Monday, 28 December 2015

Monday 28th December

It is now exactly a year since I started this blog and as the title of the blog is 'A year in the Life of an Amateur Cricket Groundsman' this will be the final blog.

Since my last blog I have tried to spike the square as often as possible, but with all of the rain that we have had it has only been possible to do it a few times.

At the beginning of November we had 60 tons of sand delivered with the intention of spreading it on the senior football pitch a few days later.

The picture (taken from one of the CCTV cameras) shows about one quarter of the sand still in the car park where it had to be tipped.

The rain over the weekend caused extensive flooding on the field.

Earlier in the week the footballers had asked if the grass could be cut!

Although it has not been possible to do much work on the ground there has still been lots to do. One major job has been to review the CCTV system which has had its problems, mainly caused by the squirrels chewing through some of the cables. We also took the opportunity to re-position some of the cameras and so now we have one camera pointing directly at the scorebox.

Deciding on how to upgrade our system has been a major challenge as the technology behind the cameras has changed so quickly. It looks like we are going to replace some of the cameras so that the images will be of sufficient quality that they can be used to prosecute offenders should that be necessary. All of this comes at a price but thankfully the Rec Centre pays for the CCTV system. One thing I have learnt is that different CCTV firms charge significantly different prices with some charging twice the price of others.

We also set the system up for remote viewing and playback. This worked well for 2 weeks and then stopped working. It has taken 4 weeks to sort it out with help from the equipment suppliers. Eventually it took a visit from the firm to sort it out. All that was needed was a minor change to the domain name. The engineer had no idea why it was needed but it least it is now working again.

Significant time has been spent over the last few months applying for grants for various projects and pieces of equipment. We decided to use a firm who help you complete the application forms on a 'no grant, no fee' basis. When setting out on these grant applications I had no idea how detailed the application forms were. Eventually we got one form off only to be told a few weeks later that the application was unsuccessful. The grant provider told us why and I decided that I would re-write the form focusing on what was missing from the original application and including detailed information from the Village Survey which had been commissioned a year or so ago.

An application to another provider had to be withdrawn as they had issues with the firm who was helping us complete the application and so many hours were put in to re-writing the form. If we are successful with this one at least we won't have to pay the adviser 10%!

Application forms have also been completed to two other providers (thankfully these forms were much shorter).

These applications have given to club an opportunity to focus on what we want to achieve in the next few years. We have found it difficult to recruit new members, both young and old and so we will spend time over the next few months deciding how we can address these concerns.

The fixtures for the next season have just been published. Initially we had a home fixture scheduled for 16th April! This caused great concern as we can't have the ground until 1st May due to the arrangement we have with the football club. We also usually find it impossible to prepare the square properly until late April. Thankfully common sense has prevailed and the league has made changes that should mean that we don't play at home for at least the first two weeks. It could be that I will be in Cyprus for the first home game so others will have to do the final pitch and square preparation.

Finally I thought that I would end my blogging with some good news. One of the grant applications has been successful - the one that was originally rejected (subject to submitting a couple of final documents) so we will soon have a scorebox extension and at last the opportunity to have all of our equipment in one place.

If all goes well with the another applications we will also have mobile covers and a new mower for the start of the season.

I hope that you have enjoyed following the trials and tribulations of an amateur cricket groundsman over the last year.

Happy New Year and goodbye!

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Thursday 24th September

After a long, often challenging summer, the 'copmanthorpegroundsman' decided it was time for a holiday. Somewhere warm where the is no chance of any rain. This does the job!

Paphos, Cyprus 31degrees!

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Thursday 10th September

And so to bed! Well that is what has been happening to the square this week.

On Sunday morning a team of around a dozen (mainly the usual faces) fenced off the square and took the sight screens apart, putting the screens in the garage for protection over the winter. Removing them from the top of the frame is always a challenge and something that we need to find a safer way of doing next year.

A couple of hours and the job was done.

The contractors were booked for Thursday so on Monday morning the square was cut as low as possible, in both directions. This really helps with the scarifying and top dressing. A lot of grass came off.

The markers for the pitches needed to come out and the post hole covers for the practice nets removed. These fit rather too tightly in the sockets and when they get wet the wood expands making it difficult to remove them. Fortunately on this occasion they all came out without leaving the wooden 'stems' in the sockets.

This year I thought that I would spike the square before the topsoil was applied in the hope that some of the loam would drop into the holes rather than just lying on top. I was surprised how hard the square was in places as the tines barely went into the ground. 

To be honest I am not sure how successful this was, but at least I tried something different.

Today the contractors were there early: 8 am not 8.30 am. Better early than late. Firstly the square was scarified (small tractor driven), then fertilized, seeded and finally 3 tons of Ongar loam applied. I thought they had stopped using Ongar and were going to use Super Essex, but apparently they had received a supply of Ongar. I have always been pleased with it so I had no concerns about using it. After 3 hours the job was done.

With rain predicted for Saturday morning there will be no need to get the sprinkler on to germinate the seed.

Whilst the contractors did their work I stored away 10 bags of the loam for repairing pitches next year and took the clock down so that it is not damaged by footballs.

For the next month or so there is little work that can be done on the square so it is time for a holiday. When I am back it will be time to start spiking the square as frequently as possible.

'A Year in the Life of an Amateur Cricket Groundsman' will soon be over, but I reckon that there will be at least one more post!

Friday, 4 September 2015

Friday 4th September

The last few weeks have been a real challenge for the amateur groundsman, thanks to the weather.

There has been rain most days which has meant that the covers have been regularly on and off. Being lay flat covers this means that each time the covers come off, the water has to be removed, which can take up to an hour.

The wet conditions has also meant that despite spraying twice in the last few weeks, the worms have been abundant. The wet worm casts stick to the roller on the mower which means that the cutting height is changed as you mow! The casts are also unsightly and gives the appearance of an unloved square.

Despite the weather we have only had to cancel one game and that was on the Bank Holiday Monday. We managed to get a game on the Saturday when the second team scored nearly 200 runs and then bowled the opposition out for around 120. I understand that, as expected, the slower bowling kept low at times, but the square couldn't have played that badly looking at runs scored.

The covers went back on after the game but the heavy rain on Sunday meant that there was standing water on the square on Monday morning and some water had got under the covers so the game was called off at 8.30 am. It turned out to be a wise decision as it didn't stop raining for the rest of the day and very few games were played in the York Senior League.

The covers went back on again on Tuesday afternoon and didn't come off again until this morning. There was a lot of water on the covers so the pump was used to get it off, using the BowDry just to finish off. I was grateful for John's help here.

Just a little water had got under the cover and so the pitch was in good shape. After a cut and roll it was looking good.

The game this Saturday is our last home game so the contractors have been booked to do the end of season work next Thursday. It is best that the grass is as short as possible for them to do their work so the square has been cut quite short. After the game I will get it even shorter. The pitch markers also need to be removed so that the scarifier doesn't destroy them.

You know that that season is about to end when the football pitches are marked out on the outfield. This is always done in the week before our last game. Last year the footballers felt that their main pitch was not as wide as it could have been. This year it has been made as wide as possible, but in my onion too close to an immovable object. I do question the safety of this.

The new mower was not cutting the outfield quite as good as it should have been as a result of the cylinders not being as close to the bottom blade as they should be. Yesterday I had a go at setting them properly and it turned out to be a relatively easy job. The three cylinders at the front are easy to get at, but the two at the back are such that you have to get under the mower to get at them. Roy cut the outfield after they were re-set and it was cutting much better.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Monday 17th August

Until now, few weeds had appeared on the square, but I started to notice more and more appearing and so last Monday it was time to give it a spray for the common weeds. I wasn't planning to cut the square until Thursday so that would give it time for the weedkiller to work. Sure enough within a couple of days I could see the effect of the weedkiller and I was happy to do the pre-weekend work on Thursday morning.

Heavy rail was predicted Thursday night and Friday and so the cover went on as soon as the work has been done.

Friday was really wet and the cover stopped a lot of water getting on the pitch. A couple of hour's work Saturday morning, firstly getting the water off the cover, then giving the pitch a cut and finally putting the lines in. Just as I was locking up the phone rang. The opposition had cancelled! This was really frustrating coming through at 10.30am. I wonder if they were hoping that we would call the game off due to a waterlogged pitch. The sun shone for the rest of the day which added to the disappointment.

Copmanthorpe Cricket Club is not just a cricket club. It is a recreational family sports club, with cricket as its focus. This was never in more evidence than yesterday which reminded us all why we run the club and spend the hours that we do getting the ground ready for cricket. 

Our Chairman, assistant groundsman and long time player was 60 on Saturday (another reason why we were so disappointed that the game on Saturday was called off). His family had organised a surprise cricket match with players from across John's playing days coming from across to the country to be involved.

As this was a surprise all of the pitch preparation had to be left until the Sunday morning when John was being kept well away from the ground. Another couple of hours work making the square look as good as I could and we were ready for the 12.00 o'clock surprise.

The pitch we needed to use was a bit wet, was was in good enough condition to get a could game on it.

It was a lovely day, with the weather being better than the predicted clouds. John was totally surprised and thoroughly enjoyed his day, as did the rest of us. Friendships were renewed and new ones made. Joel laid on a lovely BBQ and the children played together without any falling outs. It is lovely to see a new generation growing up.

The birthday boy after a fine innings. To add to his day he caught his son out!

Yesterday was why I spend the hours that I do on the ground. Thanks to Daz and Becky for organizing the day. John won't ever forget it.

Monday, 3 August 2015

Monday 3rd August

Last week was a challenging week for a cricket groundsman. The rain started in Copmanthorpe Sunday afternoon and continued on and off until Wednesday. Wednesday was a nice day until tea time when there was another heavy downpour. It would not have been so bad if we had roll-on covers, but with only having lay-flat covers it was not feasible to have them down at the start of the week. Surprisingly the square and outfield took the rain well and despite my worries by the start of the game on Saturday we had a new pitch to play on, but one that was still soft.

The game started in good weather but before long it was raining, the players came off and the covers went on. Then they came off and the players back on and half an hour later the whole sequence was repeated.

Tea was taken early, league rules consulted regularly, calculations made and agreed which eventually result in a much shortened game with all the complications of how many overs the team batting second needed in order for the team batting first to have a result ending in 'draw'.

Despite all of my concerns the pitch played well and not as much as I feared might have been done, was done.

There is a lot of cricket to be played at Copmanthorpe over the next month and I am beginning to run out of pitches. Usually I can manage with 5 perhaps 6 pitches but this year I will need to go on to pitch 7. So yesterday I started to prepare pitch 7 for the second team this coming Saturday and a friendly game on Sunday. We are hiring the ground out and this will bring in some useful funding.

This pitch has not been used for a few years and so there was a lot of thatch in it. Half way through scarifying it with the Combi-rake one of the bolts broke! 

Fortunately it didn't stop me finishing the scarifying, but it is off to the ironmongers in Tadcaster this morning to get a replacement bolt.

After a couple of hours hard graft, pitch 7 was starting to look good.

A lot more work will be needed on it this week, but with a reasonable weather forecast it should dry out well. 

The new sprinkler hose arrived earlier in the week which was a little ironic considering the weather. Hopefully it won't be too long before I need to use it.

The square is started to grow a few weeds so later in the week I will try and spray it. Despite spraying for worms a couple of weeks ago there were still plenty of worm casts on one of the old pitches. Perhaps it needs a little longer to take effect, but the damp worm casts cut stuck to the mower's rollers and adjust the cutting height.

With the sun out as I type, perhaps this will be a good week for a groundsman!

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Sunday 26th July

Although it has been a while since I last published a 'blog' but this does not mean that things have been quiet at the Rec. 

The second team had a game last Saturday winning by 3 runs in a game that saw 400 runs scored on pitch 2. As the game went on the pitch became slower and lower which was a reflection that the pitch had become too dry. So on Tuesday the pitch was watered for several hours to give it a good soaking. John was able to give it a good roll and by yesterday the pitch was hard again but not too dry.

We use a sprinkler which only covers half of the pitch so every hour it needs to be moved to the other half of the pitch. This is a real bind if I am not working at the Rec, so I have ordered a sprinkler hose which should just about cover the length of the pitch.

The first team had a good game yesterday with almost 300 runs being hit. The pitch played well justifying the decision to water it. It should have been a relatively straight-forward win, but once again we very nearly managed to conjure up a loss. Thanks to some level-headed batting at the end the team won by 3 wickets. There was a short interval for rain which meant that both covers came on for a while.

I noticed last week that some worm casts were starting to appear so it was time to spray the square with a chemical to discourage the worms from appearing. This was done last Tuesday whilst watering pitch 2. Hopefully it will be well washed in later today.

For years I have been using a wheel barrow with a cracked plastic wheel and a patched-up body, so it was time for a new one. After much searching and some issues with my order getting lost, the new barrow arrived on Wednesday. 

With the weather forecast predicting rain by lunch, it was an early start this morning.

First job was to sweep the pitch after yesterday's game. It was encouraging to see that the repairs that I had done during the week had held up well. If I get the mix right and it dries properly, it really does set hard as the picture shows.

Then it was time to get some fertilizer on the square so that it will be washed in this afternoon.

The first team will play on pitch 4 next week so the next job this morning was to start preparing it. After cutting the grass down as low as I could it was time to do the really hard work of using the SISIS Combirake. This really does lift the matted grass up, but it takes a lot of effort. 

After raking and cutting 3 times along the length of the pitch and raking once across the pitch, it is now ready for rolling. To get it to this stage took almost 2 hours. There is more work to do on it during the week, in addition to rolling, but thankfully the hardest and most important part has been done. The weather forecast for the next two days it not good so it was important that this work was done this morning.

The new barrow was full of the grass that I had removed, most of it after the raking. It was nice to have to make only one trip to the area where we scatter the grass.

We have come across a company who will apply for grants on your behalf on a 'no grant, no fee' basis. I have spent a couple of hours filling in their initial form which they will use to assess whether we are likely to be successful with a grant application. If they think we are they will do the rest and charge us 10% of any grant they get for us. We have 2 projects in mind: mobile covers and an extension to the scorebox. We keep our fingers crossed that they will progress this for us.  

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Tuesday 14th July

One happy Roy!

Saturday's heavy defeat to the top team in the division who were playing in division 2 last year whilst we were in division 4, has caused much discussion on the WhatsApp community. 

Much has been said about the practice facilities and the need for something better. As a club we mustn't forget where we have come from with our facilities in such a short time whilst still looking to the future. A few years ago we did not have a practice strip. This was created by extending the square into the outfield, digging out the turf as best we could and then replacing the soil with loam. Like the square it will never be as good as a pitch that has been properly laid, but it is better than nothing if members understand its limitations.

Who would have imagined when Copmanthorpe was is division 3 of the Vale League that one day we would be playing in division 3 (north) of the York Senior League and that 300-400 runs were regularly being scored on our pitches each week? In those days 50 was a good score at Copmanthorpe and the ball rarely got above knee height. Today fast bowlers get real bounce if they try hard enough and few balls skid along the ground.

Those of us who work on the ground are putting in an increasing number of hours each week to try and improve what we already have. Slowly we are managing to buy more and better equipment. We no longer have to buy equipment that is many years old. 

We hope that when Rec Centre 2 is built we will have proper practice facilities costing £20,000 for two nets, but that is a few years away as the money will come from the '106' money when 300 new houses are built in Copmanthorpe.

Until then we must make do with what we have or hire facilities elsewhere. If our practice strip is no longer needed it will make my life easier.

Monday, 13 July 2015

Monday 13th July - part 2

The new mower arrived at 2pm. It was too wet to give the grass a cut but we had an hour's instruction on how to use it.

Monday 13th July

Friday saw the usual preparations for the game on Saturday.

All of our efforts to keep the water off during the week paid dividends and by Saturday afternoon the pitch was quite hard and looking good.

The pitch played well with the occasional one keeping low. Sadly the first team came up against a strong opposition who rattled through our batting and so the game did not go the full 90 overs. At least that means less wear on the pitch and little to repair during the week.

The new outfield mower arrives this afternoon. Look out for pictures later today!

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Wednesday 8th July

Whilst the downpours have been good for the outfield which was so dry that the drainage channels were showing, the rain have played havoc with the preparation of pitch 2 which will be used on Saturday.

The cover went on Tuesday morning and by the afternoon it was covered in water.

This was the first chance to try our new petrol water pump which I had bought to help get the water off the covers (the end of the hose on the cover is being held down by the watering can!)

Joel and I spent some time trying different end attachments that I had made to cope with the small depth of water on the covers. Overall it was a great success.

In the evening a team took the cover off, rolled the pitch and put the cover back on as some rain was forecast for Wednesday.

The rain was forecast for early Wednesday afternoon and on this occasion the forecast was right. The rain was not heavy but sufficient for the covers to be in place. There was the possibility of some rain Wednesday evening, but not the heavy rain that came down around 7pm and lasted on and off for a couple of hours.

By Thursday morning the cover was covered in water.

Thankfully Joel was able to  remove the water, cover and roll the pitch in the morning. He tried a number of different hose nozzles on the pump and found the one that I first made to be the best, weighted down again by the watering can. In 20 minutes the water had been removed without the effort needed to use the BowDry.

This evening we are going to look at some wheeled covers that we have been offered at a very good price, so my next blog will give news on this and then on Monday there will be some pictures of our new bit of kit which is arriving Monday afternoon!

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Wednesday 1st July

Can't wait! Not much groundwork will be done during the series.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Sunday 28th June

It is always satisfying when your labour brings its rewards.

On the allotment the first vegetables of the season are now cropping.

On the cricket field pitch number 5 has had over 1000 runs scored on it, with nearly 400 runs in the game yesterday, but it still came in for criticism from some of the opposition.

We left the covers on overnight Friday, more by luck than planning as we tried twice to take them off on Friday but had second thoughts. It was just as well as there was some heavy rain on Friday evening despite a forecast which said there would be no rain.

The cover once again did its job and the pitch was hard once the cover was removed Saturday morning. Having had three games on that pitch it is time to repair it and leave it until next season.

The pitch was badly worn through foot holes at both ends.

An hour later the ends were as good as new.

The Carnival game is planned for Thursday evening. This is going on pitch number 8. We haven't used 7 & 8 for a number of years now as they are the closest to the railway line, but each end of season we treat them as if we had, so it is time to start using both of them. 

Preparing the pitch has given me a chance to get rid of all the thatch which has built up over the years, which is another reason for playing games on them. We are hiring the ground out in August and that game will go on number 7.

Updated Monday 29th:

Managed to cut the square, and pitches 5,7 and the practice pitch this afternoon - all looking good in the sun!