In Kerry Haywood's hometown of Derby, Rolls-Royce Leisure has provided the facilities for a better work/life balance and a place for social interaction, for almost 100 years. Grounds Maintenance Supervisor, Chris Moody, talks her through the vast array of facilities on this thirty five acre complex.
Originally established to provide Rolls-Royce employees with a leisure facility and social venue to enjoy with family and friends, today, the complex is open to everyone and the facilities are impressive to say the least.
Back in 1924, the site started as a bar and a snooker room and it's grown from there. Today, it comprises of six football pitches, two Rugby Union pitches, two cricket fields, four hard courts and six grass tennis courts (the most in Derbyshire) and three crown bowls greens; Chris Moody, and his young and highly enthusiastic team, certainly have their work cut out.
Chris has been at the facility for just over a year and, brings experience from; three years at The Nottinghamshire Golf Course, a stint as Head Groundsman at The Becket School and six years at Nottingham Forest Football Club, with three years running their training ground and academy, where he completed all his qualifications, before moving to Rolls-Royce Leisure.
The variation of facilities is something that Chris enjoys and describes the complex as being second to none. "It's a very busy, never ending project for the team. We not only look after the sports areas but, also, all aspects of the overall set up, such as rooms for conferences, parties, quiz nights etc. On the whole, we're seeing the facilities improve and focus on presentation is now greater than ever before."
"We boast some of the best rugby pitches in the County and the football pitches are open for hire every Saturday and Sunday. The six pitches see fourteen teams play up to ten games every weekend, which means they get quite a lot of use. I see them as above council level, but they're never going to be on a professional scale, so we aim for somewhere in the middle. If pitches aren't fit, we will call games off and protect them as much as possible. As the council pitches get more expensive, and quite often poorly maintained, we find ourselves getting more and more busy."
The unique facilities house the 1st, 2nd and 3rd teams in the Derbyshire Cricket League and continue to receive 100% umpire ratings. They also play host to the 20-20 inter tournament with Rolls-Royce employees using the fields up to four times per week throughout August.
The soil profile is sand and clay based across the site, and there are few problems to deal with, apart from the surface becoming compacted under moist conditions, as can be expected with a clay loam top soil profile. Throughout the summer, the football pitches are mown regularly, spiked to keep them as open as possible and marked. During spring, they're seeded up so that by June/July they're nice and lush and ready to go. This generally means they then look after themselves throughout the playing season, aside from dressing the goalmouths with sand if they become really wet. A similar programme is used on the rugby pitches which are also regularly rolled throughout the winter.
Chris's philosophy is to do the basics well; keep the pitch as level as possible, the grass coverage good, free of water, damage to a minimum and mow and mark to ensure they're all as presentable as possible.
As well as the upkeep of the football and rugby pitches during the winter months, there are lots of maintenance jobs such as painting fences, clearing out gulleys, machinery maintenance, weeding, general tidying up and the upkeep of all the surrounding areas.
The site is pretty unique, given that alongside the amount of fine turf and variety of sports facilities, you could also choose to get married on site, with the newly gained licence and dedicated photo area. Planting around the wooden pagoda, which is situated alongside one of the bowls greens, has become important and Chris has put his own stamp on all the flowering beds and surrounding areas. Emphasis is placed on using local businesses, wherever possible, and the shrubs and plants are provided by local company Firs Farm Nursery.
Rolls-Royce Leisure is a completely non-profit making organisation and every penny that comes in to the complex, from the hiring of pitches, tournaments etc., right through to social tickets sales, gets put straight back into the development of facilities, machinery etc. This sounds great but, in reality, it means that budgets are restricted and Chris and the team work well within the given restraints.
This becomes more apparent when it comes down to disease control. The bowls greens suffer with fusarium and Chris sprays the fineturf areas (bowls, cricket and tennis) with Carbendazim to try and control the worms, but budgets mean they have to do what they can. "I would like to get the big boom out and spray everywhere, including the cricket outfields but, more often than not, the budget doesn't stretch" said Chris. "Instead, drag matting or brushing is used on the winter sports pitches to keep the surface free of them."
Artificial surfaces suffer with moss, so they're sprayed with a killer which acts over a period of a few months. Weeds were sprayed across the site, with a selective in spring, which proved too early given the weather conditions.
"There is a good fertiliser plan in place and we have recently invested in a Vitax EvenSprey Club, as the boom sprayer was too big for the smaller areas. It's improved the attention to detail, and it's much more concentrated, which gives better results."
"This also falls in line with our environmental policy and we try to do as much as we can to reduce our carbon footprint. I'm sure it's nothing out of the ordinary, but we now recycle grass clippings and metal, whilst wood and garden waste is recycled into compost. Before this procedure, it all went to landfill. I also try to re-use marking paint."
"I'm very conscious that we could do with a wash-off facility but, at the moment, we don't have the budget for the machine or to put in the correct drains. It's on the agenda and something we will think about incorporating next winter."
All equipment is bought outright, with no leased machinery at all, so this sometimes becomes difficult when planning for new equipment. Servicing the machines is done in-house and certainly the smaller jobs, such as changing oil, filters etc., is completed by the team. However, in fear of damaging machines, big repairs and full servicing is done by a local company who they've used for many years and trust to do a good job at the right price.
Budget constraints mean that Chris and the team are often left to utilise traditional methods. "We don't have lighting rigs or laser line marking equipment etc., and whilst they do a fantastic job, it does take some the expertise and enjoyment out of it. Recently, I did the tennis marking out with string, and it's great to be able to take a step back and be proud of the end result. One guy commented they were the straightest lines he'd ever seen, and it makes it all worthwhile."
A lot of Chris's philosophy comes from his time at Forest, where he would spend hours getting everything absolutely perfect, and that's the approach he passes on to his team along with working to the best of their ability. He says: "If you've done your best, then that's your Wembley."
"This job offers so much variety of different sports, and I couldn't do everything without the team and the different specialities they bring to the table. It's very much a team mentality on site with everyone encouraged to help out and be flexible."
Chris describes his team as the Power Rangers of Groundmanship and they are all levels 2 & 3 qualified: Phil Jordan (31), aka Mr Cricket; Mitchell Wellings (25); apprentice Jacob Lebeter (18) and Bowls Director Rob Dennis (27).
"I appreciate everybody, but it's important to respect each other's strengths and weaknesses as different people can do different things. You wouldn't have ten Wayne Rooneys; it requires a mix of people's abilities and specialities, which works well."
Chris controls everything from pitch diaries to budgets with the Site Services manager, Kevin Shore, who has been at the facility for two and half years.
"Rolls-Royce is the biggest employer in Derby with 14,000 employees. One of the biggest problems we have here is that people think that we're just for Rolls-Royce staff but we're so much more than that, providing a variety of sporting facilities and social activities for everyone."
"As well as hosting regular football festivals and tournaments, 2019 will see the return of the All England Bowls Championship, first held here eight years ago. This is a major televised event, which provides great coverage for the venue whilst showcasing the fantastic work of Chris and the team."
"Moving forward, we have no current plans to extend the site, but we will continue to serve our current 11,000 members with an array of services from sports through to chess and scuba diving clubs."
What's in the shed
Kioti DK50 tractor
Kubota B1820 tractor
Progressive mower SDR90
Major roller mower
Poweroll cricket roller
Protea greens mower
Dennis Premier, with seat
Dennis FT510 with cutter, verticutter and scarification cassette
Ransomes super certes
Ransomes auto certes
Vitax pedestrian sprayer
2 x pedestrian rotary mowers
2 x strimmers
3 x line markers
SCH aerator frame with 3 attachments