1 Variety is the spice of life for C H Grounds Maintenance

PhilipMatthewsC H Grounds Maintenance Ltd, based in Chesham on the border of Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire, was formed in 1988, to service the basic day to day maintenance requirements of local sports clubs. Within one year a rapid expansion evolved, with a significant investment in plant, machinery and an increased labour force being made, as the diversity and volume of contracts undertaken increased. By the early 1990s, an extensive range of projects was being undertaken including sports turf and golf course construction, drainage, renovation and maintenance.

The company was taken over by Philip Matthews in 1997 who, as a major agricultural contractor in Buckinghamshire at that time, determined that his existing company, Philip Matthews Agricultural Contractors, and CH Grounds Maintenance Ltd would dovetail perfectly to form one organisation.

Further expansion continued apace, with an ever increasing investment in plant, machinery and staff, for which Philip's existing premises provided ample storage and office and welfare facilities.

The comprehensively fitted workshop provided the means by which servicing and repairs could be undertaken in-house, reducing downtime to a minimum, whilst a mobile fitter provided a rapid response to any breakdowns on site.

TrencherBeing based ten miles from the M25, and in close proximity to the M40 and M4, provides the ideal location from which to readily transport plant and machinery to any area in the south of England, Wales and the Midlands. Naturally, the company will travel further afield to any part of the UK to fulfil certain contracts and, whilst transport costs are increasing relentlessly, these can be absorbed to some degree to secure orders.

Diversity in the annual programme undertaken, and clients' requirements serviced, has remained a significant thread throughout the company's activities and success over three decades. The project range is considerable and includes spring and autumn renovation, drainage and construction works, civil engineering and regular maintenance programmes for clients such as Watford Borough Council and Hertfordshire University. Clients include local authorities, parish councils, utility companies, polo grounds, private sports clubs, golf courses and major landscaping companies. The company is an approved contractor for the FA, RFU and ECB.

Diversity ensures that the company remains profitable for at least ten months of the year and breaks even for the remaining two months.

In a severe winter, heavy snowfall is quite welcome, enabling plant to be utilised to undertake snow clearing for local authorities and, in the case of the last two winters, clients such as Twickenham Stadium, both on the pitch and in the car parks. The wide range of services offered has ensured that, despite the current Korochallenging economic climate and Government cuts in expenditure, there is sufficient variation in the works programme to ensure that the company thrives.

Provision of plant and machinery to undertake the various projects includes:
- Six John Deere tractors
- Laser controlled trenchers and backfilling machinery
- AFT Whizz Wheel
- Blec Sandmaster
- 360° Excavators
- Bulldozer D6
- Seeding and topdressing machinery
- Koro Field Topmaker
- Blec Groundbreaker
- Six Verti-drains
- Cultivation and laser controlled grading machinery
- Grass cutting machinery
- Spraying equipment

To utilise plant and machinery to its full potential, and ensure that projects are undertaken to the highest of standards, a considerable investment has been made in the training of staff, to produce an able, conscientious and motivated workforce. Training courses are attended on a regular basis to ensure the continued development of the personnel.

Serious consideration is given to the demands of the work programme, on an ongoing basis, to ensure that, whilst including as many projects as possible, it remains feasible and logistically practical to fulfil the requirements of all the clients.

Much of the spring and autumn renovation work is repeat business, booked in up to one year ahead, some of which has been undertaken for over twenty years. This is clearly a reliable indication of client satisfaction and also provides the framework around which further projects are booked into the schedule at those particularly busy times of the year.

Throughout the schedule, during the period February to November inclusive, flexibility and consideration in respect of ground and weather conditions prior to and during contracts become of optimum importance, and the fulfilment of client expectation and completion of projects to the highest standard and to tight timescales becomes an all consuming task.

Whilst a reduced schedule is undertaken in December and January, the ongoing week to week maintenance packages continue throughout these months.

Despite the plethora of challenges faced by contractors in the sports turf industry in the current economic climate, the company is well-established and in a sound, secure position from which to expand further over the coming years. In fact, the schedule of works planned for 2011 is as intensive, and potentially more so, than in previous years.

Philip Matthews, Managing Director, sums up the ethos and mission statement behind the success of CH Grounds that has remained throughout the years, "to provide a competitive, diverse service without compromising on quality and to ensure that all clients' expectations are totally fulfilled, through a process of communication and attention to detail and the provision of up to date, well-maintained, plant and machinery, operated by a professional motivated, well-trained staff."

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