Grass Clippings

Autumn projects keep on coming …

Lockdown is a strange time to be at the Club, it’s almost as if the wildlife sense there is a change in the routine and get more brazen. The birds are patrolling the fairways, almost as if they are inspecting the grass quality and the squirrels are enjoying the uncensored use of the golf course like it was their playground. The Course and Grounds team are busy, as we dare not stop maintenance during autumn – dew removal from the surfaces and leaf collection, is being done daily. It is well understood and researched that dew, which forms as air moisture condenses on the cold leaf surface, mixes with the sugars that leach out of the plant. This carbohydrate rich solution is used by turf pathogens and they literally swim towards the grass plant to attack the leaves, gaining entry through the natural venting pore (stoma) within the leaves. Once in the plant the pathogens can wreak havoc with the internal systems and multiply in the plant to create more spores to damage more grass area. By removing the dew you are basically reducing the mode of action of the pathogen and limiting its effect. 

Leaves, as well as being unsightly, can act as a blanket where moisture builds up and causes the same issues. In addition to keeping the course tidy and on top of necessary practices, the teams are trying to complete as much aeration work as feasibly possible. By using this down to our advantage we are being as productive as possible and it has the plus point of maintaining the surfaces in good order ready for the Members to use after lockdown.

On the 18th tee we have reduced the height of the tee down by half a metre and this week the ball stop contractor is installing the fencing masts foundations. Thereafter we shall be continuing with the new tee build, preparing to dig in the drainage system and pulling in the irrigation pipework. A good period of dry weather would be advantageous to the process but we shall have to see what comes in in the next week or so. 


Elsewhere this week on the course, we are installing the bunker misting units on south facing bunkers, to keep as much grass in the summer heat as possible. While on the 16th hole, we are continuing with the new landscaping planting design. The 2nd / 15th area is now completely planted up also and we soon shall be moving to the 13th hole to plant the bank up on the left of the green with native species. Once the dig in stage is done we will be mulching the beds to cover the black weed barrier material. As you can imagine from the above list the greenkeeper and grounds crew have plenty to do in the coming weeks and there is more on the list of winter work once we have ticked off the priorities. Before we can turn around it shall be spring and then we will switch back to turf matters and hopefully, 2021 is a lot better year than the current one for us all.

London of the Past

Instead of a building of the past, I thought it was worth mentioning an institution that many Members may well remember with some sentimental nostalgia. The Lyons Tea House was a familiar site within the capital for many decades, but its rise and subsequent fall from grace has some important milestones in British business history. 

The foundation of J. Lyons & Co began as a collaboration between Joseph Lyons and his brothers in law, Isidore and Montague Gluckstein. In 1894, the company started a teashop in Piccadilly, London, and from 1909 developed this into a chain of tea shops in the home counties. Their reputation for quality service and no nonsense pricing helped the company to expand and branch into different revenue streams including high-class restaurants and hotels as well as taking over the old established tea company Horniman & Sons. A handy acquisition to have when you are running a café chain. From the 1930s Lyons began to develop a pioneering range of teas, biscuits and cakes that were sold in grocery stores across the world. Lyons’ Corner Houses, which first appeared in 1909 and remained until 1977, were noted for their art deco style developed by Oliver P. Bernard, who was the consultant artistic director for the era. 

The archetypal Corner House is represented in the British romantic drama film, Brief Encounter, when Laura Jesson (Celia Johnson) and Alec Harvey (Trevor Howard) share a table for lunch as chance acquaintances and the story develops from there. The corner houses were distinguished by their  uniformed waitresses, known as ‘Nippies’, a play on words for their prompt service. The Lyons group was at the vanguard of developing technology during wartime Britain, playing a big part in ordinance logistics. In a post-war UK the business needed to find a solution for organising the distribution of cakes and other highly perishable goods in order to run a complex business across the country. They, therefore, substantially financed the University of Cambridge’s Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculator (EDSAC) which was the second electronic digital stored-program computer to go into regular service, and built their own programmable digital computers and became the first user of these in businesses, with the LEO I digital computer: the Lyons Electronic Office I. It handled the company’s accounts and logistics and included the weather forecast element to ensure goods carried by their ‘fresh produce’ delivery vans were not wasted in large quantities. 

By the 1960’s the decline of the business model was possibly habitual with the model of their food outlets not being able to rebrand and modernize quickly enough to cater to the youth market of the swinging decade. By the mid 1960’s the founding company started to sell off parts of its London outlets and hotels and in 1978 the business was acquired by Allied Breweries which subsequently broke up the business and sold off elements to other companies. Lyons Maid ice-cream, Lyons Coffee, Lyons Cakes and Biscuits products and Ready Break are all products familiar from the former food empire which are now part of other bigger conglomerates. It’s ironic that only a decade or so later, the rise of the coffee house and the take away beverage industry in the UK could have meant a renaissance in the popularity of the Corner House … if it had survived into the age of the Café Nero and Starbucks?

Get out into the garden

Granted that the nights are drawing in and it can be dank and uninviting out there, but there is plenty to do in the garden these days and it’s one of the most productive times of the year. Like we have on the golf course, clear up leaves from lawns and borders to keep areas clean and disease free. Why waste such an important source of humus material also? The Joy of Composting is a  revelation in itself and making your own soil amendments can help the environment. It will be soon bare root planting season and the best time to obtain field grown trees, hedge, rose and native shrub material. Bare root plants are an ideal alternative to pot grown shrubs and trees and often a very economical way to buy plants for larger areas. Now is the time to protect container plants from frosts and wind damage. Move containers out of exposed areas and shelter away from winds. This goes for borderline hardy shrubs also such as agapanthus which can stay in ground but need some protection for the crowns or branch structure. Use your favoured material, be it hessian, bubble wrap or straw to enclose container pot grown shrubs. Lift containers off the ground in general to prevent drainage holes of pots from blocking and becoming waterlogged and allow them to drain freely. Now is the time also to start cutting back herbaceous perennials and grasses. Take your time and prune those which look desiccated most first. Grasses can give structure and some stately forms in a bare garden during the winter time. If the weather closes in and the rain is beating on the window, then it may be time to research online seed catalogues and start planning next year’s growing season and get ahead.


Peter Bradburn | Course and Grounds Manager