Grass Clippings

The soothsayer’s warning to Julius Caesar in William Shakespeare’s play of the same name: Beware the Ides of March, sets a dark, gloomy connotation to the month. The Ides of March signified the 74th day in the Roman calendar, corresponding to 15th March. It was marked by several religious observances and was notable for the Romans as a deadline for settling debts. In 44BC, it became notorious as the date of the assassination of Julius Caesar which made the Ides of March a turning point in Roman history. Never one for letting the facts get in the way of good storytelling, Shakespeare’s use of a good phrase resonates down the centuries and has been inserted into many movies or TV shows to add a sense of possible foreboding.

March has started off at the Club with a little better stance, a positive turn in the weather and a little more sunshine. Trees are starting to blossom and there is a sense that winter may (I stress tentatively) be losing her grip on nature and we are seeing some signs of growth out there. As we are on the final countdown towards opening the Club gates, there is a fevered amount of activity in grounds, as we are top dressing, aerating, and completing renovations ahead of Members’ return. I would be happy with a little more sunshine to help warm the soil and get the ground temperatures to move the old mercury up a notch. This would help matters tremendously and get the grass to start to grow a little faster. A week or two without rain has been a Godsend and to be able to do tasks on the surfaces without creating more damage, as the soil firms up, are happy days for all.

We still have a hoard of contractors on site and good progress has been made on the padel court development. As we also have several drilling rigs on site, this is not an offshoot enterprise for prospecting for oil or gas but mole drilling in power and communication lines for the future infrastructure of the Club’s master plan. The size of pipework that they can draw down into the soil without creating the unsightly trenches across the site is quite a feat of engineering. These works will be completed before the end of the month and we hope there will be little to show except for a few exit pit excavations around the driving range area.

HS2 and Coleshill Manor

MPs approved Phase 2A on 11th February for the HS2 high speed rail network, running from the West Midlands to Crewe. The approval means the 58km (36 mile) route will be built earlier than originally planned, with the opening now coinciding with Phase One between London and the West Midlands. Phase 2a will support around 5,000 jobs, with more created in the supply chain. In addition, the railway will support 140 permanent jobs at its maintenance base near Stone in Staffordshire. Once operational, high speed services will run between London, Birmingham and Crewe, and will eventually join the existing network to create direct services to Liverpool, Manchester, Preston, Carlisle and Glasgow. Crewe is also the station for connections to North Wales and Shrewsbury. Passenger services are expected to start between HS2’s stations at London Old Oak Common and Birmingham Curzon Street between 2029-33. Phase 2a’s opening will be aligned with the London toBirmingham route. The HS2 line is the first large scale infrastructure line to be implemented on UK mainline railways for over a century. There are 240 sites now active along the Phase One route, employing more than 13,000 people and over 400 apprenticeships, with tens of thousands more jobs supported through the supply chain. Almost 2,000 companies have worked on the project to date, with 98% of them based in Britain.

As part of the HS2 development, excavations undertaken on part of the site at Coleshill in Warwickshire have revealed one of the best preserved late 16th century gardens ever discovered in the UK.

The dig was undertaken by Wessex Archaeology and during the archaeological investigations, the remains of Coleshill Manor and an octagonal moat were picked up by air photography. As excavations progressed, the remains of a large garden dating from the decades either side of 1600 were discovered alongside the manor house. Owned by Sir Robert Digby, experts believe that after marrying an Irish heiress he built his home in the modern style, along with large formal gardens measuring 300 metres from end to end, demonstrating his new wealth and status. The preservation of the gardens has been described as ‘exceptional’, with well-preserved gravel paths, planting beds, garden pavilion foundations and ornaments organised in a geometric pattern. The site has parallels to the ornamental gardens at Kenilworth Castle and Hampton Court Palace. The preservation of the gardens is unparalleled and a team of up to 35 archaeologists working on the site over the last two years conducting trench evaluations, geophysical work and drone surveys as

well as the archaeological excavations. The form of the gardens suggest they were designed around 1600, which fits in exactly with the documentary evidence we have about the Digby family that lived here. Sir Robert Digby married an Irish heiress, raising him to the ranks of the aristocracy. We suspect he rebuilt his house and laid out the huge formal gardens measuring 300 metres from end to end, signifying his wealth. Coleshill is an historic market town on the south east side of Birmingham. The documentary evidence of the manor, known as Coleshill Hall, and its previous occupants point towards a great feud between the de Montfort and Digby families. The hall came into the hands of Simon Digby in the late 15th century and the change of ownership set in motion huge alterations to the landscape around Coleshill and the development of the Hall, including a deer park and the formal gardens in the 1600s.

Growers’ gardens

Several Members have requested that Grass Clippings include a ‘down on the allotment’ section for all you budding fruit and veg cultivators that have honed your growing skills through lockdown and would like a few more hints and tips. I have consulted with our old sage, Ian Vass (pictured) who has been with the Club for near on 45 years and here are his tips for the coming month:-

♣ Prepare the growing area for sowing and planting out now. Use well-rotted compost as a mulch on top of areas that are to be used for spring planting. Give it a few weeks to break down, by the action of the occasional frost before incorporating into the surface.

♣  There is still time to plant bare root fruit trees if you wish to have apples, pears or cherries for this year. Stocks from suppliers may be low so this will be the last chance for this year to think about a mini orchard before the weather changes.

♣ Order potatoes now and begin chitting them ready for planting out for early crop varieties. Placing on a warm airy light window sill to develop the eyes which eventually create the shoots characterised if you leave eating potatoes in a store cupboard too long. Prepare the ground now so ready for planting.

♣ Finally, order your seed stock for the coming months planting. Now is the time to think about tomato, spinach, onion and leek as well as chillies and sprout planting. As previously, a warm windowsill is an excellent alternative to a glasshouse with one isn’t available.

Wrap up warm and enjoy the gardening bug!


Peter Bradburn | Course and Grounds Manager