. Planning restrictions require these to be turned off between 2215 and 0900 Monday to Saturday and 1615 and 0900 on a Sunday.
Who is the constructor?
Bernhard's Sports Surfaces are the appointed main contractor and MEA are the consultants.
How much is it costing and who is funding it?
The facility is costing just over £600,000. It has been funded through multiple funding streams. Funding Partners are Sport England, England Hockey, National Hockey Foundation, Bromsgrove District Council and members of the club. There are a number of sponsors including B&L Fencing, Redrow and Thursfields Solicitors.
Who will be able to use the facility?
The facility will be a community facility as well as a facility for BCHTC members. The club are liaising with a number of sports clubs, schools and community groups who may be interested in using the facility. The facility will be hired out in accordance with set terms and conditions.
What sports can be played on the surface?
The surface is suitable for hockey, football (no blades or boots), fitness training, tag rugby and tennis.
When will the facility be available for use?
The club anticipates the facility to be in use from June 2015 - the grand opening is scheduled for Friday 26th June.