Whenever asked how he started working in the turfcare industry, Alan’s answer will always be: “I thought I was a better sportsman than I actually was!”
The truth, however, is that as a young man Alan would accompany his father, who worked for Shrewsbury Parks Department, to a variety of sports pitches and he admits that it piqued his interest immediately.
He might not have ended up representing his country by playing a sport, but it could be said that, through his role as our Greens Maintenance Advisor, he does represent his country for turfcare. It is a remarkable achievement, and one that is fully justified after a glowing career in the industry.
Alan started his turfcare education in the early eighties and went so far as to achieve a Master’s degree. However, for all the qualifications, he pinpoints the combination of theory and practice, as a crucial component.
“I was fortunate enough to work on the old Youth Training Schemes and one thing I would like to emphasise is just how important day release learning is in this industry,” he said. “So many people miss out on this experience and, in my opinion, there is no better way to prepare for a career.”
Through day release, study and positions at council parks departments, Alan was more than equipped with the necessary practical skills and knowledge when he started working at the prestigious Shrewsbury School. It was a position he held for seventeen years (six as a deputy and eleven as the head groundsman) and his work did not go unnoticed – he was awarded Master Groundsman of the year in 1991.
Alan left Shrewsbury School in 2004 and became a professional turf consultant. With a glowing CV, it was no surprise that several sports clubs and organisations sought Alan’s expertise.
“I’m very pleased that I moved into consultancy because it gave me the opportunity to work on some fabulous projects abroad – I built the first ever natural cricket ground in Romania, worked on the international training nets in La Manga, Spain for Cricket Ireland, built the Malahide Cricket Club Ground in Dublin, extended the track for Cork racecourse, provided advice for Cricket Italia, and of course, I have worked on bowling greens and some wonderful sites throughout the UK.”
Consultancy aside, Alan has also become a renowned lecturer who delights in sharing his knowledge for the likes of the GMA (Grounds Management Association), Kew Gardens, and of course Bowls England and Dennis and SISIS.
“I think Dennis and SISIS originally attended some of my previous lectures and we struck up a relationship a considerable time ago. I very much admire the way that Dennis and SISIS carry out their turf seminars – it is obvious that they are not sales days. They are very much educational days designed to help people and there is a huge thirst for knowledge out there.
“Within the last five years, I have noticed that we are starting to lose a lot of local authority-maintained greens and clubs are having to take their own greens on. There are inexperienced people out there desperate for advice and I think that therefore the Dennis and SISIS seminars and the online questions I do for Bowls England have become an invaluable source of information.”
Bowls England provides free practical independent advice and assistance to affiliated clubs regarding all issues related to a bowling surface, with clubs able to submit their questions and any associated photographs via our online submission form.
“The range of questions are amazing,” he said. “They can be anything from pest control to mowers. Certainly, the most common one seems to be about the build-up of organic matter and thatch. I always try and get to the bottom of why they have the problem, and you must remember that in turf culture a lot of things are connected – so there is often a reason and a solution.
Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, Dennis and SISIS have been unable to carry out their annual seminar season and with this in mind, they decided to take the content online. Alan has played an integral role in producing video content for the virtual seminar site and is delighted to see just how popular the project has been.
“We have been over the moon with the interest and I am amazed that so many clubs, both flat green and crown green, from England, Scotland and Wales, have already signed up to it,” he said. “I’m getting some good questions and I think it is going to keep growing and growing. From our side, we have got to keep providing relevant content that will really make a difference.
“If clubs or individuals have got any particular subjects they want us to cover, then please do let us know. We’re here to help.”