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A year in the life of a volunteer groundsman

s an ex-rugby player, an active club member and armed with a bit of soil and grass knowl- edge, my life as a volunteer

groundsman began at Bury St Edmunds Rugby Club five years ago. The Haberden’s playing fields and

clubhouse has been home to Bury St Ed- munds Rugby Club since 1963. During the 1970s, the club raised funds to rebuild its playing facilities and redevelop the clubhouse, which was further extended in the 1980s. In 2006, with the aid of a grant from the Rugby Football Union (RFU), the club added a three-quarter- size 3G synthetic pitch to its existing three full-sized pitches and introduced mini rugby into the club on the six acres of surrounding playing fields. Today, the club encompasses a first,

second and third 15 squad, the Bury Fox- es Ladies team, as well as a veterans team and a youth section. The first 15 pitch hosts 30 games a

year, plus first team run throughs on a training night, pitches two and three ac- commodate 84 games each season, plus mid-week training, while the 3G pitch is used for training. The club also hosts the ULR7s – the biggest Rugby Sevens event in the East of England.

NEEDS ASSESSMENT When I took on the groundcare role, I decided to sit in on club committee meetings to better understand the club’s


sports surface needs and objectives and subsequently developed a strategy to achieve the club’s ambition to become a premier club in the eastern counties. This strategy addressed the need to

extend our existing knowledge – by en- listing help from club contacts to secure a pitch budget, develop a maintenance programme and establish a pitch policy. As well as receiving support from club

suppliers, colleagues and fellow club members – including plumbers and farmers who were happy to offer their equipment – I also received invaluable training and support from the Institute of Groundsmanship (IOG).

EXPERT ADVICE A big turning point in my turf education was meeting turf consultant Alex Vickers, while attending an IOG Winter Games pitch level 1 course. The three key issues that stuck in my

mind thereafter were: • the importance of a pitch maintenance plan • the need to aerate pitches on a regular basis • the need to provide proper irrigation

Volunteers: the linchpins of

the groundscare industry According to Geoff Webb, CEO of the Institute of Groundsmanship (IOG), Andy Spetch is one of thousands of like- minded volunteers (at the last count an estimated 20,000) who diligently work ‘under the radar’ on sports playing sur- faces throughout the country. “Often working within minimal budgets

Bury St Edmunds first 11 versus Eton Manor on their home ground, cared for by Andy

and with the bare necessities of essen- tial equipment, these willing volunteers play an indispensable role in ensuring that a wide range of sports are played

to ensure good root establishment and growth. Addressing these issues, I was then

able to design an annual maintenance budget and present it to the club commit- tee. The £6,500 budget included £1,000 to self-install a pop-up irrigation system and £5,500 for spring maintenance. This plan was based on saving the club money in subsequent years by reducing seeding costs through increased turf emergence, establishment and growth.

THE STARTING POINT In February 2007, a verti drainer was used to break up both surface and deep compaction. This then allowed for the planning of end of season maintenance for that first year, which included: • over-seeding all pitches at a rate of 25g/m2 with a dwarf perennial ryegrass • topdressing at a rate of 80t-100t per pitch with an 80 per cent sandy loam dressing from British Sugar TOPSOIL. The top dressing was applied after

seeding to cover the seed and retain moisture around the seed. Because of budgetary restraints no fertiliser was

on first-class surfaces week in, week out throughout the year,” says Webb.

“Many are retired grounds profession-

als or ex-sportsmen, such as renowned England cricketer Ray Illingworth – or, like Andy Spetch, involved in sports clubs or connected to the industry via their day jobs. Their IOG membership benefits offer a broad spread of services and information sources, substantial discounts on training and education and access to the recently launched Turfcare Advisory Service. Visit for further information

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Issue 1 2012 © cybertrek 2012

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