0 Sedbergh School

Sedbergh School

David Markham

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Martin, who has three ground staff and three gardeners, has a huge complex to look after - 42 acres of sports grounds to maintain at one of the leading co-educational public schools in the north, set in the beautiful Howgills in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

Measures include improved soil quality, better drainage, heavier rolling and continued benefits from re-laid pitches.

There are 15 strips on the first pitch and Martin said: "We re-laid three pitches in August 2000 and they are just coming to fruition. They played well last year and we are expecting them to play even better this season when the roots become established.

We also had a problem when road drains emptied on to the outfield, but we caught that with a six inch pipe and we also dug a soakaway. We have also tried to improve silty soil by spiking and top dressing with sand.

Last year we had two weeks of dry weather and we nearly lost the seed. That experience resulted in us putting in a new water point with a lot more pressure.

We have recently bought a heavy roller - a Bomag 120, two to two and a half tons, so we are all geared up to produce fast, hard wickets."

In addition, the school have bought four new sightscreens - two screens per side, which means they won't need moving during the game.

Martin added: "We also have cricket practice areas. There, we put in shock pads and Astroturf on top of the concrete to make a safer surface - and especially to prevent injuries to the spine.

Sedbergh have a ten-week cricket season with 20 first and second team games plus house matches. The players also practice on the square.

As regards rugby, the school have recently hosted a ten-a-side tournament involving schools from all over the country. After the tournament they began renovation work.

Martin said: "We have nine pitches, but only four get proper renovation because of priority on the use of money. They are the first, second, under-16s and under-15s pitches.

We seeded perennial rye grass at 17 grams per square metre before the tournament started and we will follow that with another 17 grams per square metre.

A contractor will then spread 60 tons per pitch of medium sand. Four weeks after germination we will fertilise and four weeks after that we will then apply weed killer before we host a rugby coaching course in late July. The school returns in September.

The rugby pitches have a high clay, high silt content - 40 per cent silt and 17 per cent clay. We are combating that with top dressing with sand and we are beginning to see the benefits."

When Sedbergh began admitting girls in 2000, the school authorities decided to scrap their tarmac tennis courts and replace them with an all weather pitch, which is used for hockey in winter and tennis in summer.

Martin said: "They were horrible tarmac courts surrounded by trees with moss and leaf mould.

With the girls coming into the school, we needed a bigger area for tennis and hockey. We now have a full size hockey pitch 100 yards by 60 yards. The pitch has a gravel carpet, two layers of tarmac with shock pad and a 15mm pile carpet filled with 180 tons of sand.

We maintain the pitch with regular brushing, re-marking and replacing divots. We dress the short corners and keep the leaves off the pitch in autumn using leaf blowers and leaf suckers."

Martin is always replacing and renewing his machinery. One of his latest targets is a bigger cutter for the cricket square, a Lloyd's paladin 24 inch with a verti groomer. He said: "The only problem I have on the square is horizontal growth and the groomer should help to address that problem."

He is also in the process of replacing all the garden rotaries with etesia pro 560s, which can cut a tremendous amount of grass and copes well with long grass.

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