Pitch pounding at Rochdale
The Spotland stadium plays host to both Rochdale Football Club and The Hornets Rugby League team, since May last year the pitch has seen in excess of sixty games and virtually no close season.
The rugby league season started in November and continues until September, which makes it difficult for the ground staff to carry out the renovation work on a tired surface.
He said "This season we can't seem to get enough water on the pitch to stabilise it, I have had to call in the Fire Brigade on three occasions to flood the pitch. The surface has dried out considerably over the last few weeks, and the goalmouths and the centre of the pitch particularly, without grass cover have lost any stability. Getting the water on to the pitch helps to bed the root zone down, but I usually feel like getting the hoses on by half time again".
The ex Littleborough Cricket Club Groundsman continued, "last season we had only completed the renovation of the pitch, two and a half weeks previously, when an additional fixture was played on the pitch. I watched the teams tearing up the newly emerging grass on the pitch; it was complete devastation. I had little choice but to over seed the pitch with six more bags, and work intensively to get it germinated and established again before we played host to the Rugby League Grand Final four weeks later. Two weeks after that the Football League season started"!
It doesn't perhaps sound that bad, until you consider the renovation undertaken last season. Craig was starting with a completely new seedbed.
Craig added, "When I first came to the stadium we also played our reserve games here as well as hosting some of the Bolton Wanderers reserve matches as well. The pitch was in an awful state; it was almost like playing on slurry in the winter. We have since concentrated on alleviating compaction; the supporters here are fantastic, always organising fund raising events to help us pay for essential equipment. Two lads have just done a sponsored walk to raise some more cash, and so far I have been given the money to buy a Kubota ST30 tractor and a Toro 'Multicore'.
The pitch is laid on an ash bed, and over the years a series of different sands and dressings have been applied, the ground is quite un level as well and when it rains the water tends to lay in the dips. I have found that by using the 'multicore' with the 9mm micro tines after each game that the surface drainage has improved. Although I avoid using the machine in the goalmouth areas altogether.
I am hoping that this year we will be able to further improve the pitch, the rugby are likely to move two of their games in May and June to give us about seven weeks of close season. Hopefully we may be able to establish a better sward of grass to cope with the rigours of the coming season".