It has without a doubt, been an unprecedented year.
I, like many, have admired the dedication of the people involved in seeing us through this pandemic. I cannot imagine the size and scale of the task in hand to finally bring back some form of normality to our lives.
I also believe it has made us consider our role in life and what the values are that we choose to live by. More than anything, it has been a wake-up call to signal how precious life is for our family and friends.
I passionately believe that my extended family of professional turfcare friends and colleagues have also contributed to my welfare over the years. I consider my role latterly on the trade press side of the industry, as being one of the most satisfying jobs I have ever had. Being an editor has enabled me to engage and initiate many opportunities to promote and advance our sector.
Visiting Croke Park
A long and varied career
Having now been in the industry for over forty-eight years, I can honestly say I have enjoyed every minute - apart from a couple of poor decisions where I found myself working in two, let’s say wrong environments. Other than that, all my other working experiences have been fantastic.
Unless you have worked in this industry it can be very hard to understand what a complex and exciting environment it can be. With opportunities worldwide, the comradeship you get and the opportunities you have available to you while working in this diverse industry are remarkable.
Holding the Ryder Cup
I have been very lucky and have enjoyed one of the most varied working careers one could possibly have.
I started my career working for Birmingham City Council as parks apprentice in 1972. I worked in various parks and had the opportunity to work at several Chelsea Flower Shows during my role as a plant propagator at Cannon Hill Park.
I spent 11 years working for the council which saw me experiencing many aspects of the turfcare industry, before finally settling down into greenkeeping at Cocks Moors Woods GC.
During my time with the council, I was taught by many peers and work stalwarts. I remember Reg Lewis, Bud Davis and John Greenhouse who taught me a lot about plants and floral decoration, whilst the likes of Andy Harris taught me the skills of greenkeeping.
Kings Heath Park
In 1983 I found myself moving to Portsmouth, taking up the post of head groundsman at Portsmouth FC. A most enjoyable experience working alongside Brian Regan and meeting up with some notable professional players such as David Thomas, Alan Ball, Mark Hateley Neil Webb and Kevin Ball.
Working with Alan Ball (Portsmouth FC)
I then moved back into greenkeeping, working at Waterloovolle GC for a year before finding a job with the MOD as grounds maintenance officer. Looking after the grounds of military establishments was a wonderful job that allowed me to continue with my sporting prowess, playing rugby for both HMS Dryad and HMS Mercury rugby teams. At the same time I was also playing for Portsmouth RFC.
In 1990 I moved back to the ,Midlands having landed a job of parks officer with Telford & Wrekin council. This led to many opportunities before leaving in 2002 to do my master’s degree at Cranfield University. On completion of this I found myself moving into a completely different role, becoming editor of Pitchcare magazine.
Cricket Groundsman of the Year Awards at Lord's
It was in this role I had some of the best industry experiences, meeting so many dedicated, driven turf professionals who between them in the last 20 years have changed the face of groundsmanship - taking the management of playing surfaces to a new levels.
I would like to take this opportunity to mention some of the people who have inspired me over the years. Firstly I’d like to thank John Richards and Dave Saltman for giving me the opportunity of being Pitchcare’s editor.
Meeting Walter Woods
Meting the Likes of Eddie Seward, Walter Woods, Gordon Moir, Pete Marron, Steve Rouse, Steve Braddock, Richard Norton, Keith Kent, John Moverley, Alex Vicker, and James Mead to name but a few was fantastic.
We soon started to see the new breed of turf professionals come through the education systems such as Jason Booth (Leeds Rhinos), Lee Jackson (Man City), Darren Baldwin (Tottenham), Dave Roberts (Liverpool), Jon Ledgwidge (Leicester FC), Steve Birks ( Trent Bridge), Karl McDermmott (Lord’s), Gary Barwell (Edgebaston), Neil Stubley (Wimbledon), Andy Woods (Enville GC), Phil Sharples (Turf Consultant) who all have taken their facilities to new heights in terms of playability and surface presentation.
Richard Campey demo day
I also must not forget all the suppliers, contractors and manufacturers who have help enormously in bringing to the table new technologies, machinery and equipment to enable the turf professionals to do their job more efficiently and to better standards. These include the likes of John Mallison, Karl Pass, Simon Hutton, Richard Campey, David Withers, Keith Exton, Ian Howard, David Hart, John Coleman, Colin Mumford, Steve Nixon, Sharon Morris , Kate Entwistle, Simon Grumbrill, Richard Brown, Matt Gresty, Iain Courage and Dan Duffy.
I must also mention my fellow parks professionals, Paul Todd (Green Flag), Chris Worman MBE (Rugby Borough Council), Bernard Sheridan (Parks Consultant), Robert Standen (ex Parks manager and educationist , Paul Rabbitts (Watford Parks ).
And finally, I must thank the comradeship and support from many of my editorial colleagues. All our magazines do a wonderful job of promoting this immense and diverse industry. Steve Gibbs (Service Dealer), Scott Mccallam (Turf Matters), Geoff Russell (Golf Business News), Steve Eves (Greenkeeper), Martyn Smart (Turf Business), Kerry Heywood (Pitchcare), Steve Mitchell (ASM PR) and Sally Dury (Hort Week).
Inspiring the next generation
The opportunity to meet all these people has been very rewarding. However, one of the biggest challenges in the coming years will be inspiring the next generation of turf professionals to come and work in this industry.
Talking to many existing professionals there seems to be a lack of interest amongst people wanting to take up a career in our industry. Couple this with the fact that there is going to be a large exodus of qualified, experienced turf professionals in the coming years, we really need to start looking at ways to encourage more people to come and work in this very diverse and international industry.
To help start this process, I have asked a number of our current professionals to write a piece about how they came to work in this industry and the opportunities it has given them. Over forthcoming issues we will be featuring a number of these cases to help promote the diversity of this amazing industry.