During the Covid-19 crisis
by TurfPro Editor, Laurence Gale MSC, MBPR
Laurence Gale MSC, MBPR

I don’t think anybody in the UK could have predicted the recent run of events that have seriously impacted the way we work and live.

Beginning last winter we had severe flooding affecting many parts of the country, followed by this unprecedented Covid-19 virus and now this uninterrupted spell of warm dry weather - that could easily turn into a drought?!

However, this warm spell of warm weather could not have come at a better time, enabling us all to be able to cope much easily with the current crisis. Having the ability to get out and exercise and make use of the valuable green space that is local to us has been a god send.



As a current Green Flag judge and ex-parks manager, I am well suited to promote the value of these essential assets. You cannot, in this current climate, put a value on what these amazing public open spaces bring, in helping us cope during this outbreak.

I recently attended, via remote link, a Midland Parks Forum meeting, where over 25 Midlands parks officers were in attendance. The Midlands Parks Forum is a charitable organisation acting as an umbrella for their supporters. These include green space professionals from a wide range of sectors including local authority, voluntary and community sectors from across the East and West Midlands, as well as national agencies.

The organisation puts together conferences, workshops and educational forums, utilising speakers who focus on all aspects of green space management and development. Additionally, they support case studies and facilitate visits to high quality, award winning green spaces to learn about and share good practice.



Parks and green spaces in the East and West Midlands are vitally important for exercise and mental wellbeing, but to ensure they stay open for everyone to use, they urge the public to follow the Government’s rules to stop the spread of COVID-19. The following key points were outlined.

The public can take part in one form of exercise a day, for example a run, walk, or cycle - alone or with members of their household. And even when doing this, they should be minimising time spent outside of the home and ensuring they are 2 metres apart from anyone outside of their household.
When using parks or green spaces, it is vital that the public take these steps:

  • Do not visit a park if you have any symptoms – fever, coughs, shortness of breath. See NHS guidelines See NHS guidelines if this applies to you.
  • Parks should be used for daily exercise or essential travel only. Team sports, social activities (e.g. picnics, playdates etc.) and sunbathing should not be taking place.
  • Stay local and use open spaces near to your home – do not travel unnecessarily. If you have a garden, make use of the space for exercise and fresh air. Please consider that people without gardens rely on parks more.
  • You should only go outside alone or with members of your own household. Gatherings of more than two in parks or other public spaces have been banned. The Police and local authorities are asking us to follow these guidelines.
  • Observe social distancing, staying at least 2 metres apart from other people
  • Use all areas of the park that remain open, not just the paths, so you can maintain an appropriate distance from others.
  • If the park is crowded, do not enter if you cannot safely stay at a distance from others.
  • Avoid touching surfaces (such as gates or hand-rails) and your mouth and face. Please follow Public Health England advice on hygiene and wash your hands as soon as you get home.
  • Keep your dog on a lead at all times to ensure you can safely keep 2 meters away from others.
  • Pay attention to instructions provided by parks services including any officials on site. Temporary measures have been put in place to safeguard you, such as avoiding benches, surfaces and equipment.
  • Do not use areas of the park that have been closed such as play areas, outdoor gyms or sports facilities – these are closed to stop the possible spread of COVID-19 through touching surfaces and keeping a safe distance from others.

Some providers of public parks and green spaces have decided to close some, or all, of their facilities or car parks within their parks. They are best placed to make those difficult decisions based on their understanding of local circumstances.



Many other outdoor spaces are still open. But in some spaces, such as canal towpaths for example, it may be difficult to maintain the recommended distance from other users, so please try to avoid these areas and choose places you can exercise safely.

It was interesting to hear the different approaches that councils were taking in dealing with this crisis.

Some had totally shut down all ground maintenance operations, while others were keen to continue with essential grounds services - mostly on a scaled down operation of grass cutting of road verges, and public open spaces.

Many had closed car parks to reduce traffic. Destination parks were closed, again to reduce unnecessary road traffic. Many cemeteries had been closed, but after last week’s government announcement that parks should remain open to the public and cemeteries to reopen for 2 hrs a day, many local authorities were having to re-open these facilities.

Also, many council staff have been re-deployed and are working in other frontline services such as litter and bin collecting, along with delivering goods to care homes and hospitals.

It will be interesting to see in the next few months the outcomes of this terrible crisis. I personally hope that once this is all over, the government will finally realise the importance of public green open space and parks and begin the policy of investing in them as a statutory service. There is an interesting article on this in the New Statesman that talks about the austerity that councils have suffered in the last twenty years and that there may be a glimmer of hope for parks to be seen as essential service?



As for the weather, we have had probably the best spell of spring weather for many years, with no real flush of growth due to the cooler ground temperatures that last week finally began to rise into double figures. I see from postings on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, many groundsmen have managed to get on with some essential work and are making the most of this decent weather front.

This warm spell of weather will have also led to the need to irrigate and water your turf. I would hope that you will have had your irrigation systems checked and serviced so that they are ready for use?

Most, if not all, professional sporting facilities have irrigation systems of one sort or another. Without them they would not be able to prepare and maintain their playing surfaces.


Water is influential in all chemical, physiological and biological processes of plant growth. The soil/plant water relationship is critical to the sustainability of any grass plant. Having an understanding of these relationships is critical. All grass plants are a continuum of water movement. Over 90% of the plant's water requirements are transported through the plant from the soil profile, via the roots and stem tissues into the leaves and out into the atmosphere.


Knowledge of these relationships is important when designing and operating irrigation systems. The main aim is to achieve a water balance within the soil profile ensuring that the grass plant can access available water from the soil.

The best times to water are generally early morning or late evening when temperatures are at their lowest reducing the rate of evaporation.

Finally, just to reiterate, the latest guidelines on working on sports facilities can be seen from the Grounds Managment Association and BIGGA.

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