Located at the heart of Milton Keynes, Campbell Park hosts many of the city's major festivals and events. Its imaginative mix of formal gardens, water features, woodland, sports facilities and open pasture offer a wealth of attractions for residents and visitors alike. In particular, the profile of cricket has been raised by the standard now being played at Campbell Park.
Robert Riekie is Landscape Manager for the Parks Trust, and is responsible for coordinating and overseeing the maintenance of all of the Campbell Park facilities. Richard Bryce has been involved with the maintenance of the facility since its conception, back in 1991, firstly as part of the contracts team charged with its upkeep and, more recently, as head of his own company, Sports Ground Services.
Maintained to a first-class standard, Campbell Park's cricket pitch hosts a packed programme of local, county, youth, business and exhibition matches. Visit in the summer and you'll be unlucky not to see a game, such is the fixture list Richard has to contend with. Seating is on grass terraces and entry to most matches is free.
The first List-A match held on the ground came in 1997 when Northamptonshire played Nottinghamshire in an AXA Life league fixture. Between 1998 and 2000, Buckinghamshire used the ground for Minor Counties matches and, in 2005, the ground hosted its first Twenty20 match when Northamptonshire played Gloucestershire. Two further Twenty20 matches were played against Gloucestershire and Warwickshire in June 2008. On June 29th, Campbell Park will host its fourth Twenty20 match between Northamptonshire and Worcestershire.
Richard has always had a strong association with local cricket, spending nineteen years with Milton Keynes Cricket Club as a player, volunteer groundsman and, more recently, a cricket coach at North Crawley Cricket Club.
Having spent so long involved in the game, it was hardly surprising that he ended up working for a local sports ground contractor, maintaining sports pitches in and around Milton Keynes.
Richard's set up his own company in 1999, and employs four staff, including himself and his wife Caroline, who oversees all the accounts and office administration. His Assistant Groundsman, Jon Hawes, has been with him for five years, whilst Nick Allen is a seasonal groundsman, helping out during the summer months.
The company base themselves at Campbell Park to ensure they are able to meet the demands of the work required at the ground. In addition they maintain several other cricket grounds and eleven school grounds.
Richard employs four experienced sub-contractors who undertake work on his behalf - mowing, pruning, deep aeration, spraying etc. This partnership works well, reducing the need to purchase and maintain larger specialist equipment.
Richard has been solely credited with the quality of the wickets produced at Campbell Park. Originally an eight strip Boughton loam square, in 1996 three additional strips were laid using Ongar loam and, in the subsequent years, the renovation programme has included integration of Ongar into the rest of the square.
Due to the sheer amount of fixtures - fifty in a season is not unusual - Richard relies on Jon to help prepare and maintain the square for matches. They base their work around a very detailed performance specification set out by the Parks Trust, and liaise regularly with Robert Riekie.
The contract has clear definitions, and is set out in two distinct sections - routine maintenance, and preparation and after care of the ground for matches.
The Trust also defines specific work schedules for the various categories and levels of cricket being played. These are:
- One Day County Standard Matches
- Two Day County Standard Matches
- Three Day County Standard Matches
- Four Day County Standard Matches
- Selected Representative Matches
- One Day County Standard, Representative Two Day Matches and Pro/Celebrity Matches
- Representative, Club, School and Private Matches.
Each category stipulates the minimum amount of work required and staffing requirements for match days. For example, a category A match will require more preparation work leading up to a game. Richard will spend anything from ten to sixteen days to prep these matches, and is required to supply up to four additional staff to help move covers, site screens, flags, net facilities and boundary ropes, and be on hand to carry out final match preps, marking out and cleaning up of the wicket between innings.
For a category B match, preparation time is reduced to ten days with only two staff required to be in attendance on match days. For a category C match, prep time is reduced to five days, with no additional staff requirement during the match.
The outfield is maintained at a height of 15mm during the playing season, using a set of Ransomes Sportscutter trailed three gang cylinder mowers. The square is maintained between 6-10mm during the season, and the strip is cut to 3mm for matches.
Throughout the growing season, a selective herbicide is used to control weeds on both the square and the outfield. Richard uses a 9:7:7 NPK granular fertiliser every four or five weeks on the outfield, whereas an 11:5:5 NPK is more likely on the square.
End of season renovations of the square take place as soon as the last game has been played, usually mid September
Prior to the renovations starting, a worm suppressant is applied in late August. The first part of the renovation is to cut the square down to around 3-4mm, followed by two passes with the Graden to bring the debris to the surface. This is then removed using an assortment of power brushes, rotary mowers and blowers.
The square is oversown with R9 using a SISIS Variseeder, Richard's choice of seed for the last five years. Each pitch is then topdressed with 6-8 bags of Ongar loam. Finally, an autumn feed of 3:10:5 NPK fertiliser is applied to help encourage establishment of the new seed.
Aeration is normally carried out in November, following good germination and when ground conditions are more receptive.
In addition to the above, and over a number of years, the eight Boughton Loam pitches have been deep spiked following scarification, and Ongar loam worked into the holes. For the past two winters, this has been carried out by Ecosolve, using their deep drill with 12mm drills to a depth of 8" on the Boughton pitches and 10" on the three Ongar pitches. These pitches were, originally, too slow and low for first class cricket, but have gradually improved in pace and bounce. As Richard says, they are moving in the right direction, as confirmed by the level of cricket now being played.
With contractors perhaps not always getting the praise they deserve, it is refreshing to meet someone who has earned the respect of their employers by delivering a high level of service. As Richard says; "We enjoy the work that we do, and take an awful lot of pride in the job. We always try to employ staff that have played sport to a decent recreational level, in the expectation that they will understand the needs of the end user. If you can keep the client and users happy it makes life a lot easier."
"I might be wrong, but we consider ourselves to be quite unique as a contractor in the fact that, as part of the service provided, we visit all of our grounds on a Sunday morning during the cricket season that have got a game that day. We will tidy up Saturday pitches and give a final cut to Sunday pitches - this could be just one site or as many as five, depending on how the fixtures fall."
"As a contractor, we have always tried to build a good working relationship with our clients, and we liaise directly with PE staff, site managers and, in some cases, head teachers."
"There are some poor contractors in our industry, but also a lot of very good ones. We like to think we are doing our bit to enhance the reputation of contractors, and are very proud of our record of not losing any contracts in the eleven years we have been in business. We have never had to advertise, all of our new business has been via word of mouth."
Richard's relationship with the Parks Trust, whilst not unique, is unusual and is just one example of how the Trust are delivering high quality services to the city of Milton Keynes.
What's in the shed?
A lot of the machinery and equipment inherited was ageing, and has gradually been replaced over the years:
Ford Transit Vans x 2
Ifor Williams Trailer
Kubota 1750 Tractor
Kubota B6000E Tractor
Graden Linear Aerator/Scarifier
Tractor mounted slitter
Tractor mounted fertiliser spreader
Ransomes Sportscutter 3 gang mower
Ransomes Super Certes 51
Dennis FT510 c/w verticutter, brush, scarifier cassettes x 2
Ransomes Marquis 61 x 2
Etesia rotary mowers x 2
Fleet Kombi x 2
Farmura F25 sprayer
Billy Goat Force 13pPedestrian blower
Campbell Park Fixtures 2011
Sat 23rd Apr Towcestrians 1st XI v Finedon 2nd XI
Sat 30th Apr Towcestrians 2nd XI v Yelvertoft
Wed 4th May Northants 2nd XI v Hampshire 2nd XI
Thur 5th May Northants 2nd XI v Hampshire 2nd XI
Fri 6th May Northants 2nd XI v Hampshire 2nd XI
Sun 8th May Mayors Charity Match
Sun 15th May Bucks U15 Girls
Sun 22nd May Bucks U15
Sat 28th May NCCC Academy v Nothampton Saints
Sun 29th May Bucks U15
Weds 1st June Bucks U17 Training camp
Thurs 2nd June Bucks U17 Training camp
Fri 3rd June Bucks U17 Training camp
Sun 5th June Bucks U17
Sun 12th June Bucks U17
Mon 13th June Northants 2nd XI v Durham 2nd XI (1 day)
Tues 14th June Northants 2nd XI v Durham 2nd XI
Weds 15th June Northants 2nd XI v Durham 2nd XI
Thurs 16th June Northants 2nd XI v Durham 2nd XI
Sun 19th June Bucks U13
Mon 20th June ECAD v MCC
Sat 25th June NCCC Academy v ON's
Sun 26th June Bucks U15
Weds 29th June NCCC V Worcestershire 20/20
Sat 9th July NCCC Academy v Horton House
Sun 10th July Bucks U17 Girls
Tues 12th July Bucks U17
Weds 13th July Bucks U17
Sat 23rd July NCCC Academy v Rushton
Sun 24th July Bucks U15 Girls
Tues 26th July Bucks U17
Weds 27th July Bucks U17
Sat 6th Aug NCCC Academy v Burton Latimer
Tues 16th Aug Bucks U17
Weds 17th Aug Bucks U17
Thurs 18th Aug Bucks U16
Sat 20th Aug NCCC Academy v Brixworth
Sun 21st Aug Bucks U16 v Warwickshire U16
Sat 3rd Sept NCCC Academy v Wollaston
Sat 17th Sept NCCC Academy v Rushden