Learning curve for the new Groundsman
By David Riley
I started work at Bridlington Sports and Community club in April this year, and was taken onto the playing field to look at what had to be done.
I was taken back a bit at first when I saw the state of the field. The cricket square was covered in red thread. It was uneven to say the least. There were two football pitches that looked like bogs and a junior pitch that was not much better.
My first job was to cancel one of the football fixtures and suffered lots of abuse because the footballers had previously been allowed to do as they pleased. I moved the goals on the two main pitches forward, to avoid sinking a good couple of inches, and the rest of the pitch I just levelled as best I could. On top of the very wet conditions the surface of the football pitches was just meadow grass with about one and a half inches of thatch in the top, and I tried not to panic when I was told that a three-day hockey tournament was to be held over the Easter weekend.
The previous Groundsmans answer to all the problems after the football was to roll it and compaction was another problem. I also discovered that the whole field was infested with leather jackets. I asked myself what had I let myself in for?
After the first cancellation I decided to let the teams play and see what problems would show themselves, the next weekend started with 1st and second team playing at lunchtime followed by a junior match in the afternoon. Then the following day junior football training (4 teams) followed by a senior and an under 16s match in the afternoon; this went on for the rest of the season (it does not happen now).
I found a slitter in a corner of the ground, apparently 3 years old and never been used. I cleaned it up and managed to use it several times to help get rid of some of the water and finish the football fixtures 3 weeks before Easter.
The hockey festival was held as well, although the ground was nowhere good enough for it but at least the weather over Easter was fantastic and everybody seemed to enjoy themselves. I hope the weather is as good next year, and the surfaces should have improved somewhat by then.
With the changeover to cricket coming, I diverted my attentions and gave the square a feed at the first opportunity. It was time to start preparing the square and get it reasonable.
The square had been part relayed previously with some clay from the Humber and I don't think anyone bothered to have it tested; how the grass grew in it I don't know.
The square had not been prepared as there had been no or little rolling and definitely no top dressing from the previous year. I managed to get a few hours rolling in before the start of the season and did the best I could with what I had.
During the summer I kept it as best I could with what resources I had and I hope the club can get some cash to either buy or hire a scarifier at the end of the season.
My remit seems to be to find some money myself, so as we have the railway on one side of the ground and a 600 bay car park on the other, I am looking for a company that may want to advertise on the club boundary.
Like most of us, one ends up being resourceful and I was able to cadge a set of old chain harrows. I put some chain link fence over the top then turned it upside down, this made the best drag net I had ever used! It is used very regularly which gives me nice light and dark lines and everyone comments on how nice the field looks which goes to show you can dress anything up.
The cricket season went very well with around 120 +matches played in the season. However the senior cricketers could not play on the five Humber clay wickets, as they were dangerous so I had to put the juniors on them.
When I brought up the issue of these wickets the second team captain had a look, we bounced a ball on the wickets and it was so hard that the ball bounced about 7 to 8 feet. We are now putting in for a grant to have them levelled and renewed.
Like many small clubs, money is scarce and I have had to manage as best I could with what I have.
The small machinery had not been serviced nor had the big roller or tractor. I did all the small machines myself and got someone in to do the roller and tractor.
There are 7 tennis courts at the club and surprise, surprise they too, were in a mess. Best described as full of thatch, leather jackets and daisies.
To top it all, we have endured two break-ins and around £6000 worth of machinery stolen. So at the moment I am struggling, as the thieves never even left me a spanner.
Maybe though the club are starting to feel sorry for me because at the end of the tennis season the tennis players clubbed together to have the top surface of the courts removed and reseeded, so all I need now is the machinery to maintain it.
I have got the first six months over and it has been a challenge and of course like every Groundsman I would like my ground to be the best in the country, who said it would be an easy life.