As part of the roadmap out of lockdown, as from last Monday, 29th March, the stay-at-home rule ended and the rule of six returned in England. These measures are part of the plans to kick-start the British economy and ease the societal pressures of lockdown without triggering a dangerous resurgence of the virus.
The 'stay at home' guidance has been dropped, similarly the Government has dropped its 'stay local' messaging, meaning that households are no longer explicitly told to remain in their geographical area.
Outdoor organised sports for both adults and children has also returned, seeing a popular opening up of golf courses and tennis clubs. The return of team sports can only happen in formalised settings, meaning that five-a-side football matches are allowed but a dozen friends kicking a ball in a park is not.
Outdoor swimming pools, driving and shooting ranges, riding arenas at riding centres, archery venues and climbing walls are also allowed to open. And Boris confirmed yesterday that next Monday, on April 12, all non-essential shops will be allowed to open along with pubs and restaurants - but only outside, so pub gardens and outdoor dining will be back.
I know from talking to a number of groundsmen and monitoring various social sports related forums, groundsmen and volunteers up and down the country have been working very hard preparing and getting their facilities ready for the resumption of sport.
Many greenkeepers have been working flat out to complete all their spring renovations and finishing off any large winter projects to ensure the course is fit for play. Cricket groundsmen have also been extremely busy trying to complete their preseason rolling programmes and prepare their first set of wickets for play.
We have also seen the likes of Karl McDermott (Lord's), Neil Stubley (Wimbledon) and Andy Wood (Enville GC), posting threads on social media to publicise the work they have been doing.
As for other news, I read with interest that Stiga (UK) Limited who own ATCO, have launched a search for the oldest working machine still in use in the UK. The ATCO Standard was launched by Charles Henry Pugh in 1921 and became the world’s first successfully mass-produced lawnmower.
I fondly remember my time as a parks apprentice with Birmingham City Parks Department regularly mowing the lawns in Cannon Hill Park using a 24inch ATCO Mower - happy days!
To enter, owners should visit the ATCO Lawnmower Facebook page and upload a photograph of their machine to the pinned competition post.
While on the subject of mowers, April is one of the busiest times of the year for groundscare machinery dealers who are selling, demonstrating and returning serviced and repaired mowers to their customers. The vast choice and selection of machinery now on offer is quite staggering to say the least. Many companies are continuing to develop and bring to market a range of new battery powered products, with robotic technologies gaining in popularity with ever increasing numbers being used in both the domestic and professional sectors.
This trend in new technologies was summed up in a recent press event hosted by the manufacturer Husqvarna. The company invited guests to its online Living City event, to share its knowledge on how to positively impact the future of sustainable grounds maintenance.
In the hour-long event, the key speakers focused on how ground-breaking developments within turf management in sports and golf are changing the game forever. In addition, Husqvarna shared unique details of CEORA, what they are describing as the next generation in large-scale robotic mowing.
Stephen Ohlson, vice president of product development at GreenSight provided insight on how data collection can improve turf quality on golf sites. Using drone intelligence, soil sensors, thermal imaging, and autonomous robotic mowers, GreenSight can transform the way golf courses maintain their grounds.
Using Meadow Club golf course in Fairfax, California as an example, GreenSight explained that by using their technology combined with Husqvarna Automower, the 66-acre course, which cuts its grounds three times per week, could switch their large format diesel mowers for electric robotic mowers This, he claimed, would reduce their CO2 emissions by 99.5%, the equivalent of taking an additional 11 cars off the road. Looking to the future GreenSight explained that if just 10% of all US golf courses adopted the GreenSight and Husqvarna solution, 79,000 MT CO2e would be reduced, equivalent to taking 17,000 cars off the road.
A number of other cases studies were presented, along with a final talk from Olle Markusson, director of product management at Husqvarna Group, who revealed new details of the CEORA robot. Expanding the company’s portfolio, the company said this new robot will target large areas, in particular sport fields and golf courses.
There is no doubt in my mind that robotic technologies will continue to be developed and as more and more improvements are introduced by manufacturers to their versatility and performance.
What a carve up!
Finally, last week I came across Joffrey Watson, The Chainsaw Bloke chainsaw sculptor, who was working locally carving a beautiful sculpture of a buzzard for one of my neighbours. He certainly was attracting a lot of attention from those passing by. I stopped and introduced myself and found he started his career as an arborist, but soon developed an interest in artistic sculpturing.
It was certainly interesting to see him working and seeing the finished piece. Wood carving has become popular in recent years with many local authorities enlisting the work of these sculptors to produce some fine wildlife pieces in their parks and open spaces.