We are less than eleven weeks away from the end of March, the traditional signal for the start of our growing season, and the time for commencing our spring renovations. Hopefully your machinery has been serviced and is ready for the start of a new growing season?
County Cricket Clubs will be planning and organising their pre-season square, nets and practice areas. These preparations usually commence in February where in recent years we have seen the erection of tents and marquees with heaters to aid the preparation of professional playing surfaces.
In the past, many professional cricket clubs would take their players overseas to warmer climates to prepare for the new season. However, with budgets becoming tighter and especially with Covid, most, if not all, will be now be required to train on their home ground. This will no doubt place extra pressure on the grounds staff.
Also, professional football and rugby groundsmen are being tested by the sheer number of games played during the Christmas period and up to the end of the season. Again, having to work in all weathers they, and the rest of the professional grounds teams, should be congratulated for their endeavour and commitment throughout this busy period.
Golf clubs continue to be very busy, with greenkeepers working hard to complete their winter work programmes which are often centred around ongoing tree, pond and ditch works, bunker repairs and any major refurbishments to tees and other course features. Irrigation systems will be inspected with relevant repairs and calibration of the systems being carried out. Modern day watering systems are a key component in the maintenance of fine turf playing surfaces.
The next two months are ideal times to complete any new planting schemes, especially when planting bare root plant materials such as hedging, trees and shrubs. The government are keen to help landowners plant more hedges with a current BN11 Stewardship scheme paying £11.60 per metre
Some hedgerows are so important that no amount of planting could replace them. The government has brought in legislation to protect hedgerows of key importance (currently in England and Wales only). Hedgerows provide food and shelter for many species. Because they often link small woods, they are essential protective corridors along which wildlife can travel.
Hedges may support up to 80% of our woodland birds, 50% of our mammals and 30% of our butterflies. The ditches and banks associated with hedgerows provide habitat for frogs, toads, newts and reptiles. Hedges are an excellent feature to plant, providing a wealth of benefits, acting as a wind break, barrier or screen.
Next time you are out walking, take the opportunity to admire our wonderful countryside and see for yourself the impact hedges have made over many generations. It now down to us to continue to properly manage these precious heritage landscape features for future generations to enjoy.
On the parks front, interest is growing in the recent formation of the Parks Management Forum with over 1400 subscribers now registered on their books. This new organisation is working with other Regional Parks Forums and organisations such as the Landscape Institute, APSE, Parks Action Group, The Parks Alliance, The Gardens Trust, The National Trust, Heritage Fund, Chief Leisure Officers Association, Chartered Institute of Horticulture, Fields in Trust, Keep Britain Tidy, CPRE and is forging stronger links with Scotland, Wales and any other national and international organisations that have in common the passion and values that underpins our work in valuing our parks and open spaces.
The Forum represents an unrivalled reservoir of understanding, expertise and dedication. Running parks is an expert job and needs a voice to be heard by politicians as they formulate policies and make financial decisions which have huge repercussions for the viability of public open space. For too long parks, as a discretionary service, have been a poor relation of other public services, down the pecking order as just a ‘nice-to-have’. The Covid-19 crisis has shown that is not where they belong. With good support the forum can definitely become the voice of parks professionals.
A recent UK survey of Parks 2021 by APSE and cfp has confirmed the importance of parks.
Finally, I would like to mention the role of our excellent network of servicing dealers, who have also gone beyond the call of duty to support and service the needs of the industry during this pandemic.
The choice and range of machinery is now quite frankly staggering. We have so much choice and it does not come cheap. So therefore, it is important to look after it and keep it serviced and in good order. Hence the importance of building up a good relationship with your local machinery dealer.
Without our fleets of machinery and equipment we would struggle to do our job of maintaining our huge range of playing surfaces, parks and public open spaces.