Mike Rutterford is Head Groundsman at Framlingham College, a position he took over from his brother. Set in beautiful Suffolk countryside the college is considered by many locals to have the best views in the county
Framlingham College - 'with the most spectacular view in Suffolk', in the opinion of many locals is overlooked by the imposing 12th century Framlingham Castle, the former home of the Dukes of Norfok, the extensive school grounds are very much in the public eye and there is an undoubted responsibility on the grounds team to match the standards of the surrounding scenery.
Mike Rutterford, the Head Groundsman and his team all take great pride in producing pitches of the highest quality and maintaining the gardens and grounds for over 430 pupils at the Senior School and for over 250 pupils at Brandeston Hall, the Preparatory School nearby. Founded in 1864, the college is now a modern, fully co-educational boarding and day school set on the outskirts of the market town of Framlingham in the beautiful Suffolk countryside.
Mike began his grounds career looking after his village cricket pitch, then he moved to a full time job at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he worked under John Manning, who he regards as 'one of the best presenters of a ground you could wish to work with'. He moved back here to Suffolk twenty five years ago as Senior Groundsman working under his brother at the Preparatory School where he brought the playing surfaces up to an exceptional standard. He took over the position of Head Groundsman from his brother seven years ago.
With a team of seven dedicated groundsmen, and a gardener, he manages around 100 acres, including the maintenance of a nine hole golf course at each of the school. He believes that a vital ingredient of his job is being able to call upon the wide-range of skills possessed by his staff. He is fortunate to have John Meadows, a qualified welder, who has been instumental in manufacturing their own wicket covers which have proved invaluable. In a wet season last summer, only two school matches were lost due to the weather. The in-house team has also laid four artificial practice wickets with fully-enclosed cages and all the wooden fences, whether close board, panel or post and rail have been built by another one of the team, Mel Beck.
The eight rugby pitches are cut at 3½" every other week and quadraplayed in the intervening weeks. The practice rugby pitch gets heavy wear during the season, and gets wet in the spring, so the college invested in 100 tons of sand banding to a depth of 7" with 6" middles across the existing drains, which has already reaped considerable benefit.
The college has a sand-filled artificial pitch for hockey which is converted to twelve tennis courts in the summer. Laid in 1990 with a 23mm pile, a recent technical inspection reported a remarkable current 17mm pile which has resulted in its life being extending well beyond what was originally expected. Additionally, the school has six grass hockey pitches on which the grass is maintained at a height of 5/8".
Cricket is played on four main squares and three further squares that have hockey played across them in the spring. Overseen with loving care by Barry Meadows, the strips are cut out five to six days in advance of a match to a playing height of 3mm. The main cricket pitch, 'The Back', has had the outfield scarified with a Koro Top Pitch Maker each of the past three years, and has also been hollow cored and verti-drained with their own Charterhouse VertiDrain.
This has helped to relieve compaction, get rid of some thatch that was building up, as well as helping the roots get down in drier summers. During the summer holidays the school hosts county games and local sides and, in August, Mike and his team complete a remarkable transformation by turning The Back's outfield into eighteen grass tennis courts for the Framlingham Grass Tennis Tournament which, now in its 115th Year, comes second only to Wimbledon in terms of longevity!
Mike's team verti-drain all the grounds on at least three occasions in the autumn and, if possible, four times in winter. The golf greens receive one major dressing a year with Banks 70/30 sand/soil dressing with an overseed of Chewings Fescue (30%), Slender Creeping Red Fescue (50%), and Browntop Bent (20%). The cricket squares are scarified and spiked with a trusty old GA30 then overseeded with a mix of Greenflash, Greenway, Tucson all at 20% and Ace at 40%, all Dwarf Ryes from Rigby Taylor. The squares are then top dressed with Ongar Lawn from Binders using ten bags per strip at the preparatory school and twelve bags per strip at the college.
Goal areas are overseeded with perennial rye mixtures and, in the past two years, spring and summer fertilisers have been applied on the outfield which seems to have reduced the problems they have had with red thread.
Last summer, Mike was very proud to host a delegation from the Sri Lankan Cricket Board who were visiting the Ransomes base in Ipswich. The college uses mostly Ransomes machinery: the Commander for the outfields; Mastiffs for cricket outfields and hockey pitches; and a set of Ransomes gangs for the outfields at the prepatory school. A Toro Groundmaster 3000D is used to keep the golf course rough under control and for topping the rugby pitches.
Surrounding the college are mile upon mile of hedges, all of which are excellently maintained by Jonathan Cable.
Everyone at Framlingham College and Brandeston Hall are very appreciative of the beautiful surroundings in which they study, work and play. It is a huge task for Mike and his team to maintain the grounds to such a high standard and he puts this success down to having the support of a versatile team of excellent staff who are proud of Suffolk, the college and the jobs they do.
Mike believes that if the Duke of Norfolk was still living in Framlingham Castle (he left in the 16th Century!) his Grace would be favourably impressed by how the present incumbents are looking after the grounds!