Giggleswick School invests heavily in pitches
By David Markham
Kevin Byrne has a wide sporting portfolio as chief Groundsman at Giggleswick School - an independent school set in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales. Cricket, rugby, athletics, soccer, tennis and hockey, both with grass and hard court surfaces are all on his agenda and high on his concerns is drainage.
Kevin, who has been at Giggleswick for almost four years, has ten strips on the cricket square, which is used not only for school matches, but also by local and touring teams. He said: "At the end of last season we re-laid two wickets and at the end of this season we will work on four or five more wickets. We are using a Koro field topmaker to remove the surface on another two to a depth of two inches and the others will have the high spots taken off in order to try to take out the undulations.
We have problems with the water running across the square from corner to corner and getting under the covers. If we level the square we can hopefully cure the problem. On the two wickets we levelled last year we took out the low areas that were holding water. We are putting in a perimeter drain to catch the water from the higher ground. This will cost us about £2,000 and our regular contractor Danvic Turfcare will be undertaking the levelling work. We have also spent £5,000 on covers.
We start renovating the cricket pitches about the end of August and try to get the work finished before the start of the autumn term. We are under pressure more and more to keep the pitches in use for as late as possible to cater for people who want to book our facilities.
We use a Dennis F6 10 with interchangeable cassettes on the cricket pitches - brush attachments and a verti-cutting unit - and we have a one and a half ton roller. We cut the wickets with a Ransomes GreenPro to about four millimetres.
We use the same sort of equipment on the tennis courts and cut them to about eight millimetres during the season. The tennis courts are for recreational use only and they are enjoyed by staff and students, but the levels are poor. We don't play any competitive matches on them. School matches are played on the hard courts. At present we are lightly scarifying them to pick up any lateral growths and let some air into the ground and then we will take out any weeds.
At the end of the season we normally scarify and do solid tining with a John Deere Aercore to about four inches. We overseed using dwarf rye grasses , bar extreme which is a Barenbrug mix. In the past we have top dressed with Boughton Club loam similar to what we use on the cricket pitches. Out of season we maintain the grass at about 15 to 18 millimetres. We cut the grass on the rugby pitches to about four inches, chain harrow them to maintain a level surface and to give a good presentation as well.
Three years ago we had two new pitches laid without any drainage, and subsequently experienced problems with drainage. Last summer we used the BLEC sandmaster on them drilling an extra 60 tonnes of sand into the top four inches. That work was a real success and the pitches drained really well during periods of heavy rain. As the machine moves through the ground there is lateral movement that causes a fissuring effect and de-compaction. We did it at the right time when there was moisture on top and it was dry underneath."
The school offers rugby one term and football on the other term in the winter months. There is also a prep school - Catteral Hall - for students up to the age of 13 and the pitches here were being verti-drained.
Kevin, who was at Durston House School in Ealing in West London before going to Giggleswick, is studying for an on-line degree in sportsturf science at Myerscough College and the University of Central Lancashire.
The full range of sporting facilities at Giggleswick are - three cricket squares; four grass tennis courts and six hard courts; eight rugby pitches; one grass hockey pitch and one artificial pitch - keeping the artificial pitch clean and brushed is our main consideration - and a variety of other sports including 2 X 400 metre running tracks on grass and rounders.
The school are investing heavily in sport at present and we are working hard to make improvements wherever possible ourselves. David Worthington and Craig Eccleston make up the Giggleswick ground staff team.