Following the pioneering work on the new drainage system at Lord's, the ECB took the decision to improve drainage at all Test Match grounds. Most grounds now have new systems installed, leaving just the Rose Bowl (Hampshire CCC) and the Riverside (Durham CCC) to complete the work over this winter.
The aim is to improve outfield drainage to a minimum drainage performance of 30mm/hour infiltration rate, so that play can restart within one hour of the end of rainfall.
The work was broken down into the following tasks:
1. Removing the existing turf from the outfield
2. Stripping off topsoil, grading of subsoil and replacement of topsoil to create improved levels that marry to the square and the existing boundary, especially upslope of the square. Currently, water runs from the pavilion side of the ground onto the square, and the aim is to eliminate this in the future
3. The installation of a system of main, collector, lateral and sand slit drains
4. Connection of the system to the existing outfall drain to the river
5. The installation of an automatic pop-up irrigation sprinkler system including a new storage tank and pump system
6. Spread of rootzone material to provide a stone-free layer on the surface
7. Fertilisation, turfing with washed turf and re-establishment
The timescale for all this work was hugely reliant on the weather and, as we know, the wettest autumn for some years was followed by the 'big freeze' with snow in excess of 10 inches.
White Horse Contractors moved in on 28th September, just one week after the final One Day International against Australia, to begin the work. Little did they know at the time what lay ahead, weather wise!
The 1.8 hectare outfield was koroed off and the sub soil regraded. This was followed by topdressing - all carried out in reasonable weather.
However, as soon as the drainage work commenced (at 5m spacing), the weather deteriorated rapidly, with torrential rain and snow accounting for forty-five working days lost out of sixty-three!
Work on site was heavily disrupted, and it may mean that some of the work will be rescheduled for autumn 2010 so that the contractor can, at least, lay 80mm of fresh rootzone and get the washed turf down in readiness for the new season.
However, snow and temperatures of minus 9OC did allow them to attempt to complete the drainage in the best trenching conditions for some weeks.
In such conditions, it took a few hours to get machinery thawed out and, in some cases, unstuck from the boards on which they were parked on overnight. The drainage work was completed by the end of January.
At the time of writing, White Horse were hoping that the cold weather would continue, which would allow them to travel over the formation and place the rootzone.
With the irrigation already in place, they were hoping to have the washed turf laid by the end of February.