Grassroots Diaries-Church Easton CC, after reading many posts on the Facebook page ‘cricket groundsman uk’ I thought I would turn my attention onto grassroots cricket grounds people, and the highs and lows I face each week.
Pre-season work started well after a damp winter, unfortunately my timings of applying a worm suppressant haven’t worked too well with this, I was faced with a square of worm castes to deal with. So I set about welding a frame for a mounted brush for the rotary mower to manage them, it looked like something from Robot Wars when I finished!
First test went well until our aging rotary decided to seize its engine in the middle of the square! After a brief committee meeting, they decided we haven’t got the funds to get me another rotary, so I managed to source a second-hand engine for £30.
With me still in fabricating mode I managed to build a steel framed drag mat to go behind the outfield mower, it worked great until the next time I used it as it had disappeared. Obviously with the price of scrap metal it was more valuable to somebody else.
This season l have managed to recruit a member to be an assistant, a fellow local farmer a Yorkshire lad who has an eye for growing grass (“that’ll do”). He undertook most of the pre-season rolling much to my partner Victoria’s delight. She is very understanding most of the time, but the late finishes last season were just starting to “push her buttons”!
We are still struggling with the amount of thatch in the square, mainly caused by previous grounds people not collecting the cuttings off when cutting it. After a few months of begging last season I managed to convince the committee to let me get a scarifier. With a small budget of £400 I purchased a new Hayter, which was great for the end of season prep, and light work this year.
Luckily a week before the game our main mower, the Allett Shaver came back from sharpening this was much to my relief after weeks of persistently calling the dealership for updates, I get the feeling they may have just got fed up of me calling and rushed it through! The first pitch of the season went ok, weather was kind in April if not a little dry. Although I did get mixed reports from our second team.
May has been a bit of a disaster for preparing wickets, the rain has been extremely showery, heavy and persistent at times. My main problem is actually getting to the ground after a good shower to cover the pitch over in readiness for rolling.
I with only having lunchtimes, and some evenings I never seem to time it right. My new assistant has been really handy for doing this, but even he struggles sometimes.
Fortunately, the first game in May was called off, which always buys me time in the week to start prepping a pitch for the week after. This was much to my partner Victoria’s joy as she then plans family activities for us to do. Roll on the days when my son is old enough to either give me a hand or play around the outfield on a summers evening!
The second game was a first xi game where I am team captain. Arriving at the ground the rain seemed persistent but as you will all know, every team member with a smartphone becomes Michael Fish forecasting the weather.
A glimmer of hope came around 3pm, so me the umpires and opposition captain decided to play a 28 over a side match. I hadn’t noticed before but someone over the winter months had removed the plugs for the covers, so puddles had formed over the sides of the pitch.
I always get frustrated with these games as captain and a groundsman, as part of me wants to play and gain much needed league points, but also the other part of me is still a groundsman and I hate the thought of mess and repairs the next day.
The team were then armed with garden forks almost looking like some medieval witch hunt started poking holes to get rid of the standing water, and I went on with the bow dry. With the majority of the surface water sorted we managed to complete the match with another win. We put the covers back on and went to the pub.
The following day I went down early to do a few repairs and give it a brush, cut and roll. The running up and down the side of the pitch had caused a real muddy mess that had dried out. This brought me to start thinking about should we have played the day before, and which clubs would actually have allowed it to go ahead?
This has probably been an age-old problem with small clubs but there seems a lot of emphasis on ‘getting the game on, however but what thought actually goes out to volunteer grounds people who give up their own time and the work that has to go in to clear up the messes ready for another three fixtures the following week.
On a final positive its June in 11 days, forecasters are saying warmer weather too. I can now start enjoying a pint on the club patio again.
Church Eaton CC- Staffordshire