GROUNDSMAN ON A MISSION

IMG_4844In a Turf Matters exclusive, Leicester City FC grounds manager John Ledwidge, speaks openly about his iconic pitch designs, raising the profile of the industry and hits back against the criticism.

In one of the greatest sporting stories of all time, Leicester City were crowned champions of the 2015/16 Premier League title. However it was not just the players that received all the plaudits – the level of groundsmanship put into the pitch at the King Power Stadium certainly matched the efforts of the team itself. In fact, John Ledwidge and his team’s pitch designs and artistry week on week, amazed both fans and media across the country and beyond.
Social Media became a frenzy with delighted spectators praising the intricate designs – with some calling for John to receive a knighthood; one Twitter user posted a Tweet which read, “Forget Vardy, Mahrez and Kante – the head groundsman at Leicester is the real hero of their season”; another claimed that the groundsmen were a “group of artists and the pitch had been their canvas all season.”; while one disgruntled Manchester United fan believed that it was “Sad how the Leicester City ground staff have more creativity than the entire United team.”

“It was a fairytale story for all concerned and we were part of that,” says John. “For me I felt that it presented an ideal marketing opportunity. We’re on the biggest stage in the world in the Premier League, we’re at the top of the league, and we’re making this fairytale story so why shouldn’t groundsmanship be part of that? We got a mention in the New York Times recently, and the fact that groundsmanship is being recognised within a published article about the club and its successful season – is great in my opinion.”

It’s hard to disagree with – without groundsmen the players wouldn’t have their stage to perform on in front of millions of adoring fans. It is also worth considering the amount of work that goes into these pitches to ensure that multi-million pound players can complete a 90 minute game on a safe surface. Holidays and time off is somewhat of rarity in the groundsmanship industry. More than often, groundsmen are the first to enter the premises in the morning dusk and the last to leave as daylight is fading. Then there is Christmas to consider – while most of us are wrapped up warmly in dressing gowns and slippers opening presents with our loved ones, the majority of groundsmen will be out in the frost preparing pitches for the notorious Boxing Day fixtures.

Therefore, it seems onlWestminster-Stone-LCFC-Pitch-Blog-02y right that groundsmanship is commended and recognised as part of the beautiful game. However, for all the positive comments about Leicester City’s pitch designs, there has also been crumbs of negativity – mainly from fellow groundsmen. Their main gripe was in suggesting that John has too much time on his hands and that perhaps the grounds team are over staffed. Others suggested that it might put un-necessary pressure on groundsmen to produce the same kind of pitch designs and there were some who even claimed that it could cause a hindrance to referees and linesmen.

“The pitch designs have had more negativity within our own industry which I found really surprising,” says John. “I believe that the pitch has been in good condition and it consistently was throughout last season when we were doing the designs. My lads are a creative bunch and if the main core of the pitch is in good shape then I have no objections at all to patterns. It’s got people talking about the industry and that was always the goal.”

“The goal isn’t about me and it isn’t about the football club – it’s about putting groundsmanship on more of a platform and you only have to look at the media coverage that we received to see that it did its job. What I didn’t want it to be was a “look at me” exercise, I wanted it to showcase what a groundsman is capable of. I saw the opportunity for us to market ourselves and market groundsmanship on the back of the team’s success, and surely that’s just forward thinking.”

“People are quick to moan about salaries and this and that but if we don’t have a presence in the media and have people talking about us – then things will never change.”

According to The Guardian, the average salary for a Groundsman is £17,061 per year, which some would suggest is incredibly low for the amount of work that goes into groundsmanship. Mark Perrin, former head groundsman of Crystal Palace once said, “If I had £1 for every time someone asked me if I just watch the games and cut the grass, I’d be worth a fortune.”

Of course, ensuring that the pitch is playable remains the main task, including renovations each summer whicgroundsman-in-a-mission3h is not helped by the club holding hospitality events on it as well as pre-season friendlies. Then there are also plenty of other integral jobs which include keeping the grass the correct length, watering and rolling it, and ensuring it doesn’t freeze or dry out. The job is as much about turf nutrition as it is anything else. Groundsmen need to have the ability to know when and what fertiliser to use, aeration, microbial activity and grass seeds – to name but a few. Unfortunately Mark Perrin’s comment hits the nail on the head and perhaps more work is needed to show that being a groundsman is as much about being a scientist as he is a ‘grass-cutter.’

“We need to push ourselves more,” argues John. “Although patterns aren’t necessarily pushing ourselves more, because people have been doing it way before me and people will long continue to do it after I’ve finished my career, but the fact of the matter is that we have to think of ways to make people talk about what we do in a positive way.”

“Behind all the patterns, and what people may consider as showmanship, is a lot of hard work – a lot of pumping the message to a lot of people about groundsmanship and the patterns have opened the door for me to do that and to champion groundsmanship. In turn it has gained more respect, gained more professionalism and over time, hopefully it will put us on a platform where people are willing to pay us more money.”

“If all these little things help the cause then we will continue to go and put patterns on the pitch. Sometimes if we’ve had a lot of games then we might not have the time to do it, but if we can then why not?”

“I think some people think that I’ve made it harder work for them, but I always think it is how you look at situations. Some people will say ‘“we’re at a local authority or a school and we want a pitch like Leicester’s.”’ For me, that isn’t a bad thing because then I’d go and say that “to get a pitch like Leicester’s you need to give me some more money,” and therefore can you invest in some money for your department and if that extra money gets you drainage work or some feed then it’s had a positive effect.”

“The bottom line is, we put a pattern on the pitch and people think it looks good which helps when you ask for more budget. If that’s what it takes to get the money then so be it. It’s worked here because year on year, we’ve had substantial investment. Since I’ve come in we’ve spent over £3m on constructing pitches at the training ground, we’ve spent over half a million on machinery and we’ve restructured the whole department, we’ve put a new organisational structure in and everyone’s had a pay rise. So is it working? You ask yourself the question.

“I’m not saying it’s all because of patterns – what I’m saying is that all these things contribute to us being held in a higher regard. I don’t do it for me, I do it for thegroundsman-in-a-mission4 department and then in turn, do it for the industry.”

“Groundsmanship in this country is held in very high regard all over the world, regardless of pitch patterns, but I think it’s been escalated by what we did last year and the media coverage we received. If the team hadn’t have won the league, maybe we wouldn’t have had as much coverage but even still I think there’d have been an escalation of interest.”

“I think the problem is, that a lot of groundsmen don’t have that attribute of seeing an opportunity and seizing it and in turn raising the profile of the industry. When you’re portraying yourself in public you need to put the best foot forward so that you create an image and a reputation for yourself and the industry that’s going to make us better.”

Some will agree, some may not, but one thing is certain – John is extremely passionate about the industry he works in. From facilitating educational days for school children to working alongside the Young IOG (Institute of Groundsmanship) board of directors in encouraging young people into the industry – John is a proud and pro-active groundsman.

It is inevitable that some will point to showmanship. If ever there was a case of a celebrity groundsman then John fits the bill – aside from a large social media following, the public are starting to point and recognise John as he walks the high streets of Leicester. Although autographs and ‘selfies’ are not, as of yet, part and parcel of his role, how much of this new found fame plays a part in John’s pitch patterns?

“Of course there is always an element of wanting to put myself and my team on the map – I’m ambitious and so are the guys I work with,” says John. “Ultimately I am doing it for the greater good: it’s not about me, it’s about all of us.

“I think the more that groundsmanship evolves, the more we need to drag ourselves out the doldrums of years gone by and push ourselves into the 21st century. We need to realise that we’ve got to capitalise on opportunities that are put in front of us, and not sit there moaning about what everyone else is doing around us.”

THE SWISS ARMY KNIVES OF STADIUMS

amexWe look at the development of the all-purpose, multi-use stadium, and how they have become part of the fabric of modern day society.

The vast majority of stadiums in this country were built for football clubs to enable spectators to watch the country’s most popular game. The football calendar wasn’t quite so crowded in days gone by and most matches were played on Saturday at 3pm with the odd cup replay, or European tie for those few clubs involved, slotted into a Wednesday evening.

What that meant was the invariably the biggest stadiums in the country were only really used every other Saturday and, then, only during the football season which ran from August to May. Big stadiums require big upkeep and that requires resources which require funding and so the ability to use stadiums more than for just the 25 times a year, became imperative.

And so the multi-use stadium was born and we could all enjoy traveling to our favourite stadiums (or even those of our deadliest footballing rivals) to watch a diverse range of events.

Wembley Stadium was one of the early adopters of such a policy and there are two events which stand head and shoulders above others in highlighting how well Wembley, in particular, and multiuse stadia in general can be utilised.

In 1963 Wembley was the venue for a boxing match between the great British hope, Henry Cooper, and the American superstar, Cassius Clay – soon to become Mohammad Ali in front of 35,000 fans. Henry downed Clay with a thunderbolt left hook and, many say that it was only a controversial delay in the start of the next round to repair a split glove (rumoured to have been done deliberately by his corner) which bought Clay time to recover his senses.

The other iconic “alternative” event at Wembley was Live Aid, the charity concert in 1985, which saw all the music superstars of the time performing, either at Wembley or simultaneously in Philadelphia in the States, to raise money and awareness for the Ethiopian famine.

Etihad-Stadium-Photo-From-TopOrganised by Bob Geldoff, acts including Queen, U2, Phil Collins, David Bowie, Paul McCartney and The Who. It was the first of what has become many charity inspired music events all over the world which have raised millions for diverse causes.

Without Wembley there is a fair chance that it may have not been possible to stage an event – at such short notice – and that the large scale charity concert concept may not have been given such a wonderful start.

Since then stadiums have been the option of choice for many concerts and George Michael, Bon Jovi, Madonna, Coldplay, Oasis, Take That, Ed Sheeran and AC/DC, as well as the charity Concert for Diana and Live Earth events, have graced Wembley while similar events and big names have become regular attractions at national stadia and club stadia up and down the country.

On a sporting front boxing has been joined by as diverse pursuits as American Football; Baseball; Speedway; Greyhound Racing; WWF Wrestling Formula 1 – turning Wembley into a short, exciting racing circuit Race of Champions would you believe Ski Jumping? While not forgetting of course, perhaps the most diverse use of Wembley of all time – Evil Knievel’s attempt to jump over 13 London Buses in 1975

Stadiums are now built with multi-use in mind and, to maximise the number of days a stadium is in use, is a key element of balancing vast budgets at the end of the year. The Millennium Stadium – now Principality Stadium –in Cardiff opened in 1999 and is another example of a stadium built to ensure that it doesn’t sit idle for most of the time.

In addition to being the National Stadium for both the Wales football and rugby teams, its retractable roof gives added adaptability which has been embraced by so many different events and disciplines.

More recently the Olympic Park has also shown it genuine adaptability and has now just begun its new life as home to West Ham United. While the Hammers’ fans may feel they are a little further away from the action than at their beloved Upton Park, because of the famous athletics track, the upside is a large capacity, state-of-the-art stadium the like of which the Gold brothers and Dame Karen Brady could not have dreamt of funding from scratch.

aerial_coventryFrom day one the Olympic Park showed its versatility with the mind blowing 2012 Opening Ceremony, complete with giant chimney stacks and parachuting monarchs, preparing the way for Usain Bolt and his colleagues to showcase their sporting prowess to the world. With spectator seats equipped with flashing lights a stadium is now expected to play a full interactive role in proceedings and the Olympic Park did that.

It has since gone on to host the annual Anniversary Games, international football matches; hosting games in the Rugby World Cup on 2015 and has added immensely to London’s stable of outstanding multi-use sporting venues, to which you can add Twickenham, and the top football venues in the city at Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham, not to mention those slightly further afield in the shape of the Madejski Stadium in Reading and Stadium MK in Milton Keynes – new modern, sensibly sized stadiums.

Around the country new stadiums are being built of existing ones adapted to ensure that they are kept busy all year round and if it is not for events on the playing area it is in lavish new corporate entertainment facilities overlooking the playing surface. Companies can hold seminars and conferences knowing that the attraction of a Stadium Tour will bring in the normally reticent client.

Wedding receptions are also on the increase with supporter couples keen to mark their nuptuals with never to be forgotten pictures featuring the club logo and pitch as a backdrop.

Indeed the proportion of top flight football clubs in England to have moved to new stadia since the Taylor Report proposed all seater stadiums following the Hillsborough Disaster in 1995, given the odd change as a result of promotion and relegation, is around 50%

theiprostadiumEvery part of the county is now catered for and the names, if not exactly tripping off the tongue, becoming more and more familiar to us. The Riverside Stadium; The Ricoh Arena; The Amex Stadium; the Macron Stadium; the Vitality Stadium; the Ipro Stadium; the Keepmoat Stadium; the KC Stadium’ the King Power Stadium; the Ethiad Stadium; the Kassam Stadium; St Mary’s Stadium; the Britannia Stadium; the Stadium of Light and the DW Stadium are just a few, and all in England. Add to that those in other parts of the UK – Murrayfield, in Edinburgh, to name but one – and add in the cricket grounds which are now authentic options for rock concerts and, in the case of Lords, wonderful archery venues, and you have a plethora of multi-use venues which didn’t exist 20 years ago (excluding Lords, of course!).

But the elephant in the room is always that major events outside of the core use of the stadium can impact on the playing surface and it is the job of the Head Groundsman or Facilities Manager to avoid the headlines, or pundit’s critique, when the quality of the pitch for the next home game is not what they have come to expect. It says much for the fact that despite the increase in usage of pitches for alternative sporting, and entertainment events, the quality of pitches in the UK has continued to improve and the skill of the professionals tasked with ensuring top quality playing conditions remain in place all of the time.

Pitch lighting; the emergence of the DESSO Grassmaster pitch; the ability to relay an entire pitch, and have it playable in weeks rather than months and new pitch covering methods have all become reality in recent history, but without the highly developed skills of those who have to implement the new techniques we would still be facing issues.

So let us applaud the fact that just a short time after 30,000 Bruce Springsteen fans were “Dancing in the Dark” on the Etihad pitch earlier this year, that Sergio Aguero could very easily have been finishing off a sweeping Manchester City move to send the light blue fans into raptures.

HOW TROON TOOK ON THE WEATHER

12th Hole.. Royal Troon Golf Club. Hole Name.(The Fox)..length 427 yards..Par 4

12th Hole.. Royal Troon Golf Club. Hole Name.(The Fox)..length 427 yards..Par 4

Following a spate of adverse weather conditions, Royal Troon is gearing up to host the world’s greatest golfing tournament…

Wouldn’t we all love to have a superpower? What would be yours? Time travel? Invisibility? Superhuman strength? Ability to fly? For me, it would be the ability to get inside the head of all referees in charge of Scotland matches – in all sports – and ensure even handed fairness.

Now I have no trouble in working out what superpower golf greenkeepers would wish for. One hundred percent it would be the ability to control the weather.

I also have no doubt that the first volunteer to be the controller of the weather gods would be Billy McLachlan, Course Manager at Royal Troon which hosts The Open in mid-July, because he has seen weather on his little patch of west of Scotland coast which he has never experienced during his 35 years at Troon.

Let Billy explain just why those weather controlling powers would have been such a valuable part of his tool kit over the last nine months or so.

“The rain started in November and just kept falling. We had flooding on about a dozen areas around the course, as a result of the water table being so high and it just wouldn’t go away,” explained Billy, for whom the 2016 Open will be the third time he has been in charge of preparing a course for the greatest golf championship in the world.

But while King Canute had suffered from similar well documented issues in the past, the Troon team knew that they had to make every effort with preparation time for July’s Open being reduced all the time.

“We had to be seen to be doing something so that we couldn’t be accused of just sitting back, but every course in the area was suffering just the same – it was nature at work – and we just hoped there would be a turnaround in the weather.”

troon_preparationWhen it got to February with no improvement Billy and his team decided that drastic times required drastic measures and they started pumping.

“I’m not exaggerating. We must have pumped millions of gallons off the course, sending it onto the beach about 200 yards out, but we weren’t making any headway. The guys really were getting frustrated. They would pump out an area and make a bit of a difference and then go back the next day and it was almost as bad as before,” said Billy.

“I’d never seen anything like it in all my time here at Troon. My other two Opens enjoyed good weather in the run up and it was a straight forward case of not doing anything silly and we enjoyed excellent Opens. This was different.”

One thing he has learned over the last 20 years was above all to keep up a calm exterior at all times.

“I was telling people not to worry, we’ll be fine, but deep down I was concerned. It was very unusual, puddles were sitting for weeks, if not months, and in all honesty we just didn’t know what was going to happen. I remember a weekend at the beginning of April at a time when I thought we were finally getting on top of it, when we had some really heavy rain on a Friday night.

“I went out to look at the 11th fairway, where we had lost quite a bit of grass. We’d had to sit on our hands because it wasn’t ready to re-seed, but the boys had finally got in and done a really good job.

“I remember creeping round the corner, scared to look in case the rain had caused us more problems, thinking please don’t be puddled. But there it was – a huge puddle. I won’t tell you what I muttered under my breath, but I was thinking, ‘Here it is back to haunt us again’,” revealed Billy.

Fortunately a dry spell followed and the team were able to get their preparations back on schedule and the contractors, who build what can now rightly be described as a massive temporary city, were able to get on site.

“It wasn’t ideal as it was still soft and we had to put tracking down to enable them to build up the stands around the 18th.”

In the 12 years since Billy and his team last prepared for an Open much has changed. The tents – temporary buildings would be a better name for them – are much bigger. Everything is much bigger while the R&A has also changed. Even at the top, and Martin Slumbers, who took over the reins from Peter Dawson as Chief Executive, will be in charge for his first Championship.

theopen-troon“He has been here on a number of occasions and has gone on the official course walks to see how preparations are progressing.”

Billy has also seen a change in the management structure within the R&A when it comes to running The Open.

“Since the 2004 Open I have found that the R&A now have individuals dealing with individual areas of responsibility. Last time I dealt with one person on a number of different areas.”

Since his first Open in charge – Justin Leonard’s win in 1997 – Billy has also evolved as a Course Manager.

“When we started taking scientific readings around the course to identify bounce levels, hydraulic conductivity etc, I’m not sure if I liked the idea. I felt that I was putting my neck on the line. Now I test for everything, even if it is just to reassure myself that my instincts are correct. It’s a little like when mobile phones came out. I didn’t like them as they often meant dropping what I was doing at the time whenever the phone goes off. Now, if I leave my mobile in the house I panic.”

Other changes to course maintenance have been helped by the improvement in machinery over the last 20 years which has enabled more procedures to be carried out quicker and more efficiently.

“We do a lot more sanding now than before. Richard Windows, of the STRI, is a massive help to me and he suggested that we put much more sand on the fairways and that has raised the quality to the extent that they are now very good links fairways. It has a made a real difference.”

Another change that he has introduced has seen the winter months utilised for top dressing.

“I used to top dress in the summer or the spring but now I do 90% of our top dressing from October to March – greens, fairways, tees, everything.”

theopen-troon2Speaking six weeks before the first tee shot is hit in the Open, Billy was deep in preparation mode and keen to ensure every base was covered.

“I’m living and breathing it every minute of every day. I wake up thinking of things I need to get done and those which I should have done the previous day. There is apprehension. I know there are many greenkeepers out there who would love to do The Open but it does take over your life. So I will be relieved when we get to the end of the week – although the Monday after it finishes is as hectic as the rest of the days.”

He does see himself very much part of a team and knows that every cog in the wheel is as important as the next.

“Richard (Windows) has been absolutely brilliant. He is a huge help, while the guys – there’s a team of 17 including himself and seasonal workers for the 45 holes at Royal Troon – have done a fantastic job. They really have been putting every last bit of effort into their work for months now.”

So it is fair to suggest that Billy would make sure he was at the front of the queue when those superhero powers were being allocated and that, given his first choice, life might be that much less stressful for the next Royal Troon Open Championship.

Ordering up an extended spell of sunny warm weather with occasional overnight rain from his mobile phone would be just the job.

Daniel Madsen Wins Trip to Wembley with Jacobsen

daniel-madsenIpswich, Suffolk (November 17, 2016) Daniel Madsen is the latest winner of the Jacobsen New Groundsman of the Year award. Turf equipment manufacturer Jacobsen and local dealer Svenningsens co-sponsored the prize that included a trip to work alongside the groundsmen at St. George’s Park, England’s national team training facility, and a tour of Wembley Stadium with Head Groundsman Karl Standley.

Daniel is the grounds manager at Telia PARKEN Stadium, the home of F.C. Copenhagen and the Danish national football team. Having grown up as an F.C. Copenhagen fan, Daniel has now spent 10 years at the club that is regarded as the most successful club in the history of Danish football. Daniel has played a crucial role in preparing the pitch for every game played at the stadium which includes Champions League fixtures, the most recent being the visit of the reigning Premier League champions, Leicester City F.C.

The Groundsman Association Denmark (GDA) nominated Daniel for the award as a result of the pitch being voted as “Denmark’s best pitch” two years in a row. This accolade is achieved by the captain of the opposing team rating the pitch from 1-5, with the highest ranking pitch at the end of the season winning the award. Commenting on being nominated, and winning the Jacobsen New Groundsman of the Year award, Daniel said:
“It was a huge privilege to just be nominated for the award. My peers are the ones who voted for me to win, so it really means a lot to me that my work has been recognised in this way. I have to also acknowledge the work of my team. There are only three of us, and between us, we maintain the training ground and the stadium, so there is a lot of work to do! The stadium is multi-use so as well as preparing the pitch for football, we also have to prepare for concerts and other sporting events, which comes with its own challenges.

“I hope to be able to continue the good work in the years to come. I am particularly looking forward to the challenge of preparing the pitch for the 2020 European Championships, which marks the 50th anniversary of the competition. Telia PARKEN Stadium will host three group games and one round of 16 game. I hope to be able to make it to Wembley for the final once my work is done!”

Commenting on the prize of working alongside F.A. Head Groundsman Alan Ferguson and his team at St. George’s Park and the trip to Wembley Stadium, Daniel said:

“I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in England. I have been blown away at the size of St. George’s Park, and I have also been surprised how open it is to the wider community. For example, I have been told that Burton Albion train here every day and I have seen the Australian national rugby league team here as well. It’s fantastic to see a world-class facility that is so versatile and well-used.

“My trip to Wembley was also a great experience. Wembley is the Mecca of football and it was exciting to be able to stand on the pitch and go behind-the-scenes of a place which has hosted so many memorable sporting moments. I would like to thank Jacobsen for making the experience possible; I have learnt a lot which I hope to be able to take back with me to Copenhagen.”

For more information visit www.textron.com

ClearWater is Number One at BTME 2017!

Talking-ClearWater-on-the-Highspeed-stand-at-BTME-2016Highspeed Group is focusing on their Number One product ClearWater and sees BTME 2017 as the ideal platform to build on the last twelve months success.

Highspeed Group’s joint M.D. David Mears commented: “BTME is always an excellent show for us and 2016 exceeded expectations with us taking a record number of ClearWater enquiries. For BTME 2017 we have made ClearWater even better with some specification changes, free upgrades and an exceptionally attractive price! The time to buy and comply could not be better, particularly for those that have been fortunate enough to receive VAT refunds! ”

Highspeed’s stand (C12) will feature a mini ClearWater display unit to demonstrate some of the new features and, yes, there will be a Show Offer and an even better Prize Draw! If you are interested in bringing your washpad up to legal requirements, do make sure you visit the stand; it may not be as expensive as you thought and you could be a winner!

Highspeed Group’s Show Offers not only cover ClearWater but also a superb deal on diesel refueling tanks and an attractive waste management package; WasteAway.

Call Matt Mears on 07912 981103 for more information or to make a show appointment. The Highspeed Team looks forward to seeing you at BTME 2017: Stand C12.

For more information visit www.highspeed.co.uk

FÖRST WOODCHIPPER DISTRIBUTION EXPANDED INTO EUROPE

Doug-Ghinn-1Redwood Global, manufacturer of Först woodchippers, has now expanded distribution of its market leading range of high performance and robust woodchippers into Europe following a period of significant growth.

The manufacturer has set up strategic dealer partnerships with industry experts in France, Norway and Denmark that will see arboricultural sales specialists solely distribute Först machines throughout the new territories.

In addition, Redwood Global as formed a subsidiary company (Först Gmbh) that is based in Germany to specifically meet significant customer demand in the country.

Först Gmbh and each dealership will distribute Först’s premium range of 6” and 8” wheeled, tracked and PTO woodchippers, all of which have a three year warranty as standard, offering tree surgeons, arborists and contractors complete peace of mind.

Doug Ghinn, Director at Först, commented: “We introduced the Först brand to the market over three years ago and its presence continues to go from strength to strength. We have developed an excellent reputation for manufacturing and supplying products that produce outstanding chipping performance, backed up by a first class service offering.

“We are very excited to be distributing Först wood chippers throughout Europe. Through extensive analysis and the implementation of strategic business models, we are already beginning to see a positive impact on the markets and this will only help our business to continue to grow.”

Daniel Robertson, Managing Director of Först Gmbh, said: “Först has made significant strides in the UK market in a short period of time and we are looking forward to replicating this success in Europe.

“Customers here in Germany are liking what they are seeing with the Först product and this is seen in the excellent sales achieved to date. The product is right for the European market and customers are beginning to see the quality of Först wood chippers.”

For more information on Först’s high performance range of woodchippers, or to book a demonstration, visit www.forst-woodchippers.com or call 01264 721790.

HUXLEY GOLF INSTALLS PRACTICE AREA FOR UK’S JUNIOR CHAMPIONS

Huxley-Golf-Installs-Practice-Area-for-Junior-Champions---Press-Release-..Huxley Golf was commissioned by Merchiston Castle School near Edinburgh to strengthen its on-campus golf facilities with a comprehensive all-weather practice zone.

The leading independent boys’ school is known for its high level sporting programme and has its own Golf Academy at the nearby Kings Acre Golf Course. Led by PGA Professional Alan Murdoch, Merchiston Golf Academy nurtures students through a progressive system that allows them to work on personalised golf performance programmes. Its success is such that the International Schools Golf Association (IGSA) has ranked Merchiston the number one golf school in the UK. In 2015 and 2016 the Golf Academy Junior Team won the title of joint National ISGA Junior League Champions.

To facilitate coaching and enable daily practice, Huxley Golf helped Merchiston to convert a disused basketball area into an all-weather golf practice area for its students. It comprises three practice nets which provide a safe and effective zone to practise drives and long shots, as well as a 15ft (4.5m) x 18ft (5.5m) putting green, finished with Huxley Golf Premier Leisure Turf surround. The high quality surfaces used do not require any specialist greenkeeper knowledge as they are virtually maintenance free, making them ideal for use in schools and universities. For technical details see www.huxleygolf.com.

Director of Merchiston Golf Academy, Alan Murdoch, commented: “Our golf programme offers a completely customised approach to cater for the specific needs of each individual player. Our new Huxley Golf practice area will support the boys’ formal coaching programme and complement the facilities at Kings Acre by enabling them to work on their golf skills every day, come rain or shine. I am confident that it will help us to achieve competitive advantage in future junior golf competitions.”

Paul Chester, General Manager at Huxley Golf, added: “We have an excellent track record of working with some of the UK’s premier educational establishments to provide the best possible environment in which to nurture the next generation of golf stars. The materials
that we use are the same PGA-accredited, tournament quality golf surfaces that are specified by the world’s top golf clubs and championship courses, thus providing a realistic experience for juniors at the outset.”

He continued: “It was an honour to work with Merchiston Castle School which is clearly setting new standards when it comes to junior golf and we wish the boys continued success.”

Huxley Golf provides premier all-weather surfaces for golf around the world. Clients include training and coaching establishments, golf resorts, ranges and academies as well as many of the world’s best known golf courses. For more information about Huxley Golf premier all- weather golf surfaces, visit www.huxleygolf.com or call 01962 733222.

Storm-tec weathers it with Polaris

StormtecStorm-tec has been appointed an authorised Polaris dealer for the Republic of Ireland. The Wexford-based dealership has built an exceptional reputation supplying clients in the marine industry, including the Irish Coast Guard, Community Rescue Service, the Rivers Agency, Inland Fisheries Ireland and the Northern Ireland Fire Service.

With a policy of working only with premium world class brands (they are Northern Ireland’s only Helly Hansen workwear provider), the Wexford branch has an in-house marine service centre, alongside which they run a Managed Service solution in servicing and storing life jackets, dry suits and other marine wear.

“With Wexford as the base, Storm-tec is now expanding its farming and countryside business,” says Dealer Principal Conor Gribbon “and as authorised Polaris dealers we’re very confident we are supplying all our clients with top of the range and competitively priced 4×4 vehicles to suit our terrain and climate.”

Conor cites the Polaris Ranger Diesel as the ideal UTV for the Irish Coast Guard, while the Polaris Sportsman ATVs are highly popular with the farmers. This was well demonstrated at the recent National Ploughing Championships in County Offaly where Storm-tec exhibited for the first time. Braving the weather, with a large stand, they put on display the full range of Polaris All-Terrain Vehicles. Attracting a great deal of interest from many of the 283,000 people who had donned wellies and visited the event, the successful leads they took prompted a definite return to the show with Polaris in 2017.

Polaris Britain: 0800 915 6720 www.polaris-britain.com

VERTAS DELIVERS “PROFESSIONAL SERVICE” WITH TORO

Fast-growing facilities management provider Vertas Group Limited’s grounds division has invested in the adaptable Toro T4240 high-output mower to deliver a “professional service” for its customers.

Vertas provide services to schools and businesses in Suffolk and across East Anglia and its grounds team, which primarily maintains sports fields for schools, football and rugby clubs, decided to make an addition to its shed when an old machine needed replacing.

Contracts manager Shaun Swan says: “We tried a variety of machines and preferred the Toro T4240 over competitor brands. We had to test the market, but the T4240 really is the leading machine for what we want.”

It became clear to Shaun that the T4240 was perfect for the job when Toro UK distributor Reesink Turfcare loaned him a machine. “Our Reesink rep Danny was very helpful in sourcing a T4240 for us to use and we quickly saw the quality of finish needed across all our sites. The employees were all impressed; they found it comfortable and were more than happy to use it!”

Shaun speaks of just some of the many benefits of the T4240: “The machine’s portability makes life easier as you can piggy-back it onto a trailer to transport it from site to site. It’s very versatile too; it can cover a large area and also be used in tricky, confined spaces as either a triple or five-unit machine.”

One of the main reasons Shaun chose the T4240 is because it gives Vertas’ sites a top quality finish. He says: “The cutting cylinders float and follow contours producing a consistent and beautiful cut. As professionals we need to ensure we’re providing a professional service to our customers – the Toro T4240 makes this easy.”

But it’s not just the initial acquisition of the machine, Shaun feels he can rely on Reesink’s aftercare service too: “With Reesink we know we can get parts easily and locally, meaning our Toro machines are never out of service for long.”

Jonathan Pendry to join Bernhard and Company as the newly appointed Director of Agronomy

Jonathan-Pendry-Bernhard-and-CompanyBernhard and Company is pleased to announce that Jonathan Pendry, world leading agronomist and turf consultant, will be joining the company this October as Director of Agronomy.

The company is already renowned in the industry for its ability to offer full service turf care solutions to its global customer base. Jonathan’s agronomic know-how and considerable experience will further strengthen their reputation as a leading supplier of turf health solutions.
Jonathan founded his own consultancy business, International Turf Company (ITC), in 2012. Over the last four years ITC has established itself as a premier consultancy company with projects across Asia, Europe, the Caribbean and Africa. One of the first ever degree qualified agronomists in Europe and an approved GEP sustainability associate, Jonathan has the perfect credentials to support Bernhard’s latest addition to the EMEA product portfolio, SubAir™ Systems and TurfBreeze™ Fans.

“We are delighted to have Jonathan on board,” says Steve Nixon, Director of Global Sales. “He has such a strong industry background and provides the agronomy expertise we need to help us strengthen our turf care reputation in the pitch care and golf industries.”

“I have worked closely with Bernhard on several projects recently and I have always been impressed by the level of customer service, training and education that they provide,” adds Jonathan. “The company is truly focused on turf health and ensuring that customers get the quality of turf they desire. I really look forward to working closely with Bernhard’s global customer base and supporting the Bernhard team in growing the business.”