I have been asked by Brian Sandalls to do a feature on his blog. My name is Alex Ellis and I look after St Andrews CC ground in Burgess Hill. I have been looking after the ground for 5 years now, looking after 11 pitches, 8 of which are used for adult cricket.
This year has been the most challenging so far due to the lack of rain. I am lucky enough to have a good team of 4 volunteers. Shaun who I can rely on to help me out when I am just too busy, Scott who cuts the outfield and square, Ben who is the Saturday odd job boy, and most importantly Peter who is retired and does rolling during the day when asked. I manage them all and finish off the pitch markings and take the glory!
Watering has been key this year and I have been lucky to get the water on at the right times. I have mainly concentrated on watering the coming weeks pitch, cutting it right down to playing length (for me thats 5mm) then soaking it for a few hours on a Tuesday. We then place our dome covers or flat sheet over the pitch to stop any evaporation during the days scorching sun shine. Rolling is as normal, which for me on our Stoddart and Pitt is for a minimum of 40 minutes twice a day till Saturday morning when Ben does an hour long roll before I re-cut it back down to playing height (5mm) then mark it out. I haven’t worried if the pitch has been a little green to the eye as I know it will play the same as if it was that nice golden colour of normal seasons. The task of watering the pitch has been thanks to Shaun mainly and he is now a master of the hose.
In previous years we have had rain to keep the square moist, but this year we have had nothing and at times my square has looked shockingly unloved. I have brought the height up from 12mm to a heathier 16mm just to try and ride out this wonderful heat. I’ve also changed the number of cuts the pitch gets during the week and Scott has been cutting the square once a week instead of the normal twice a week in previous years.End repairs have taken a back seat as well, but I have made sure that any unevenness left from previous weeks by the batsmen have been filled with loam to make them safer for those fielding across the square.
The outfield normally gets cut by the council and we now have a good relationship with the contractors and they understand our needs. It’s taken a long time of communicating with them but we are there! I hope this isn’t tempting fate!
At the time of writing this I have an eye on the end of season work that is going to be needed.
My order for loam, seed and fertiliser has been placed, and a call to arms for club members to help on our groundwork day will be sent out soon. An incentive of free bacon baps and tea/coffee on the day is quite successful. Plus a request for the Sussex groundsmans trailer which has the scarifier on it has been submitted.
If this has been a help to at least one person, even if thats just Brian S for not having to write a blog, then that is great.
Autumn renovation workshops
Blackstone (Thursday 23 rd eve)and Eastbourne(28th am)
Just a matter of days off now ,these workshops have been set up to guide you in your renovations.
It very easy to go through the motions renovations wise but these workshops will give you the tools to know exactly what you should be looking to achieve ,answering questions why scarify and to what depth and how many directors and questions like how many bags of Loam and seed is required and plenty of time for questions.
The other aim is to get some training for those who use the association scarifier within the next couple of years we need to ensure our members are trained in the use or we may have to start declining use to untrained members ,so if you use the scarifier on the trailer l strongly recommend you attend.
Quick fire questions from Chris Geere -Sussex academy ground groundsman
(photo from 2009 fencing project☺️ -❄️)
Favourite piece of kit:
Probably my new Dennis Premier, to cut the squares with, gives a lovely cut.
On your wanted list:
I’m in the very fortunate position that I have almost all the equipment I need. However I would love to have a tractor mounted sprayer and a new rotary ride on mower (to cut the rough areas). Luxury item would be hover covers ( a man can dream)
Best advice ever given:
Always work from the middle out. So prioritise the match wicket, then the square, the outfield and then everything outside the boundary. It seems obvious but in the middle of the summer when im very busy its easy to forget.
Best and worst parts of being a groundsman:
Best parts are, when you get good feedback on how the ground looks and plays, for me it makes all the effort and hard work worthwhile.
Worst parts are the long hours, and not being able to do the things your friends and family do in the summer because you have to work.
Biggest thing you learnt this year:
Not to use the tractor mounted slitter on the outfield after March. We used it in May to try and help the outfield drain better after all the rain in the spring. But when we had all that hot and dry weather in June and July the clay content in the outfield shrunk so we had lots of big cracks on the outfield.
Thanks to Alex and Chris for there contribution in this blog hoping we can continue the themes of opening up the blog to other groundman to have a voice and share in there experiences.
As Mr Fletcher(pitch advisor) always says we are all in this together ,we should be looking at what we can give as well as we can take from each other,together we have a great opportunity to improve what we do and in turn raise the profile of groundman in Sussex.
Hope to see you at one of the clinics if not have a great renovations 🌱
Ps any questions below would be welcomed.