A NEWFOUND APPRECIATION FOR ALL VOLUNTEERS is a blog shared with kindest from our friends at TurfPro.com. Volunteer groundsperson George Hobson takes us through the history of the club and his renovations in this encouraging blog.
Nestled in the heart of Yorkshire, you’ll find Sutton Upon Derwent Tennis Club. Celebrating its 100th anniversary since the club was first founded in 1923.
Rev. Michael Pimm was behind many major developments in the village in the 1920’s, from saving the church roof, building the village hall and forming the local tennis club. The tennis club flourished and remained in use through the 1930’s and was even visited by airmen from the Free French Bomber Squadrons. The French airmen donated a shield ‘The Free French Shield’ which is still competed for to this day.
After the death of Rev. Pimm in 1947 the village seemed to enter a decline. The tennis club was no exception and ceased to exist. It wasn’t until 1970 when a long debate went on to decide on turning the overgrown tennis courts into a playground or to carry on Rev. Pimm’s wish of having a local tennis club. A decision had been made and the next day local villagers were out in force bringing the tennis club back to life.
This picture was taken around the summer of 1929, in the background construction has started on the village hall. This took 3 years to build and cost £1600.
Over 50 years later the tennis club is stronger than ever. With 120 members, 5 mixed tennis teams, 2 men’s teams and ladies’ team all competing in the York Tennis League. The facilities have improved no end, with 2 all-weather courts and the two original grass courts now at a very high standard for a village tennis club. (the only grass tennis courts in the York tennis league)
I’ve played tennis since I was a junior and grew up playing on the grass courts at the tennis club. About 5 years ago whilst playing tennis and having countless bad bounces (if it bounced at all!) I thought it was about time to try and get these courts to a level where they ought to be. I set about learning the art of maintaining grass tennis courts, and that’s where this obsession began. My career background is quite varied across my 27 years. I come from a family farming background of which I’m involved in, and also a magician! I’ve been lucky enough to perform all over the UK from many private events to overseas at Le Mans 24-Hour Race with Aston Martin Racing.
I now volunteer my time looking after the tennis courts, and I have a newfound appreciation for all volunteers who donate their time looking after grassroots pitches. The courts are cut three times a week at 8.5mm from May to October with our Dennis FT610 (with 11 blade cutting cylinder, sorrel roller cassette, Scarifier cassette and Verticutter cassette). This has been a game changer for the quality of the courts.
Allowing the courts to be cleaned out with the verticutter throughout the season not only helps with play but also helps reduce the amount of material to scarify out at the end of the season. Each year the courts have a soil sample taken, and then a plan is devised for the season ahead for products to be (or not be) applied. Throughout the Winter the courts are cut with the rotary hayter mower at 13mm. Aquatrols Tough Turf program is applied throughout the colder months to keep the grass happy and keep disease to a minimum.
Other off-court improvements over the last year is the new container that’s used to store machinery, from what before was a garden shed we needed something more secure and bigger. I found an insulated lorry body and had an idea of how we could make it into a feature. As you can see from the picture it’s now a feature people can’t miss when they enter the village especially when it’s all illuminated at night!
The irrigation has been upgraded, which for last season was incredibly valuable. There are 5 pop-up Toro 855s sprinkler heads, (these were donated to the club and thank you again for those who made it happen) and the water tank was upgraded to a 7000L capacity which now allows for plenty of water to be irrigated on during the warm summer months, which we didn’t see much of this summer.
Renovations vary year on year. Our biggest renovation which changed the courts drastically was down to Campey Turf Care, whom I and the club will always be indebted to. The courts were Koro’d off, the Uni-Scratch contraption tillered up the soil before a Vredo disk seeder and dimple seeder put down 100% ryegrass.
This year with the wet weather in July meant matches were rearranged and the season went on longer than normal. This in turn meant renovations were delayed. The plan this year is to reduce the cut height down to around 6mm, depending on the level of organic matter between 5-10 passes with the scarifier cassette. A Billy goat vacuum and the Hayter will be used to ensure the surface is clean before an aerator with solid tines runs through the surface. We’ll apply around 4 tons of Binder’s tennis loam which has a clay content of 23% Finally we’ll put down Barebrug’s Ultrafine 100 ryegrass, this is at a rate of at 50g m2.
George Hobson, volunteer groundsperson, Sutton Upon Derwent Tennis Club
ICL preseeder fertiliser goes down two weeks after germination. From here the courts are cut regularly and our winter feed program kicks in.
A highlight this year was welcoming an Australian professional tennis player to train on the grass courts for a few days before she went to compete in Junior Wimbledon. It was interesting to hear a professional tennis player’s opinion on the courts, talking about the bounce, the speed how the ball reacts, thankfully it was very complementary!
I have been extremely grateful for all the knowledge and support from others in the grounds industry who have helped catapult the grass courts at this little village club to another level. The tennis cub has been the heartbeat of the village for decades and long may we hope that carries on for another 100 years.
A NEWFOUND APPRECIATION FOR ALL VOLUNTEERS is Blog shared with kindest from our friends at TurfPro.com
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