Laurence Gale impressed with Dennis and SISIS Cricket Seminar

Turf Matters’ Laurence Gale attended the Dennis and SISIS Cricket Seminar. He was impressed…

Laurence Gale impressed with Dennis and SISIS Cricket Seminar

Dennis and SISIS have again hosted another successful cricket education event, which attracted well over 160 practising Groundsmen to St Albans School, Woollam Trust Playing Fields.

The event follows on from the hugely successful ‘For the Groundsmen by The Groundsmen’ series of seminars that has now become an industry must attend series of Cricket education days.

The St Albans event was a mix of indoor presentations and outdoors practical sessions, kindly organised and hosted by Ian Smith, the Schools Turf Consultant. It has been a long ambition of Ian’s to host a practical demonstration day of cricket pitch renovation techniques, making good use of the facilities he has on hand at St Albans School.

Robert Jack from Dennis, began the day giving a warm welcome and thank you to all those who had taken the time to come and support the event, with a special thank you to all of the key sponsors and guest speakers.

Company sponsors were: Boughton Loam,, Durant Cricket, Ecosol, Headland Amenity, Limagrain, Poweroll and RT Machinery.

Guest speakers: Alex Vickers IOG; Keith Exton, Perfect Pitches; Andy Mackay, Sussex and Hove HG; Andy Clarke, IOG; Ian Smith, St Albans Trust Turf Consultant; Rob Kendle, ATB Sports Solutions and Darren Matthews, Ops manager for Ecosol,

The event was officially opened by Mark Illott, St Albans School Cricket Professional and former England Test player and Essex County cricketer who spoke about his career and how he admired the important work of the Cricket Groundsman and was pleased to know they are finally getting the recognition they deserve, with such events.

The morning sessions covered a wide range of topics, centred on the benefits of undertaking a thorough end of season renovation, first up was the renowned Soil Scientist, Alex Vickers, who himself is a practising volunteer cricket groundsman and player. Alex’s key message was to have a better understanding of what your needs are in terms of carrying out your annual renovations.

There are too many clubs, invariably undertaking a renovation programme without understanding what they really need to address, often wasting valuable time, money and resources.

Out of an audience of 160 plus, only a handful carry out regular core sampling to access the soil profile of their square, therefore understanding what is going on beneath their feet.

Alex then, showed several core samples and explained what issues could be identified by a simple inspection of these cores that clearly identified the level of thatch content, soil breaks, rooting depth and density.

Couple with the fact if you sent samples off for a soil particle size analysis / nutrient and pH status, along with loss ignition test, you would be able to have more information on hand to help you make better decisions on your maintenance and renovation requirements.

Rob Kendle of ATB Sports Solutions was next up giving an informative talk on the modern methods of undertaking cricket pitch renovations and pitch reconstructions, using such machines as the Koro fraise mower, tractor mounted scarifiers and spreaders.

The morning session was concluded with a Q&A session by Keith Exton and Andy Mackay who had inspected a number of core samples brought in by a number of delegates attending the day.

Again, this centred around identifying the physical characteristics of each core sample and identifying the level of thatch content, root depth / density and any root breaks giving relevant feedback on the results of their findings.

During the lunch break, the delegates were able to talk to many of the sponsors and look at the vast range of Dennis and Sisis equipment being shown on site, Powerroll also brought some of their cricket rollers for people to try out.

However, what caught my eye was a brand new inflatable pitch cover, designed and patented by Durant Cricket, who have been working closely with Keith Exton to develop this new product, that will enable Cricket Groundsman to help produce better playing surfaces, particularly at the start of the cricket season. This new tented environment (mobile greenhouse) will allow the groundsman to control the amount of moisture / air temperatures by the use of humidifiers, blowers and heaters.

There will no doubt be other add on’s in terms of the potential to fit lighting rigs and watering systems to further enhance the performance of this new innovation.

For me, the best part of the day came after lunch, when the delegates where split into three groups and sent off to see practical demonstrations of renovation techniques going on, at three different cricket squares.

Square 1: Saw Andy Clarke and Ian Smith discussing renovation techniques on a budget, using a range of Dennis and Sisis equipment, they showed each group the process of a good thorough renovation of a square, starting with the cleaning up of the square, removing has much surface debris as you can, scarifying in two/ three directions, rectifying surface levels, applying the seed and loam.

It was also good to see the full range of dedicated cricket machinery/tools on offer from Dennis & SISIS, ranging from hand tools, Tru lutes, mowers, cassette systems , scarifyers, spreaders seeders and brushes.

Square 2: Saw Keith Exton, Perfect Pitches, and Darren Matthews, Ecosol, give a demonstration of two different ways to carry out deep aeration of a cricket square using a fast acting Weidemann solid tine spiker fitted with 10mm tines and the unique Ecosol Deep drill using 8mm diameter drills both able to achieve depths up to 200-220mm. Prices for this type of work based on a ten pitch square would vary between £300-£600. Deep aeration of cricket squares is a skilled operation, in the wrong hands you could end up doing more damage. Timing of this work is generally completed in the autumn when the soils are at the right moisture content

Both forms of deep aeration are now becoming a popular method of deep solid tine aeration, the ability to get deep down into the square has many benefits. Especially when it allows, the opportunity to get some additional loam dressing deeper down into your soil profile, Ecolsol have in recent years offered the drill and fill option. Both companies offer a wide range of services too clubs that include renovations, aeration and reconstruction works.

Square 3: Saw Rob Kendle, of ATB Sports Solutions, give a demonstration of some of the specialist equipment he now uses to renovate and reconstruct cricket squares. On show was the now popular Koro Fraise mower, which can be set to take off surface vegetation from 3mm-15mm. Taking off any more would be deemed a reconstruction job requiring the need to power harrow, reset levels and over sow. He also demonstrated some tractor mount ed scarifiers and topdressing machines.

Dennis and SISIS, along with Ian Smith, must be congratulated for putting on another fantastic cricket day, the day could not have gone any better, a great venue, a full turnout, superb food and hospitality, exceptional weather and a wealth of experienced speakers delivering a packed programme of presentations and active demonstrations.

I cannot wait for the next one.

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