MAIN PITCH RENOVATIONS - THE STORY SO FAR
Over successive winters the main pitch at Old Anniesland had begun to deteriorate. It was not draining properly and this was causing the loss of the grass and destabilisation of the playing surface.
An inspection of all the grass areas was conducted by the Sports Turf Research Institute (STRI) in February 2013. This inspection highlighted the major cause of drainage problems being a significant build-up of “thatch” in the grass that was creating of a layer that was retaining water and preventing it from draining away. In addition the interval between the under pitch pipe drains was thought to be too far apart to cope with the increased rain fall that the West Coast of Scotland is now experiencing compared to the past. This was further complicated by a lack of aeration due to in house equipment problems. A recommendation was made by STRI which would address all of these problems over a five to seven year time scale but would require significant investment up front. Unfortunately the club finances were not able to meet this proposal in full so a compromise was made. In 2013 a new grounds maintenance and nutrition plan was put into place and it was decided to invest in an upgrade to the pip drainage system under the pitches to bring them all up to 5 metre spacing compared to the 10 metre spacing previously.
David Miller the Head Grounds keeper instigated a much more intensive aeration routine along with tailored nutrition. Greentech were commissioned to undertake the drainage improvement works. The works were completed in the summer of 2013 and pitches were returned to play in late August. There was some residual surface scaring over the drain lines due to the exceptionally dry conditions experienced after the drain installation which affected the grass re-growth. However, this did not significantly impact on play.
The autumn and winter of 2013/14 was particularly wet and the rugby pitches continued to suffer from drainage problems. Water was draining in the areas of the new drains but was not flowing laterally between drains due to the thatch layer retaining the water.
This prompted the club to look again at the works that might be possible in 2014 especially concerning the main pitch which was again causing a concern and threatening the viability of holding some fixtures on it. STRI were invited back to look at the grass and propose some options for the club to consider. It was decided that the best solution to the problems on the main pitch would be to remove the surface and thatch layer, level the surface off, re-graft the existing pipe drains to meet the new surface level, undertake sand banding to promote lateral water flow between drains and to re-seed with quality seed to grow a new pitch. This work would be undertaken during the summer of 2014 and completed in time for the start of the 2014/15 season. In early February, Greentech Ltd was chosen to undertake this work and in addition it was decided to re-analyse the soil and make any necessary adjustments to the nutrition programme. This has resulted in the application of dolomitic lime to alter the PH levels in the ground and the use of a different fertiliser with magnesium, iron, copper and zinc additives.
March 2014 saw the return to Old Anniesland of SRU International Rugby with the Club Representative fixture between Scotland and France being held on the evening of Friday 7th March. The match was held on the main pitch however the game was only able to take place after considerable intensive aeration using additional machinery provided by the SRU from Murrayfield. With the help of Jim Dawson Head Groundsman at Murrayfield who provided equipment and advice the grounds staff at Old Anniesland were able to get the pitch to a good condition to enable the match to take place.
SRU Club Representitive International Fixture
Due to a variety of reasons the main pitch renovation work was not able to commence until Monday 30th June 2014. This put a very tight time line in place for growing sufficient grass to guarantee a playable pitch for the start of the season. With this in mind the rugby clubs GHK, Hawks and High School, agreed to try and hold the first few matches way from OA at the start of the 2014/15 season and a target date of Mid-September was agreed for resumption of play on the new pitch.
The first task was the delivery of the equipment then the removal of the thatch layer. For once the weather was in our favour. After several weeks of dry warm weather the ground was bone dry. As each additional layer of the sandy surface was removed by the Koro Field Topmaker away much of the fine surface particulates was blown by the wind. Providing a useful bonus of additional top dressing of sand across the other pitches (see photograph). Eventually 50-65 mm of the surface had been removed.
Once the surface was clear of thatch the old drains were re-grafted to the surface by removing the acumination of soil over the drains and replacing it with fresh medium course sand. The surface was levelled to remove some of the obvious inconstancies in levels that had appeared over the years.
This was followed by the installation of Sand Banding using a Blec Sand Bander. These were installed at a slight diagonal across the pipe drains.
Finally the surface was lightly tilthed using the Sisis contravator before applying the grass seed. The seed chosen was Barenbrug Bar 7 RPR and sown Friday 11th July.
Once sown all that was left was to ensure there was sufficient water and hope the weather would be favourable. As luck would have it the weather was superb, hot or warm days with lots of sunshine and some occasional rain. A little more rain would have been welcome, however, Greentech had arranged for us to borrow two mobile irrigation units which were used in addition to the hoses and sprinklers that we already had. The first grass appeared on the morning of 16th July, the 5th day after seeding. It appeared as a perfect circle where one of the sprinklers had been placed. By the afternoon of the same day grass could be seen emerging all over the pitch.
First Growth - 5 Days
Growth continued at a rapid rate and we were able to make the first cut after 10 days. There followed a process of regular cuts by hand. It had been decided that after the renovations the care of the main pitch would be different to that of the other pitches. All grass clippings would be collected rather than leaving them in place. To facilitate this two new walk behind rotary mowers were purchased from Hamilton Brothers of Bishopton. The two machines were Hayter Harrier 56BCC. Additional cutting was provided by Greentech arranging the loan of a Dennis cylindrical mower Stevie Bache Head Groundsman of Hampden Park. The additional weight of this larger machine helped with the stabilising of the surface, preparing it for play and the use of larger machinery in the future.
By late August early September it was obvious that we would meet our target date for resumption of play on our main pitch.
In parallel with the renovation of the grass other upgrades were made to the infrastructure of the main pitch. The area between the exit from the stand tunnel and the grass had always been a mud bath in the past. There had been an old piece of Astro turf covering part of it. This was uplifted and replaced by a full section of modern rubber filled 3G artificial grass that extends from the stand to the touchline providing a much better technical area for the teams. The plastic chairs that had been used as substitute bench in the technical areas were replaced by purpose made wooden benches, big enough and strong enough for use by proper sized rugby players. The score board had new team boards manufactured with the team badges of the home teams on them. Finally a new set of Ram flagpoles and flags were purchased to finish it all off.
The first match to be held on the new pitch was on Saturday 13th September 2014. The High School of Glasgow 1st XV played against their local rivals the Glasgow Academy. After a thrilling match Glasgow High managed to win with one of the final moves of the match.
The same afternoon GHK 1st XV played Annan and won convincingly, there couldn’t have been a better start for the new pitch.