The ground presents a unique challenge for the would-be groundsman. Despite being at the top of a hill, enjoying fantastic views of The Long Mynd, it is very wet owing to the particular nature of the underlying Silurian clay beds that are found in this part of the country.
In addition, the land is subject to an Environmentally Sensitive Agreement which carries strict conditions about what forms of fertiliser and weed control are allowed. Also the outfield cannot be cut until mid July to allow ground nesting birds an opportunity to breed.
The result is that although some minor repairs can be carried out to the square during the winter months, preparation of the outfield and square has to take place in a very short period of time in the middle of the playing season.
The early years before the acquisition of the gang mower
When Jamie Wrench, the Club's Groundsman and Vice-Chairman, put these conditions to the experts at The Institute of Groundsmen's courses, they went pale. But the spirit that has taken England through untold rearguard actions against opposing Test sides continues to shine in the intrepid activities of the Acton Scott members!
The 15 September was the day designated to carry out the end of season work on the square and this had to be done come what may, and the rain certainly came in abundance for several days before !
Head groundsman Jamie Wrench ploughs through the square with the scarifier
The thatch was two wet to be collected by machine so it all had to be hand raked
Seeding could then take place.....
......followed by hand spreading 1250 kg of Kettering loam
The finished article? !
With the acquisition of a new scarifier work begins on the square on 7 July to get the wicket ready for the first game
on 13 July
"Scarifying" by Matthew Wrench and "Blowing" courtesy of ECB & Channel 4 representative
At the end of the 2005 season, and armed only with a grass rake, a fork and a trailer loaded with £15,000 worth of high tech equipment provided by the ECB and Channel 4, the valiant amateurs scarified, aerated, seeded and top-dressed the five wickets in exactly the same way as other more highly paid professionals do at Lords.
Fertiliser is applied and spread (Matthew and Jamie Wrench)
There is no respite in the winter months either as a specially trained flock of sheep keep the outfield mown and fertilised and a hosepipe connected to a Land Rover's exhaust dissuade the moles from encroaching. Further aeration is accomplished by a parliament of genetically modified rooks that have been programmed to search for chafer grubs on the five pitches only - or so it seems!
Paul Davies powers up the square
The finished article
Light mowing of the square to encourage root growth begins in mid April with the grass being left long for as long as possible to enable the moisture to be drawn out by the grass covering.
The square had its first cut with the rotary mower in April and was visited again on 5th June by Groundsman Jamie Wrench and Richard Wilson. This is what they found!
Undaunted by the considerable task ahead, they proceeded to give the square an initial medium cut with the rotary mower, following on with the cylinder mower set to its highest cut. Two hours later the transformation was almost complete :
Finally after nearly three hours they had transformed the square from this
Following the comprehensive work carried out in the autumn, the grass was evidently now growing vertically rather than inclining to grow in a sideways direction, and after it had been cut it was apparent that the growth was even.
However, the most rewarding part of the afternoon was the result seen from the soil sample cores taken which showed deep vertical root growth to about 5 inches, and no sign of the top of the core being detached from the soil, which had been responsible for the springy feel that had become such a characteristic of the Acton Scott wickets. This should therefore mean that greater compaction will be possible, which in turn should result in firmer wickets.
With access restricted to the square until 1st July, the process of getting the pitch ready
for the first game on 17th July began..
Preparation from this.....
and finally this, stage 1 completed
With only one game played at home in July because of the appalling weather, the prospects of ever getting back on to the ground for the rest of the season were looking grim. These pictures were taken on Wednesday 29th July.
The field as presented to the groundstaff on10 June!
The groundstaff (Chairman and Vice-Chairman) finally made it to the square on 10 June to find the sheep had over wintered on the square and had done a pretty good job, keeping the grass down and treading the square flat.
Head groundsman Jamie Wrench gets to work with the rotary mower
Richard Wilson with his daisy cutter! Jamie Wrench making good progress
The square was cut once with a rotary mower and then with a cylinder mower before finally being given a quick diagonal roll.
The square was again rolled slowly on 12 June.
A heavy roller was hired on 20 June and the first wicket was cut
A break from practice nets to rake the dead thatch from the wicket
Jamie Wrench rolls the wicket after several spells of heavy rain