Bedales is an independent school located in the village of Steep, near Petersfield in Hampshire. It is set in 60 hectares of rolling Hampshire countryside and offers a wide range of outdoor activities with a large emphasis on rural studies, art and music.
This includes a farm that is home to over fifty Jacobs sheep and two horses, one being a 17.3 hand Percheron draft horse. Outdoor activities are run for the pupils as part of the curriculum. The students are able to learn many traditional rural skills that include hedge laying, walling, animal husbandry, bee keeping and cottage crafts, such as baking and making preserves.
There is competitive sport, but competitiveness is not prized for its own sake, rather, competition is the opportunity for individuals to test and stretch themselves.
The school has approximately five hectares of sportsfields, which includes a full size all weather (sand filled) pitch for hockey, football and tennis. Two sportsfields accommodate summer and winter pitches. During the summer the larger of the fields provides a seven-strip cricket square, cricket outfield, three cricket net areas, four grass tennis courts and a 400-metre, four lane, athletic track. During the autumn and spring terms it is given over to hockey, football and rugby.
The smaller sportsfield is laid out for small-sided games such as softball and rounders. During the autumn and spring terms this field provides football and rugby pitches.
The school also has a lot of informal grass and tree/shrub areas around the accommodation and teaching blocks. The school currently employs five groundstaff to maintain grounds and gardens.
Tim Barber is the Grounds Manager, a position he took up just seven months ago having previously worked as Assistant Groundsman at Leighton Park School in Reading and Head Groundsman at St. Michaels Prep School in Otford and Reading School. His Deputy Head Groundsman is Barry Arnold who is assisted by Dan Greenman. Also under his wing are Head Gardener, Andy Cann, and Assistant Gardener Simon Adey.
With sport not given as high a priority as at his previous schools, the presentation of these facilities has never been a priority. Whilst they provide a reasonable surface Tim is keen to improve on both the quality and the presentation.
The school are planning to introduce more fixtures as the quality of the surfaces improve. At the moment the school play twelve senior and seven junior cricket matches at home. A similar amount of tennis and rounders is also played, along with around ten adult games consisting of staff, parents and old boys.
During the autumn term in excess of fifty fixtures are played at home across hockey, rugby and football with the spring fixture list being similar.
Tim's current maintenance regimes are as follows:
Cricket wickets are as cut 'as low as the mower will go', the square is kept at between 10-12mm, and the outfield to 15-20mm. The grass tennis courts are maintained at 15mm.
For rugby the lines are cut out and the pitch mown to 40mm. Football and hockey pitches are kept around the 25-30mm mark.
Most of the mowing is carried out two to three times a week during the growing season and as required in the winter.
Tim is also considering letting the sheep graze on one or two of his sports fields to help reduce maintenance inputs during the winter months.
Rigby Taylor seeds are used predominantly, R9 for the cricket, R11 for the outfield and football pitches and a trial of R311 for the rugby pitch. Mascot HG 22-3-15 fertiliser is used on the winter sports pitches and Mascot Guardian 12:0:9 + trace elements for cricket.
These are applied during the Easter holidays with a renovation programme for the cricket due at the end of August. The pitches will then receive a liquid feed of seaweed extract to strengthen them for the winter.
Renovations will consist of selective spraying to remove weeds from pitches. They will then be scarified, concentrating especially on the grass tennis and cricket areas. Tim is aiming to increase the overseeding and topdressing regimes to help improve performance and the visual appearance of the pitches.
He is also monitoring nutrient levels in the soil profiles to help him formulate and apply appropriate fertiliser products which will improve the health of his sward.
Tim is currently putting together the specification and tender documents for replacing the old all weather pitch facility, which is a twelve years old sand filled system. He is looking to replace it with a modern sand dressed system that will be a suitable playing surface for tennis, hockey and football.
The majority of the machinery at his disposal is very old, including an Aveling & Barford Pioneer roller that dates from around 1937.
Much of this equipment will need to be replaced over time and Tim is already putting together a wish list which will include ride on rotaries and cylinder mowers to help speed up the cutting process and improve the quality of cut.
It will be interesting to return to Bedales in a year or two's time to see how he is getting on.
What's in the shed?
Ransomes Trailed Sports Gangs
Ransomes Trailed Rough Cuts
Ransomes Superbowl 51
Kubota L5540 Hydrostat
Aveling & Barford Pioneer roller, circa. 1937 (one careful owner)
Dennis 36" diesel mower
Various Stihl strimmers, chainsaws and hedgecutters
Rigby Taylor Glider linemarker
Huskvarna Proflex 21 AWD
Sisis Hydromain 32