The birth of a new club built by volunteers
by Alf Smith
In September 1986, Bill Shoulder and I examined the possibility of building a six rink bowling green on the Cogenhoe Playing Field. The proposed green was to be full sized ‑ roughly 40 metres square. Taking into consideration pitches for football and cricket and the play area already there it was apparent that there would not be enough space. We communicated our findings to the spearhead committee along with an estimate of the cost of building a green. Should we do the work ourselves this would be in the region of £24,000. This however. was not entirely practical and Bill Shoulder suggested that we bring in contractors.
Eventually a compromise was reached. A working party of us did as much labour as we could, bringing in contractors only when necessary. In the meantime we received an agreement from the Club that the project should go ahead.
A search began for a site other than the playing field. Adjacent to the Lower School on Brafield Road is piece of land belonging to the Marquis of Northampton. He gave permission for us to rent at the rate of £150 an acre. I was able to re‑negotiate for point eight (.8) of an acre. The Committee agreed to this. The preparation work on the site began, March 1st, 1987.
With the help of Alan Chappell, Doug Fryatt and Ron Gunn I measured out the site, moved a water trough etc. At the end of March, having joined the Institute of Groundsmen we attended an Institute seminar. During the course we learned many things necessary for the construction of a bowling green ‑ means of drainage, correct aggregates, soil mixtures, etc. Fortuitously we met one of their senior lecturers David Bracey, who specialises in the construction of greens and their maintenance. David is Groundsman at the Metropolitan Police Ground, The Warrens in Kent. He has taken an interest in our project and given us most useful advice. For this we've been very grateful.
Three of us, Alan, Doug and myself then set to work on the main part of the job.
After Midland Drainage had done the JCB work and put in drainage and rejects we put on top 15-20 ml aggregate and then pea gravel.
Next came a blinding layer of ordinary sharp sand. From then on we had to start mixing our own soil with special sand from Leighton Buzzard. We had already sent samples of our soils to Dr B Adams at Aberystwyth University for advice on whether could use them with this sand. During the main school holidays, beginning in July, we co‑opted village lads and others to helps us mix the sand and soil, lay and tread it.
The treading was repeated five times to provide a very firm base. Previous to this, the level had been set with a theodolite and pegged. From then on we were able to use the tops of the pegs for guidance and we worked overall in circles. This continued until the topsoil was 'fitted.
The turf had been ordered from Rolawns Ltd. On a Thursday in September delivery began. On the next morning, Doug Fryatt, Alan Chappell, Ron Gunn and myself began to lay it and we continued throughout the weekend and apart from Alan who had to work, all day or, Monday when the last turf was put into place. 'It was not until the end of the year that the banks which surround the green were ready to start on. During the Christmas holiday a small group of us began to put them into place. In this way our determination to build a bowling green for Cogenhoe was achieved.
The greatly anticipated first game of bowls took place in May 1988. As is often the case, it was a wet, day and we had to put down wet mats for the players to use. Since then bowling has taken place throughout the season.
This year, 1989, we began to build a pavilion. The W.M.C. had given the go-ahead and with the help of builders we hoped to complete it by Autumn.
The cost of the bowling green, including fencing and the gates was £27,000, a bit more than our original estimate. Had we not done so much of the work ourselves, an outside contractor costed up at £62,000. Other items for maintenance were required - a petrol mower, a scarifier, a spreader and walk-over, a hand mower, fertilisers and other equipment but are now all there for use.