New bowls greens remedied at Les Creux
It had been decided that Les Creux Millennium Country Park, Jersey would host The British Championships and Home International Series in the summer of 1999. So work got underway to build two new greens with new paths and ditch constructions during the summer of 1998.
The natural soil on the site had a lot of granite within it, so the soil was excavated, screened and then put back and levelled. The job took far longer than had been envisaged for a number of reasons, but the outcome was that the turf that had originally been earmarked for the job was allowed to grow at its home farm, and built up a much bigger layer of thatch than we'd have liked to see. The turf came in from Inturf and was laid mid-October 1998 and lightly top-dressed.
The European Men's Team Championships were due to be played in the summer of 1999 from the 5th - 9th July, and because we had so little time, we decided to do all our renovation and remedial works in just one direction.
During the period from turf laying and May 1999 the greens were intensively hollow tined and scarified to try and remove the large amount of thatch and aerate the rootzone. The last top-dressing (Rufford's 1742) before the first season was applied to the greens in the first week of May 1999. Members of the Les Creux Club started bowling in the June.
For the European Men's Team tournament we asked the teams to bowl in the same direction. The tournament was a success, but we then had the problems that were associated with such a rush job. The second major tournament was the return visit of the European Team Bowls tournament, which was held in September 2001.
There is a full drainage system laid below a gravel carpet underneath the greens, a drainage layer of sand sits over the gravel, but the root zone, coupled with the granite has combined to form a non-porous layer above this.
The reasons why we used an indigenous soil in the first place were based on cost. To import special rootzones from the mainland in those quantities was prohibitively expensive. So the decision was made to work with what we had. We did have soil tests taken and the soil content seemed fine when we looked at the results, but clearly the stone content and its properties was perhaps overlooked.
The other problem that we had to solve was the buried thatch layer. The original turf had a layer of thatch in it, and to get the levels for the tournament in a short space of time, we had no option but to top dress the greens heavily. This meant compounding our problems by burying the thatch layer deeper into the surface.
Afterwards, we have used the Sisis 600 to enable us to get in deeper and start aggressively removing the buried thatch layer. We have used this machine for the last two years, alongside a Dennis cassette machine to help remove organic material build up during the season.
Since the first tournament we also instigated a hollow coring operation each year, removing the cores and replacing with sand/soil Rufford dressings. Regular maintenance over the last four years has helped the greens drainage but it was decided to quicken this process by recently using Ecosol's drill and fill operation.
Since this work has been carried out the greens water dispersal and infiltration has greatly improved. The levels on the greens still need some adjustment so I dress them with heavier amounts of material to achieve the levels that we ultimately require. Although both greens are full county size, we have been adding 4-5 tonnes of new material on each green.
Last autumn (2003) we used solid tines on the greens. I didn't feel that it was necessary to take cores out again after the drill and fill operation. After all the Greens have both played very well this year and have drained quickly after periods of rain.
During the spring to the autumn, I have a greenkeeper working here permanently, but during the winter months, he may just come up once a week to work, and pop by at other times just to make sure that all is well.
The greens are in use every day from April to September. We have a resident club, as well as this being the headquarters for the Jersey Bowls Association. This summer they played host to the Welsh National Bowls Association in a friendly competition. The resident Les Creux club are a newly formed club and have a lot of younger members, many of who still work, so the greens don't get quite as much use during the daytime as they could, instead there is a lot of bowls played in the evenings. Other clubs on the island see more play during the daytime.
In summary the rush of getting two new greens up and running for a major tournament has meant three latter years of hard work alleviating the problems that were incorporated during construction. The first year of the Tournament we had some adverse comments in the press, which weren't helped by a week of rain at the start. The second year the tournament was held, the comments were positive, saying how much the greens had improved in the space of a year. We will continue to improve the greens where budgets allow, keeping Les Creux the premium venue on the island.
The next major tournament to be hosted is the British Isles Women Championship on 17th - 20th June 2004.