March is flying by and teams are busy preparing the course, courts and lawns ready for Members’ return. The days seem to be milder and there have been rumours of a golden orb being seen in the sky, which I dispute. Sunny days in March, humbug.
It will be unusual to return to some sense of normality at the Club. The winter lockdown has been an extraordinary time with the harsh weather in contrast to a year ago, when we entered the first lockdown, the sombre national news and short days making the event a gloomy affair. We forget in 21st century living, that winter, in times gone by, was more a time to batten the hatches and hunker down. In an age when you can jet off for a bit of winter sun or ski in the Alps for light relief from the gloom of mid-winter Britain, the stay- at-home message to protect our society from a virus is an affirmation of how far removed we now are from the seasons and nature. Humankind’s harmony with the natural world has never been so – divorced. Perhaps in the future years we will all reflect on the Pandemic Year of 2020/21 and how life was changed by a microbe and how we can reconnect with our planet.
Currently, our contractors are completing the mole drilling of duct work for new power cables to support projects outlined in the Masterplan 2035. I am assured that by the time the Members return, all you will see are some scars where turf is being seeded and regrown at various points around the course and driving range area. It has been an interesting process, understanding that a technique developed for the oil and gas industry has been adopted for moling in pipe work for other applications.
The other main project is the padel court development, which has advanced to the point that the roof has been installed on the enclosed court and the second court is under construction. Once the main structures are in place the project will accelerate to the surface install stage for the courts.
On the golf course we are completing top dressing of fairways and carries and intensifying the cutting process as spring continues to increase day length and hopefully soil temperature. The croquet lawn renovations last week have been completed successfully and hopefully growth will start to initiate in the turf as the weather improves.
In the gardens, the team have been beavering away on several projects. A new fountain has been installed in the sunken garden, as a feature in the ornamental pond. The team have been working on a project to repurpose all the old limestone rock, which was behind the junior tennis courts and a rockery has been installed in the landscape bed which was part of the attenuation project installed in the early 2000’s to stop the concourse area flooding. The gardens team have done a great job to make this look like a natural outcrop of stone as part of this feature.
Notre Dame and the French forest
In a former royal hunting forest in France, four 200-year-old oaks are being felled for wood. This is not just another case of an assault on ancient woodland but a very special project to reconstruct Notre Dame cathedral’s fallen spire. Last July, French president Emmanuel Macron ended speculation over the reconstruction plans, announcing that the spire of the Paris monument would be rebuilt exactly as it was before the April 2019 blaze that severely damaged the cathedral. The 93-metre-high spire, made of wood and clad in lead, was designed by Eugene Viollet-le-Duc in 1859. The cathedral’s construction began in 1163 under Bishop Maurice de Sully and was largely complete by 1260, though it was modified frequently in the following centuries. In the 1790s, Notre-Dame suffered desecration during the French Revolution; much of its religious imagery was damaged or destroyed. Interest in the cathedral blossomed soon after the 1831 publication of Victor Hugo’s novel Notre- Dame de Paris, or, in English The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. This led to a major restoration project between 1844 to 1864, when the spire was added. At the beginning of this year, some 1,000 oaks in more than 200 French forests were selected for the frame of the transept and spire. They are all set to be felled by the end of March, to prevent tree sap and moisture from entering the material. The next step for the trunks from the Forest of Berce in the Loire region is for them to be laid out for up to a year and a half before being ready to cut. The trees were originally planted hundreds of years ago to create wood for shipbuilding. Many of them now measure some one meter wide and 18 metres high.