Protecting the lawn
- After consultation, the Committee has decided to restrict play during the winter – extending into late-autumn and early spring on occasions – to help ensure that damage to the lawn is minimised.
- Closures for a week or more of the whole, or half, of the lawn may also be scheduled to help recovery of the playing surface.
- Whenever possible lawn closures will be notified on TeamUp and by a red flag centrally positioned on the lawn.
- Do please keep an eye on the weather to alert yourselves to possible closures due to rain, frost or compaction of the playing surface.
- The absence of notifications of closures should not be taken to imply that the lawn is fit for play. Please curtail play if it becomes evident that damage to the lawn is occurring.
There was a time when, traditionally, the croquet season ran from March to October with the winter devoted largely to lawn maintenance. With generally milder winters this restriction has been increasingly ignored – allowing members of croquet clubs to enjoy the sport, maintain social contact and provide useful exercise through the shorter days.
However, all-year availability of the lawn can place considerable pressure on the playing surface. At Caversham, where we don’t have the luxury of additional lawns to allow staggered rest periods for each lawn, it is particularly important that the grass isn’t exposed to damage during its winter usage. Anyone who has taken a fork to our lawn will realise that the sub-soil is very heterogeneous and vulnerability to heavy usage varies considerable across the lawn but the well-trodden areas close to the hoops remain especially at risk.
The exceptional growth in membership of the Club during 2017 is very welcome. But at over 50 the total now substantially exceeds the Croquet Association’s guidelines on the carrying-capacity of a single lawn. Correspondingly, there will be times when foot-fall on the lawn, with associated compaction, will be heavy and potentially damaging. This risk is greatly enhanced if the lawn is very wet. When frosted, grass is also particularly vulnerable and no play should be attempted. Thus in most winters (and occasionally at other times – as March 2018 has reminded us) a substantial frequency of closures should be expected. Recent experience has demonstrated that closures of a week or more can have a very beneficial impact on the lawn.
Typically in Caversham, soils become near-saturated in late November and generally remain wet through until late March; frosts are rare outside of this timeframe. During the summer the croquet lawn normally drains quickly – a fifteen-minute break after a heavy shower should suffice to allow play to restart. This will rarely be the case during the winter. Use of the switch, which breaks up the dew and disperses most worm casts is to be encouraged but should be avoided when the lawn is wet.
Of course, there are no hard and fast rules to determine when conditions are such that the lawn should be closed; it is a matter of judgement. It is likely though that lawn closures will be common through December, January and February. Please note also that, even without inclement weather, closures may also be necessary for lawn maintenance purposes. The Committee has determined that it is impractical to impose limits on the number of players on the lawn but, clearly, increased footfall carries with it an enhanced threat to the lawn’s resilience.
Brian and Terry have agreed to monitor the lawn’s condition through the ‘winter’ periods and arrange for play to be prohibited whenever appropriate. Importantly, there will be occasions when neither will be able to check the lawn on a daily basis so, under those circumstances, please exercise you own judgement erring on the side of caution. Checking the local weather forecast is always worthwhile and radar images provide a good impression of recent rainfall patterns:
For the Reading 5-day forecast see: