Groundsman in Lockdown
My names Kane Munday, 24 years old and I am an independent school groundsman at St Joseph’s College in Ipswich. I have recently moved from Langley Preparatory School at Taverham Hall in Norwich where I was a resident groundsman.
My Career so Far
I have worked in sports turf since 16 years old, firstly working for turf contractor Turfcare Leisure Services in Cambridge, where I worked as a greenkeeper as well as doing bowling green, tennis court and cricket pitch renovations. I moved onto Royston Golf Club for a year,before taking the independent school route in Norwich.
My New Job at St Joseph’s College
I started my new role at St Joseph’s on the 2nd March, it’s a 60 acre site with 3 rugby pitches (2 which are used for the National Schools Rugby Festival) as well as 2 cricket squares and 2 football pitches. One of which, is at Paul’s Sports Club adjacent to the school which we inherited 2 years ago to help us grow our football academy.
St Joseph’s a lot different to my last school where we had 2 groundsmen looking after 120 acres including 70 acres of ancient woodlands. At St Joseph’s, we have 5 staff looking after 60 acres in which they won IOG Independent School Grounds Team 2018.
Starting a new job in COVID-19 Pandemic
Starting a new job in these circumstances has been bizarre, where I should be picking the brains of the long serving ground staff at St Joseph’s, learning about the little idiosyncrasies of the school. I have had to rely on the sole time and knowledge of the head groundsman, Peter Hamilton, to guide me and show me how things are done.
We are currently on reduced hours and working a 3 day week, we have had to just crack on and get the jobs done as quickly and efficiently as possible. In a strange way, the independence of handling tasks as I see fit has allowed me to learn the site and manufacture my own way of completing tasks around site.
There have been a lot of challenges which you wouldn’t normally have to deal with, such as when do you put fertiliser down. Our rugby pitches are way overdue for a feed, but we don’t want the flush of growth if the country has to restrict our work further.
Demands of Watering
Irrigation of the rugby pitches is another challenge as we have just drilled seed into the rugby pitches, and the fact we have had barely having a spot of rain for a month.We have to irrigate to try and get some germination.
Ironically it’s raining hard as I write this, but we aren’t there long enough for the full cycle of our travelling sprinkler, so we have had to try other configurations to suit our work day.
Irrigation of the cricket squares has been another issue as we fed them after our PSR programme and our main cricket square is mains water and not on the bore hole system,so pressure is beyond poor.
Having to mess around moving sprinklers 8 times to cover our 9 pitch cricket square, whilst trying to get all the other tasks done has proven to be a huge pain in the backside.
Our rugby festival is our main event for the year, there is normal 4/5000 people who visit for the weekend, as well as the live streaming of the event on YouTube with a stream for each pitch.
It’s a huge celebration of our schools sporting culture with presentations of shirts for the selected squad in front of the whole school, plus the other students doing their part in promoting the event.
For us, it’s going to be exciting but also stressful, it’s all about presentation of the site as well, the pitches have to be painted in the school crest and sponsors logos.
We will be cutting every day, both directions for two weeks before in our chosen pattern, we will also be using Rigby Taylor Impact HD for our lines.
We plan to put down a slow release fertiliser in early September and a conventional release fertiliser two weeks before the festival at the end of October.
This year we should have been topdressing the pitches in early July when the students break up for summer holiday, but due to COVID, our delivery of sports sand is delayed and we don’t have the manpower nor machinery to spread it so this is unlikely to happen.
Our seed was drilled in the week before lockdown, which is lucky as we called upon a local greenkeeper to drill our seed in.
We used 15 bags of Johnsons J Nitro Premier Pitch seed which is 100% perennial rye Grass, it’s an excellent seed for wear tolerance and with the fertiliser coating, it’s normally quick in establishing (when we have enough rain!).
We have put down an application of ICL ProTurf 15-5-15 +5%CaO +2%MgO whilst we had some rain forecast just to give the pitches a boost after our rugby sevens season, and hopefully we can keep coming to work to cut them!
We are hoping COVID won’t affect the festival, it’s hopefully far enough away that this can blow over by then. As an industry, these are extremely trying times, lower staff numbers, minimal/no budget and no clear indication of when this will end.
I hope all the staff that have been furloughed are finding ways to keep themselves engaged and mentally well as these days off can be monotonous and boring.
For the current working staff, keep going, you can only do what you can, we are all perfectionists. We would all love our cricket pitches being prepped, a funky pattern in the outfield glowing in the sun and luscious green turf.
Just be proud of what you are producing now and accept it may not look how you want it to.
The most important thing is to talk. Talk to your partner, a friend, family or even your pets. You’re not alone, keep going and stay safe!
We will get there!
Check out our independent school groundsman blogs- https://turfcareblog.com/category/independent-school/
Interesting read Kane. I have a friend also at an independent school so am aware of the dilemma. At 24 the start of what looks like a promising career. Good luck in all you do.
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