October is upon us and there is no denying that it feels like autumn. Dark mornings and early sunsets, that dampness in the air first thing and the turning of the leaves. Despite showers this past week, we have had the odd day when the sun has broken through and it makes all the difference to see the autumn glow of a low sun setting in the western skies. Regardless of the change in the air, the course and grounds team are working full steam ahead on various projects around the estate. On the golf course we have completed the task of overseeding and this is growing very well in the areas it was needed. We shall be top dressing fairways very soon and we have started the season worm control process of brushing fairways early in the morning to knock off the castings from our worm community. There are 27 species of earthworm in the United Kingdom, but only one which casts in such an abundance that grieves every greenkeeper from John O’Groats to Lands’ End. We are now starting the landscape planting on the course and have the 12th tees area all planted up and now onwards to the 2nd / 15th bed. Our very capable long-server, Ian Vass, with the aid of Steve the mechanic, fabricated the screens requested by the golf committee and they are currently being installed within the bed. Next week we shall commence the tree planting process and then at the end of the month the shrub planting element. Then onward to the 16th!
As part of the safety audit for the course, we shall need to make several modifications to the 18th tee complex this winter to improve safety and alleviate the issues of balls slicing into the Fairacres estate. We shall be re-modelling the tee, so combining the two separate areas into one long tee box . The tee surface will also be lowered so it is closer to the ground level. A taller ball stop fence will also be installed along the length of the tee on the right-hand side. These works shall be carried out in November and December, with favourable weather conditions. During this rebuild period, the 18th tee shall be played from a forward mat position. We shall be turfing the complex once the works are completed so the tee is brought back into play as soon as possible in the spring time, once the turf has knitted together and grown in well enough to take play.
A “light” bulb moment
The grounds team have been busy renovating the tennis lawns and getting the seed to germinate in these areas using grow covers to insulate the seed and give it some protection to strike. We have had our new light rig delivered, which shall be used to ensure that we have uniform light coverage to the courts in block 19 to 24, as the shadow from the indoor tennis courts is causing some thinning on the south side of the courts. Light rigs have been used very effectively on the courts at the All England Club for several years, since the roof and stands have inched increasingly upwards and caused more shade on the precious lawns. The development is a proven life saver for turf in some of the most renowned football grounds in the UK, Europe and beyond. The company we chose to supply the equipment devised the whole concept of turf illumination. The original family business grew roses in glasshouses in the Netherlands and exported internationally. The owner of the nursery loved watching football on TV noticed that pitch deterioration seemed to be linked to the increase in stadium capacity. Understanding the value of light for his crop production he comprehended that the weak areas of grass he saw within the pitches was linked to poor root structure and growing capacity that correlated to the deep shade areas on the pitch. The first attempt at producing a light rig was a rather Heath Robinson affair, but through development and refinement they now supply light rigs to all manner of sports venues as a standalone company, although the owner still continues to grow the roses too.
In the gardens, we are now in the changeover period between summer colour and putting out winter bedding, which will take us into spring. This year has been a marvellous year for the bedding scheme, which has thrived in the conditions that existed. Steve and the gardens team have accomplished great things in keeping the plants in the best of health and we are delighted with the results. Due to the fact that most of the tulips were in bloom during the lockdown period this year, we shall be replicating the display in 2021 for the delight of the Members who love to see the gardens in full bloom. All the planting is custom grown by our suppliers and the orders are sent through by the first week of July so they can be grown from seed each year. The bulbs are supplied from our agent, from Dutch growers and again the orders are sent out as early as possible to guarantee we receive the best stock items we requested. This time of the season both agents and growers in the Netherlands are in their frenzied period, trying to supply all manner of organisations and gardeners with orders for every corner of European and beyond.
Visit an arboretum this autumn
If you travel west on the M4 in Gloucestershire, you may well be familiar with a brown visitor attraction at the Tentbury motorway turn off for the Westonbirt Arboretum. If you have never been to the estate managed by Forestry England (formally The Forestry Commission) now is the time of the year to enjoy a real treat if you love trees in the autumn. The arboretum was established in 1829 by Robert Stayner Holford and was later extended by his son George Lindsay Holford. After the death of George in 1926, ownership of the arboretum passed to his nephew, the fourth Earl of Morley, and eventually to the Forestry Commission in 1956. The Holford family’s mansion, Westonbirt House, became a girls’ boarding school in 1927 when it was separated from the arboretum. Westonbirt Arboretum backs onto the Highgrove Estate of Prince Charles. The Arboretum comprises of some 18,000 trees and shrubs, over an area of approximately 600 acres with two main areas to explore. The Old Arboretum is a carefully designed landscape offering beautiful vistas, stately avenues, and a host of rare and exotic trees from across the globe dating back to the 1850s. The other area, Silk Wood, is a very different experience. Although it also contains many exotic plantings, at its heart is a traditional working woodland, dating back to the 13th century. Dogs are welcome in Silk Wood but not allowed in The Old Arboretum. This year is predicated to be a splendid season to see the trees turning the full gamete of hues and colours, as the prolonged summer and rains in August and September have kept the leaves in good condition the year. Other places to visit would be Bedgebury National Pinetum at Bedgebury, Kent – a conservational arboretum established as the National Conifer Collection in 1925 and is now recognised as the most complete collection of conifers on one site anywhere in the world; and Winkworth Aboretum, which was established in the 20th century by Dr Wilfrid Fox, who was passionately interested in plants and the environment. Winkworth Arboretum has a collection of over 1,000 different shrubs and trees, many of which are rare to the UK. In autumn, the fusion of colours from the Japanese, American and Norwegian maples are featured in numerous circular walks across the wetlands. You can find it on Hascombe Road, Godalming, Surrey, GU8 4AD.
Peter Bradburn | Course and Grounds Manager | email@example.com