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Around the Ground | Lee Blagden.

Though the doors are closed the grass still grows & preparing Castle Park for the return of rugby continues.

Operating with a reduced team, Head Groundsman Lee Blagden is overseeing the renovation of all playing surfaces at Castle Park whilst observing government guidelines on social distancing.

Lee admits that operating under the restrictions has been unusual and has made what is already a very busy time of year for the grounds team more challenging.

Despite this, he is pleased with the work done so far and optimistic for the remainder of the renovations. “Lockdown has certainly been challenging, we have had to organise and implement a plan to fully renovate five pitches in a timeframe of just three weeks.

“We are operating with reduced staff as half of the team are currently furloughed, this means that myself and Assistant Groundsman Tom Lindley are having to really prioritise projects whilst being very careful to stay safe & follow the Covid-19 restrictions.

“The stadium gates are locked as we work and have been for a nearly two months now which also feels very strange as it would usually have been the hectic end of season run in.”

The latest government briefing gave some hope that professional sport could resume post June 1st however the 2019/20 Championship season has already been cancelled.

Though there is no guarantee that the season will start as usual in September, Lee and Tom are working hard to make sure Castle Park is ready to go when it is safe to do so. “Obviously none of us know when we will be able to host rugby games again but we are planning the renovations to be completed as if it were any other year.

“Pitch One will be ready for the end of August and playable should we have pre-season fixtures then and the outer pitches will be ready for the start of September.

“We are very lucky to have Pitch Four, the SIS 3G Artificial Pitch, which is used by the first team and other playing sections during pre-season meaning we can rest the grass pitches so they are stronger and more hard wearing throughout the season.”

With a lot of the heavy machinery tasks now complete Lee says the next few weeks will be a case of operation hydration as well as ensuring the Stadium’s aesthetic does not suffer too drastically while the doors are closed. “The outer pitches were top-dressed, seeded, dragmatted, fertilised and verti-drained last Monday and work is still being completed on Pitch One.

“It’s now a case of getting as much water down on the outer pitches as possible before the first cut which we would hope to do eighteen days post renovation.

“On top of this are all the maintenance jobs around Castle Park, the grass and plants are not effected by the virus and everything keeps growing so we’re both very busy.”

Remember whilst the business is closed you can help the Club by donating or forward purchasing rewards on our Crowdfunder page for more info.

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