Newton Abbot Croquet

Ground Issues

On a local matter, there has been some vandalism with local people using metal detectors and digging holes in Forde Park. It is strictly forbidden to do this and perpetrators, once identified will be dealt with.

The Ground at Forde Park

Image showing the poor drainage at the SE corner...
April 2012 after rain - the muddy area is a cause for concern...
In March 2013 and April 2014 & 2016 it was worse.
Quite a lot of sand was added here
after hollow-tining this corner. It seems to have helped a lot.

The old grass tennis court was just a flat nearly level area open to everyone to use freely in August 2011. The above image illustrates a potentially disturbing problem and that is whether the drainage is adequate. Mostly this resolves during the summer.

For the time being we shall live with the undulations and slight slope and do our best to learn the game so that others may be drawn in and our membership grow.

We are immensely grateful to the Council for the help they have given us in the preparation of the ground.

Where a historic road went through the SE corner of the court some gentle undulations are apparent. It is relatively impractical to level these fully without reseeding or turfing.

Of greater possible concern is the general slope across the whole court. We have measured this now at approx 1% from SW to NE, a fall of about 500mm. It is apparent that sending a ball across the whole court from east to west results in a bias towards the north. But for the first time we have tried the nearly full-size layout of 30 x 24 yards on an east-west basis and it is quite successful..

Also we would request all users of the park to respect the hard work and commitment that goes into the preparation of the croquet area. Please do not damage the ground in any way.

The Future

In the Autumn (2015 & 2016) we worked with Teignbridge DC concerning the future of croquet here as the court will need to be improved if we are to start playing any competition games.

The area was top-dressed with a sandy soil mix. Repeating this will gradually improve the soil and drainage, but it won't deal with the greater issue regarding the slope.

The size of the court

The present playable area is approximately 33 yards E-W and 26 yards N-S. This is just a little under the maximum standard croquet court of 35 yards X 28 yards (32m X 25.5m). This is about the size of two tennis courts so it is quite a large area. A small strip around that would be necessary but probably not more than about 2 feet 600mm. For practical purposes and for beginners, the much smaller courts are more satisfactory.

At present we have the following issues:

  • There is a significant level drop to the NE corner. It looks as though there may be a significant level difference to the NE corner of the playing surface, enough to render long-term playing unviable without major reconstruction;
  • The grass is thin in several areas. Can we achieve a good covering of the fine grass necessary to play croquet satisfactorily? At present the ground has much the same grass that it has had for years and the usual fortnightly cutting has not encouraged the finer grasses to grow. 
  • There is an issue with drainage. If this area gets very wet with rain it turns muddy, which raises a question about the whole area. Perhaps this was why tennis may have been abandoned here.

The really good points:

  • This is a superb location. The park is well over-looked and there is an active neighbourhood watch in the area.
  • Facilities. There is a pavilion nearby which is available for competition events, and for preparing tea and refreshments; toilet facilities are also available.
  • Parking. Parking is available on-street alongside the park, although a small fee is payable at certain times; there are some free spaces on the park periphery too.
  • Close to transport. For future competitions the location is close to the main road and train station with bus stops just a short walk away.

We are delighted that the Council has agreed to help us here and I hope in time that we will be able to develop a first class croquet lawn for many to enjoy for a long time to come.

The Courts' attractive appearance stands out. 

It all takes time:

Looking around it is apparent that other clubs have not been able to get a high quality court going in a hurry. It can take a lot of work and funds to provide an area that is level and smooth enough over a sufficient area that is at least 35 yards X 28 yards.

One club that I read about set to and levelled some ground and made a viable full size court. A couple of years later they found that the drainage was hopelessly inadequate and had to be improved so had to lift some of the turf to install workable drainage. All this took time and money.

Development

Concern has been raised locally about the Club's alleged plan to fence off this area. We don't have any such plan, but we would like to discourage casual damage to the ground by those who continue to play football on it and cycle across it. Our maintenance of this area to the higher standard than the remainder of the park has enabled other activities such as model cars and games for small children which is no problem for us.

The Council has temporarily screened the area off for maintenance works and protection during the winter season. This is after summer activities have ceased and the ground tends only to be used for occasional football and dog walking; there are plenty of other areas for these activities which would otherwise do great damage to the surface.

The temporary fence has highlighted just how many people used to walk across the playing surface as part of their diagonal walk from one corner of the park to the opposite corner, much of the route being on a tarmac path.

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July 2017