New horse power at Harper Adams
By Laurence Gale MSc
Harper Adams University has been providing courses in land based education for well over 100 years. The university offers students a wide range of education opportunities - First degrees and HNDs in a variety of land based and business courses each containing a sandwich year, with full and part-time options available. The college also caters for Post graduate students and provides other specialist land based skill courses.
The grounds are the responsibility of Mark Hall, the Grounds Manager, who has been in post for twenty three years. When Mark started there were only 450 students attending the university, now there are over 1500. He has seen many changes over the years with the development of new buildings and facilities that have included changing rooms and floodlit rugby pitches.
Mark also designs all the college's spring and summer bedding along with soft landscape schemes. He has five full time staff who are kept busy maintaining the sports fields and amenity areas, including all the landscape tree and shrub plantings around the site.
Some of the facilities are hired out, particularly during the summer, to local sports teams for cricket and football. In the past the university has also hosted an international junior archery competition which involved using the whole site with well over 30 target areas being set up.
Mark restricts his fertilising programmes to a little and often approach, and mainly targets areas of need instead of blanket coverage. This achieves two aims - to keep costs down and to reduce unwanted growth (keeps mowing to a minimum). He also likes to keep clover in his sward, especially on the rugby pitches, as he feels it helps the sward to respond to wear.
With the continued development of Harper Adams, Mark thinks that it won't be to long before he sees the building of an artificial pitch. There is talk of utilising the current hockey pitch land to build new halls of residence, so it would make sense to replace the hockey pitch with a new artificial pitch that can accommodate not only hockey but other sports as well.
Mark and his staff are continually trying to improve the university's environment by introducing more efficient practices and reviewing the way they manage the resources currently available which, as always, is a constant challenge to any grounds manager.