Eastern Counties Groundmans Association, supported by Eastern Counties Rugby Union (ECRU) and the Institute of Groundsmanship (IOG) held an Open Day on Wednesday 7 March at Bury St Edmunds RFC.
The day came about after Andy Spetch, volunteer groundsman at Bury St Edmunds RFC, approached Eastern Counties Rugby Union about setting up some sort of self help group for rugby groundsmen in the area.
A meeting was held which representatives of ten clubs came to where it was decided that Andy Spetch, Andy Clarke of the IOG and Andrew Sarek, Facilities co-ordinator for ECRU would take forward the idea of a Groundsmans Association .
The three Andys met three times in all and the Open Day was put together, with agricultural suppliers approached to set up displays in return for a fee. Twickenham Head Groundsman Keith Kent was asked to be the main speaker which he gladly accepted. Clubs were encouraged to send someone along whether their grounds were maintained by a volunteer, the local authority or by another contractor.
The weather on the day could have been kinder with several heavy showers making it difficult to stage the outdoor demonstrations, but there were 63 people in attendance representing:
- 15 Rugby Clubs
- 5 Schools
- 8 Local Authorities
- 7 other organisations
Additionally there were five people from ECRU, three from the RFU, and 12 people from 9 exhibitors, making over 80 people in total, although some could only be there for part of the day.
Andy Spetch kicked off the day describing how he planned the maintenance and upgrade of his pitches and he was followed by Keith Kent who spoke on a similar subject but on a much grander scale. However, Keith has a talent for relating what he does at the home of rugby to what can be done at grass-roots clubs.
There were further talks on seeding, line marking, pitch stencilling and a second stint from Keith Kent about winter maintenance. Although the outdoor demonstrations were curtailed most that were there agreed that what they had learnt had been worth giving up their day for.
All the attendees will be emailed to get their feedback from the day which will inform how we might improve any future events.