The Elizabeth Woodville School's North Campus was formed last year when Roade Sports College amalgamated with another school in Northamptonshire. Its sports facilities provide an important community service as well as fulfilling the curriculum.
The synthetic pitches are full size Astroturf installed three years ago with funding from the Football Foundation and a 10 year old Multi Use Games Area (MUGA), both of which are of traditional sand filled construction.
As well as school sports, the pitches are used by local clubs and hired out to the community. The Astroturf is principally utilised for football but can also be employed for hockey and even for cricket with the addition of stand-up stumps.
The MUGA, which is not floodlit and is mainly in use during school hours, can accommodate football, netball, basket ball and rounders and forms an important base for school sports in the winter months helping to preserve the turf pitches.
Head groundsman Alan Ashby comments that correct maintenance plays an important part in the quality and longevity of the pitches.
"Brushing is essential, both to keep the pitches clean and tidy and to stand the carpet up. With our Sisis Varibrush, the pitches look brand new once they have been brushed."
Maintenance takes place once a week, working round the PE department's timetable and Alan says that the purchase of the 1.85m wide tractor mounted Varibrush 12 months ago has revolutionised the treatment. It combines front and rear straight brushes with a pair of v shaped brushes facing forwards and backwards to groom and lift the fibres and redistribute the infill.
"We previously used a 2m towed straight brush, but the Varibrush gives a much more intensive action. Using the hydraulic lift which works via its wheels, I can raise the brush for a lighter action or drop it to go really deep. This adjustability is a real benefit."
He comments that the brushes have proved durable, and that the bristles are only just starting to flex on their leading edges.
"But because the frame is reversible, I will simply turn the brushes round and use the fresh leading edges."
Even today the Varibrush still looks 'brand new'. And as for the pitches, they are also in the pink. "The Astro replaced an older synthetic pitch that was still going strong, but the availability of funding made it sensible to install a new one. There are no indications of wear after three years, and the MUGA looks like it could go on for 20 years."
"But I sincerely believe that the key to prolonging the life of these pitches is to choose the right equipment and maintain them well," he says.
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