Parks & green spaces during a pandemic

Parks & green spaces during a pandemic: Green Space charity Fields in Trust has published an online Impact Report following their Annual General Meeting this week. The report shows that despite the challenges of the pandemic, work to champion, support and protect the UK’s parks and green spaces has continued. 

The report notes that 2020 was a year in which the value of parks and green spaces was widely recognised for the physical health and mental wellbeing benefits they contribute to regular park visitors.

Parks & green spaces during a pandemic

Parks & green spaces during a pandemic

Fields in Trust Chair of Trustees Jo Barnett said: “Like many charities we have had to adapt our services, embrace remote ways of working and more digital dissemination like this years online Impact Report. But I am pleased to say we have continued to make great progress with 31 new spaces protected during the year and significant progress made on our regional programme to work with Local Councils and deliver real change for their towns and cities.

As normal life resumes, we must not forget how vital our parks and green spaces have been – and that failing to protect them will be to our collective detriment.

At the AGM, Vice President of Fields in Trust, Gyles Brandreth spoke to reflect and appreciate the work of His Royal Highness, The Duke of Edinburgh who was President of the charity for 64 years. Gyles Brandreth, The Duke’s friend and biographer, is Vice President of Fields in Trust and spoke about The Duke of Edinburgh,  taking on the role as President of Fields in Trust, in October 1948 – his first national charity commitment. He served for over six decades, stepping down in 2013 to be replaced by his grandson, HRH The Duke of Cambridge, who remains as President today. The legacy created ensures that many much-loved parks and playing fields remain available today for play, sport and the enjoyment of nature.

The AGM comes a month after the current president of Fields in Trust HRH The Duke of Cambridge, launched the Green Space Index as part of his engagement with a range of charities focused on environmental issues ahead of COP26. The Index is an annual barometer of green space provision and distribution which can be used as a tool to support local authorities with green infrastructure planning to mitigate climate change. It shows there are around 2.8 million people in Great Britain who live more than a ten-minute walk from their nearest park or green space Areas with the least provision tend to be those with a higher incidence of deprivation – precisely the communities who benefit most from green space access. The Fields in Trust Impact Report can be viewed online

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Greenkeeping during a pandemic

Greenkeeping during a pandemic: As clubs continue to be shut in the UK while the coronavirus pandemic holds its grip over the world, one of the biggest concerns looking ahead is the shape our courses will be in when normality returns.

In the wake of the lockdown, the government confirmed greenkeepers could still attend work for “essential maintenance purposes”.

Greenkeeping during a pandemic

Greenkeeping during a pandemic

BIGGA and the R&A then set out a comprehensive plan on what that should look like.

But what is being done in practice?

Nairn Dunbar, in the North of Scotland, will co-host the Amateur Championship next year. We caught up with course manager Richard Johnstone to ask him how his team were working during the outbreak and how the coronavirus lockdown and aftermath would affect the Highland course…

What is essential maintenance looking like at Nairn Dunbar?

The health, well-being and safety of our staff, members and visitors is priority so, for now, all staff are on three weeks furlough.

We are lucky there is very little growth until mid-April in the North of Scotland and are happy with course conditions after completing a lot of work during our winter maintenance programme.

I have been in constant contact with my Club Manager and Management Committee to plan the next steps needed to implement essential maintenance, starting mid-April.

How will staffing numbers continue to be affected?

We recently had our Deputy Course Manager retire after 27 years working on the course.

An internal promotion is being carried out, giving the opportunity to one of our highly skilled assistant greenkeepers who have been excelling in their role and are ready for a new challenge.

Due to new financial restraints caused by Covid-19 we will be unable to take on anyone new, meaning we will be running with five staff through 2020 to look after our 135-acre site.

How will the course react to the new regime and how much time would you need to reinstate it when the restrictions come to an end?

Having missed out on three weeks of work, tasks will be prioritised to ensure the main surfaces are in the best possible condition given the resources available.

It will be tough but our hard-working team will do our best to ensure members and guests can continue to enjoy a first class experience.

Our enthusiastic members will also be offered the opportunity to volunteer alongside our team on the course, which will really help us complete smaller tasks through 2020.

We will also be working closely with the STRI and R&A as we look at best practice ahead of hosting The Amateur Championship, alongside Nairn GC, in 2021.

What measures will you need to take to ensure everyone stays safe?

Prior to the lockdown we had already put measures in place to make sure staff and members were as safe as possible by implementing practises such as different shift patterns to avoid similar start/finish and break times, machinery and surfaces wiped before and after use.

We also have a lone working policy in place to ensure safe working practices are followed at all times.

Golfers were asked to follow guidelines, such as 2m distancing between players, not to touch pins and hole cups were turned upside down to avoid contact with the pin.

All bins, water fountains, ball washers were stopped from use and rakes and ball scoops were removed from the course totally.

A lot of these measures will almost certainly still be in use when the course opens again until we can return to some sort of “normality”.

Being such a close-knit community club during this tough period has been a big advantage and we hope we can work through this together coming out the other side even stronger.

We do encourage, if financially possible, members and guests continue to support us and invest in the future of our 121-year-old club.

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Irrigating During Heat

Irrigating During Heat: Reesink Turfcare’s Robert Jackson discusses irrigating during warm weather.

2018 was certainly the year irrigation systems across the country had their work cut out. It delivered the hottest weather the UK had experienced since 1976 and in some parts of the country months passed without rainfall.

Irrigating During Heat

Many clubs react to extreme weather by seemingly panicking that their irrigation system isn’t up to scratch, and then as soon as the weather’s back to normal quickly forgetting the frustration. My advice would be, don’t! Have an extreme weather programme in place and invest now to ensure that if the same happens again, you’re prepared.

An irrigation system is designed to supplement rainfall, not replace it. Even the most advanced and expensive irrigation systems may have dry and wet areas, particularly during prolonged dry spells. The proper irrigation management goal is to provide water based on the wetter not drier areas. When the system has completed its cycle, and if needed, dry areas can be supplemented with spot or hand watering, typical, for example, with greens and surrounds.

It’s long been recognised that a blanket application of water is not only wasteful, but during a heatwave sometimes not possible, and tackling this in practice is now made easier with improved sensor technology, control software and advanced sprinkler designs. The ability to accurately tailor water application to precise conditions and requirements can help ensure turf will respond as expected in relation to its localised environment.

Measuring changes in moisture, temperature and other variables such as salinity is not new. What modern technology can do is make this monitoring not only easier but integrate it into how the irrigation system is controlled. Take the wireless Toro Turf Guard soil monitoring system. The system employs self-contained sensor units that can be positioned without the need for wiring. Each sensor sends signals to monitoring software, repeaters and a powerful base station allowing large areas to be covered.

Data is recorded and enables more informed adjustments to irrigation schedules to be made. As well as water-saving benefits, accurate monitoring can help alert users to the conditions that can lead to other problems, drainage issues and turf stress. As the wireless sensors are not static, they can be moved around to easily optimise their positioning, taking into account changes in shading on a pitch through to moving to a different position on a green.

Irrigating During Heat

It follows that soil monitoring systems were primarily developed to prevent over- and under-watering. Equally important, information recorded by soil monitoring provides valuable data over extended periods. Using this information can help ensure an irrigation system can be adapted over time to make the best use of applied water, with the potential to decrease consumption and help maintain sward health.

Computer-based software, such as the Toro Lynx system, can be employed to deliver not just irrigation control, but detailed information when it’s in use. With portable tech, it allows the irrigation system to be ‘interrogated’ while other tasks are carried out.

For example, those systems programmed to set off the sprinklers late at night can be monitored remotely, with the software detailing which sprinklers are running and for how long. The system can be set up to work with soil sensors, to include Turf Guard wireless units, providing an alert when the sensor picks up a change in moisture that may need attention. This provides the information to support the decisions required to programme the irrigation control system.

The problem with an outline like this is that it can over simplify what’s on offer. The Toro Lynx programme is advanced enough to provide full mapping of a golf course, but equally at home looking after a single stadium football or rugby pitch. It is designed to fit user needs and be upgraded to take advantages in developing technology.

In conclusion, a modern irrigation system can deliver not just the correct volume of irrigation water to specific areas of turf, but also provide detailed information that can be of great help in monitoring overall turf health. The best irrigation systems optimise available irrigation water to reduce costs and will deliver reliable and upgradeable performance over its lifetime, no matter what the weather!

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