Notes from a lowly Village Green Club Groundsman
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Wivelsfield Green CC is a small club in East Sussex which has had just a Sunday friendly team for the last 100 years and l am the current groundsman. We play on the village green which has a nice pavilion run by the village hall.
I have been there for about 35 years, and in those days, it was traditional for the oldest player in the team to take on the role of groundsman. Little has changed in that respect, you could say
In the 1980’s the equipment list comprised of a general 24” Webb mower and a 3-foot cast iron push roller that was filled with concrete. Needless to say, the roller didn’t get used very much as it took six men to push it out over the uneven outfield. Even then, if the square was softish, the men pushing it left heel imprints in the square where they tried to push it.
Could I give a shout out for Barcombe Landscapes, here as they took over cutting our outfield and the village green as a whole, and have done a marvellous job over the past 10 years or so.
Wheeling and dealing Groundsman
Through careful financial management we had accumulated £400 by 2002 which we decided to spend on a motorised roller. That was quickly reduced to £300 after the mower packed up and had to be replaced with a carefully sourced (eBay) purchase. The S&P 32RD roller was bought and quickly developed strong biceps on the volunteers to start the single cylinder diesel engine.Two years of that was enough so we put on a Honda engine, selling the old diesel engine to break even on the exchange project.
It soon became apparent that the roller was only good up until about mid-May when the ground got hard, so the next expense was to run a water main from the pavilion to the edge of the square. That was achieved quite cheaply with the use of slave labour, and soon dramatically improved things, which made for a happy groundsman.
We then had a major achievement in getting a grant from the 2012 Lottery fund, in conjunction with the village hall, to build a large equipment store, with separate stores for the other sports clubs. What a change from a dilapidated large garden shed with earth floors to somewhere that is secure, has lighting, power and heating to enable us to tinker away when needed.
Our coffers were temporarily drained and so we just acquired mowers on eBay as and when they became available for less than £50, even if we didn’t want one! When our mower stocks exceeded the space available, we carried out a cull and generally sold on some after a service to make a profit.
We did however need a close-cut mower to cut the playing strips and our good friends at SACC helped us out, with their old Auto Certes which served us well for 8 years until the crankshaft broke at the end of last season (RIP).
cricket square cut
We were then pretty much set-up with all the basics to be able to produce, with some effort, a half decent strip. At least one which wouldn’t take your head off on a dry day. Our turfmanship was also slowly improving with trial and error, and then along came the Sussex Association of Cricket Groundsmen to give help and advice. You are never too old to learn!
Building an armoury of sorts
A series of smaller bits of equipment were then bought, comprising of a, Sisis lawnman; a cyclone fertiliser spreader, an Allen walkover sprayer and a huge double-wheel barrow. All those purchases have proved themselves. We also saw a Sisis Auto Rotorake Mk3 for sale for £400, which the Committee agreed was too good an offer to miss and that has also been a very big help as well
More judicious saving and wheeler dealings increased the pot to £1000 and I persuaded the committee there was a nice Auto Roller going ‘cheap’ which we could buy, then sell our S&P. The Auto Roller was collected and has been brilliant, with the extra weight and slightly wider.
The S&P had been a very good servant and, with the replacement engine; careful maintenance and a coat of green paint it gave us a profit of £1100 from when we bought it. The Auto Roller has a great Kubota diesel engine which starts on a pull cord first time, but that is getting a bit of a strain to an old man so we have acquired an electric start version of the same engine which we will fit soon.
Communication is key to Groundsman
Each year I produce an equipment list for our committee so they know what they’ve bought, and it is amazing to look back over the last 15 years to see how things have improved.
Recently, Alex Ellis (local groundsman) said he had seen a Ransomes 61 Super Certes for sale so I bought that for £250. It has needed a fair bit of work but is now working well. I also saw a Ransomes GA30 Aerator for sale for £700 at a country estate. The owner had bought it to aerate his lawn but the groundsman couldn’t be bothered to use it, it was in good order so we squeezed that into the store.
It might be regarded as a luxury item, to some groundsman but aerating on clay soils is a job which you need to decide on within a window of a couple of days when it is softish but not too soft. Having the GA30 means we can aerate 2 or 3 times when we like, not last winter of course.
The square is now in a condition where I can take pride in producing reasonable strips for SACC and HHCC 3rd XI’s on Saturdays and our own Sunday team. The ‘sub-letting’ of our ground on Saturdays has benefitted the Village Hall and that has benefitted us as well, plus of course it helps keep cricket in the village which I feel is important – much the same as a village pub.
Although we are a very small club, with just four members but several itinerant players we have economised where we can. We have developed a good relationship with our village hall, so we have been able to prioritise what we need to improve the square.