Oxford v Cambridge University Varsity cricket match
I started my working life as a YTS City & Guilds student, back in 1984, where my main placement was at Sunderland’s old Roker Park Ground. Later onto Sunderland’s multi sports club, Ashbrooke, under the guidance of my mentor Bert Boston. Most recently, 2 spells (divided by a season at Horsham CC in Sussex) at Tunbridge Wells as fine turf supervisor, managing Kent CCCs Nevill Ground, preparing county 4, 1 day & T20 matches.
I live in Kidlington, with my partner, Caroline, I`ve been in Oxford for a little over 2 years as University Grounds Manager. I have a large portfolio of grass surfaces to manage.
I have a team of 7 grounds staff, who maintain over 24 hectares of sports surfaces throughout the City.
Outfield Renovations on a Budget
I decided to do a mini renovation of the outfield, in the hope of freshening it up before the only major cricket of our chopped-up season. So on the 3rd Aug we began hollow coring with a Toro multicore pedestrian machine. Following that, we went over the surface with an amazon scarifier collector, with the collection system disabled-allowing the cores to be pulverised. This gave not only a light dressing, ready to be brushed, after seeding-but also a gentle feed (the removed cores contain many unused nutrients and it’s a great way of not having to apply feed.
We looked at the forecast & decided that was the best time to undertake the job, yes there is risk involved, but the pros far outweighed the cons. Plus the core diameter was 10mm, which is more forgiving and the seasons end was quickly approaching.
We then applied 25 bags of several species, varieties and manufacturers of dwarf perennial ryegrass which were needing to be used up. Again, the chance to get rid of old stock was an option not to be dismissed. The next stage was to drag matt the site in two directions, a final cut with the John Deere five unit and then left to nature. We were very lucky with the constant rain, which allowed the seed to germinate within 4 days. The nutrients within the smashed cores took quickly too.
Pre-season Rolling not as we know it
After lockdown, we were unable to continue onto the heavy roller for our square. Although the surface was smooth & fairly hard, the sub was certainly not consolidated. I think this has been a characteristic of this season. Pitches which looked lightning fast, just lacked that extra consolidation to give a more highly tuned finish.
I initially gave the square a good drenching with the travelling sprinkler over the previous weekend. Checking with a corer that the water had percolated down to about 120mm. So, on Tuesday 11th August (4 weeks before our games), the team & I began cutting and rolling down the square with the Allett Regal. Initially cutting against the line of play. Then finishing in line with play, this continued for the next two days, without engaging the blades. Trying to consolidate & hand brushing the full square between the next cut & roll.
We then went against play with a heavier roller, overlapping each pass by half width of the machine. Spending a day against play, followed by brushing after each square completion. Followed on by rolling the individual pitches of the square in line, again brushing between rolling.
On Friday 21st August I cut out the individual pitches, initially with the Allett to 10mm. Verticutting & power brushing to 5mm. Then sheeted the whole area to keep in moisture in and also keep out rain!
For the next 3 days, we rolled the pitches in succession, 20 minutes spells, followed by brushing (3 x 20 mins per pitch). Sheeting was added between rain & overnight.
Because of the really wet August, I decided to cut the pitches down to match height a full 7 days before the game, thus giving the option that if the weather turned nasty for a period, I was able to at least provide a surface for the students.
More 20-minute spells of rolling & brushing up to 2 days before the game & then all was ready. Marking out and a 20 minutes roll the day before the 1st game and everything fell into place as planned. Very happy with the result. The pitches played extremely well, in what has been a strange old season for us all!
End of season Renovations
We have a 14-pitch square at the main Oxford University Parks ground, in the centre of town. 12 new (3 years old) pitches on Ongar loam and two old pitches, which are used for pre-season and netting.
We start by scarifying in 3 directions, left to right across the length of the pitches & right to left, finishing in line of play. Then a power brush is used to clean any debris left behind, nap-sack blow and a final cut (as low as the machine will allow, probably around 2 mm), followed by another blow of the whole square.
Always take as much living plant away from the surface as possible-leaving bare surface, to work extra loam into any scars, indents and foot holes by hand using a lute. I use MM50 dwarf perennial ryegrass, by Limagrain on the square, broadcast with a cyclone fertiliser spreader and treat the old pitches in the same way.
After seeding, I will drag brush the square in 4 directions to optimise seed contact in scarification grooves. So, then I`ll be dressing with around 3.5 tonnes of loam. We drag a large levelling lute over the square in 4 directions, ending in line of play. Once new grass has grown in to the two-leaf stage, I`ll apply a mini gran (small particle) autumn/winter fertiliser, then irrigate.
Another 7-10 days and then give the square its first autumn cut.
Oxford v Cambridge University Varsity cricket match by Jon Buddington, Grounds Manager Oxford University Sport
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