I think summer has finally arrived! With bright blue skies and glorious sunny weather, we are now starting to see our landscape features at their best. You only have to see the plethora of vivid photographs posted on the various social media platforms to see the beauty and diversity of our natural and managed landscape settings.
There’s no doubt the end of the professional football season has resulted in a busy time for their groundstaff, having to organise and oversees the hundreds of renovation works that are ongoing in the next couple of weeks. This is one of the busiest times of the year for all the specialist sports turf contractors who are flat out renovating or building new pitches.
There is no denying that the development and manufacture of dedicated specialist machinery such as the fraise mower, seeders, vertidrains and topdressers have speeded up the ability to renovate a pitch quickly. Depending on what is required, most full-size pitches can be renovated completely in 2-3 days. With access to a decent irrigation system, the seed will be germinate in a matter of days and be mown within three weeks - with the pitch playable within 6 weeks. A true testament to the skills and dedication of our turf professionals.
This recent change in the weather has also encourages a growth spurt and dramatic change in in our gardens and parks, bringing alive a thrust of colour of a wide range of shrubs and trees.
Golf courses are reporting an upsurge in memberships and interest in golf, so hopefully they will be able to recover some much-needed revenue and begin investing in their courses again. I do keep hearing though, as mentioned in previous blogs, that clubs are finding it difficult to recruit new or experienced staff.
I do find it hard to believe that there are still plenty of 18-hole golf clubs that only employ fewer than four or five members of staff. How they expect to deliver the high expectations of the sport’s customers, is hard to imagine. Even with some decent machinery in the shed, it is still a tall order to deliver a decent manicured golfing experience especially when you have to take holidays and leave into account. We can all be busy bees, chasing our tails, the skill however is in the detail. That’s why the successful clubs often require in the region of seven to eight members of staff to deliver the quality they expect.
While on the subject of golf, it will not be long before we can attend BIGGA's Festival of Turf outdoor show taking place at the Warwickshire Event Centre on 21st and 22nd of July 2021 – which will afford us the opportunity to interact face-to-face with industry peers for the first time since before the pandemic took hold.
Last week I had the pleasure as a Green Flag judge to meet up with two dedicated managers who are responsible for looking after parts of the Trent and Mersey Canal.
The Canal & River Trust is the charity that cares for and brings to life 2,000 miles of canals and rivers across England and Wales which are devolved into six regional areas for local governance and operations. The Trent and Merse canal from Middlewich to Hardings Wood lies within the North West Region.
I along with fellow Green Flag judge Bernard Sheridan, were met by Steve Maguire, area operations Manager and Jane Hargreaves, volunteer team leader of the Canal & River Trust who took the time to show us parts of a thirteen mile stretch of the canal stretching from Middlewich in Cheshire to Hardings Wood in Staffordshire.
The Trent & Mersey canal, engineered by James Brindle is 93 miles in length and was the country’s first long-distance canal running from the Bridgewater Canal at Preston Brook to Shardlow and the Trent Navigation. The canal takes boaters and visitors through some of the best scenes our waterways have to offer, from the Anderton Boat Lift, the Harecastle Tunnel, the length lock flight known as 'Heartbreak Hill', through the heritage-rich industrial sites of Stoke-on-Trent's potteries district and finally to the traditional canal town of Shardlow. The canal towpath also creates a green corridor through Stoke-on-Trent, as well as offering a cycling and walking route through rural Cheshire, Staffordshire and Derbyshire.
It was certainly interesting talking and listening to both Steve and Jane who gave us a great insight into the running and management of a busy canal waterway. We walked along the tow path and admired the detail and structures that make up a part of this great heritage of waterways. The canal trust train up and manage a group of volunteers who assistant in opening and closing the many locks found along this canal. It is rewarding to see that we have a trust that is dedicated in retaining the history and past, while at the same time investing in keeping the canal experience running for future generations.
Our Judging ended up at the world famous Anderton Boat Lift where we had a guided tour from another member of the Canal Trust, Jason Watts who himself was one of the Anderton Boat Lift engineers for many years. Jason gave us a great insight into the history and maintenance of this unique piece of Victorian engineering.
Built in 1875, the boat lift was in use for over 100 years until it was closed in 1983 due to corrosion. Restoration started in 2001 and the boat lift was re-opened in 2002. The lift and associated visitor centre and exhibition are operated by the Canal & River Trust. It is one of only two working boat lifts in the United Kingdom; the other is the Falkirk Wheel in Scotland.
During a typical working day the boat lift can transport between 16-32 boats and the service is still free with a £5 booking charge if you want to pre order a time slot. We were taken up onto the Lift itself and were able to see the amazing structure at close hand. Its original design for the time was mind boggling. It had the ability back then in the early 1900s to lift 250 tonnes in weight, of both boat and water up 50 feet in height - when barges were key to the delivery of goods around the midlands.
The Anderton Boat Lift is a well worth a visit and without doubt made my day.