Anyone who has played cricket will know the importance of the condition of “The Square” – the hallowed area where the wickets and creases are located.
Following two years of lockdown, the pitch on North Luffenhams own “Oval” was in very poor condition. Nick Davenport agreed to take on the not inconsiderable challenge of maintaining the area and temporary repairs were made in June 2020 to ensure the surface was safe to play on for this season.
Advice was taken from Keith Exon (ex head groundsman at Glamorgan County Ground & Oakham School) who, along with his son Alex, now offers a pitch maintenance and renovation service through his business ‘Perfect Pitches’) and they were able to advise on what could be done do to return it to it’s glory days during the off season.
As it happened, Keith phoned at the end of September to say that he had finished a job at Old Trafford, and had a gap in his schedule before he went to Trent Bridge, and could fit North Luffenham in – elite company for a village pitch indeed!
The cricket club accepted the offer, and Keith arrived with his highly specialised equipment
Keith used a Koro Field Top Maker to remove all surface vegetation from the top 6mm of the square, levelling out hollows and bumps and preparing a good base for reseeding as you can see in the following images. A huge amount of surface vegetation was removed and at the Butt Lane end of the pitch a further 2mm was removed to lower the slope around the crease and the excess soil was placed at the opposite end to fill a depression which ran along side the top side of the wicket. This should ensure the pitch is perfectly level.
The next step was to use a scarifier to remove any remaining vegetation and leave grooves at 20mm centres to give better seed/soil content.
35kgs of grass seed and 25kgs of fertiliser where then applied and covered by 1250kgs of Boughton County Loam.
Keith’s last step was to drag a matt/lute by hand for final levels and so ensuring a good finish for germination.
Keith’s attention to detail and his professional expertise have been crucial to the renovation of the square. We could not have achieved the same outcome and ongoing support for the care of the wicket without his intervention. We should not underestimate this given Keith currently carries out the same task for county grounds such as Trent Bridge and Northamptonshire.
Watering wisely then became a key factor to encourage germination and support the emerging grass in what turned out to be a hot spell. This required frequent visits to the oval to move the sprinkler to avoid drowning the seed and avoiding the hottest time of the day to prevent scalding of the emerging grass. The outcome of all this has been 99% germination, great coverage of grass and to date two cuts to keep the grass at 20mm to encourage tillering and strong root growth.
The plan over the winter is to keep the grass level to 20mm and then in spring begin a regime of gentle rolling to settle any upheaval caused by frost. Gradually lowering the cutting height to around 6mm and increasing the rolling as we move towards the start of the season.