Here is a picture of some 1,700 tonnes of prime cricket loam (a.k.a. Surrey loam) ready for bagging at our Sevenoaks depot. It will be processed in our new bagging unit, palletised and sent out to waiting customers all over the Home Counties.
But what on earth (err...) is cricket loam and what makes it so special? The ECB (England and Wales Cricket Board) explains it in their maintenance guidelines document, which is the bible for groundsmen around the country.
Essentially, it is a type of topdressing with around 30% clay content, which is used at the end of the cricket season to repair wear and damage to cricket squares. The clay content ensures suitable and consistent bounce during play. A greater clay content gives higher performance but requires more maintenance, as it will be more liable to drying out and cracking. Therefore, the recommendation tends to be for a clay content of 28-35% for first class cricket, but more like 25-28% for school pitches. Ultimately, it is the soil's "breaking strength" which determines its suitability, and this is dependent not only on clay content, but also on the other components of the loam. The guidelines explain how to test your soil - please refer to them for details.
Most importantly, though, the loam applied must be compatible with the existing soil. If not, it will create layers where the different types of soil dry out (and therefore shrink) at different rates. Such layering affects the bounce, is prone to damage and provides an unsuitable environment for good quality grasses. Again, the guidelines explain how to check soil compatibility.
We have been producing and supplying cricket loam to a high degree of consistency over the last twenty years, and have it tested by the STRI to ensure its quality and suitability. This year's supply is now ready to be shipped. Full details on the Bourne Amenity and Gardenscape websites.
Again a crowded field with excellent entries; a special commendation goes to Thomas for supplying a whole file of superb cityscape pictures from the Canary Wharf volleyball job (some of which have been featured here already). I will get a number of them printed up to add to the collection in the office stairway - it will be hard to keep the selection to a reasonable number.
However, the prize goes to Ashley for this effort - the perspective is interesting and it really captures the feel of the big city. And the final touch is how, at the left-hand edge, there is a discreet reference to the Wharf - the Group main address.
Well done to all participants - keep the entries flowing! We have already had a number of contributions in August, which is promising to be an equally close contest. The weather remains superb for bright photography... though some pictures of logos reflected in rain puddles would be welcome for more than one reason now!
There will be a prize-giving ceremony in the yard here at Newenden when we can next get the June and July winners together.
Here we are delivering two loads of play pit sand to a former RN Dockyard. If you think that sounds strange, then read on...
Chatham became a Royal Naval Dockyard for the Thames area in Henry VIII's day - it was finally fully established in 1567 and delivered its first ship, HMS Sunne in 1586. The yard was decommissioned in 1984 and about a third of the original space occupied by the dockyard was taken over by the Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust, which now runs it as a museum.
This summer, the Trust is running various activities for children. Arrr, in the Smithery, there be Pirate themed activities and the sand is for a grand, huge, sandpit, aye me hearties [/end pirate speak]. There is also, for example, a science show for children. The activities run until 2nd September and there is even a promotion on: a children's annual ticket is only £1 when bought with an adult ticket.
Over the 400 years of operation, more than 500 ships were built at Chatham, including HMS Victory of Trafalgar fame. The last ship actually launched at Chatham was HMCS Okanagan, a submarine for the Royal Canadian Navy, in 1966. In this photo, you can see parts of the three ships which are now preserved as museum exhibits in docks at the yard. The bowsprit nearest the lorry belongs to HMS Gannet. Launched in 1878, she was a sloop with an 1100 hp steam engine, as well as a three-masted barque rig (she could do 15 knots under sail but only 12 under steam). The next vessel is HMS Ocelot, a diesel-electric submarine of the same class as Okanagan and the last ship (well, "boat" if you ask submariners) built at Chatham for the RN. She is rather hard to see in the photo but if you look directly under the 'B' turret of the destroyer in the background, you can see a black bulbous shape, which is the sonar dome of Ocelot. Finally, the destroyer which you can actually see properly is HMS Cavalier, launched in 1944 and decommissioned in 1972. With twin steam turbines delivering 40,000 hp, she could reach a max speed of 37 knots (43 mph).
St Swithun’s day if thou dost rain
For forty days it will remain
St Swithun’s day if thou be fair
For forty days ‘twill rain nae mare
Well, 15 July this year certainly was dry and fine, but by now, most gardeners are probably hoping that the old rhyme is totally wrong. It’s been a stressful time for gardens but, even though lawns look particularly brown and sorry for themselves, they will quickly recover. Best to leave them alone now and make sure to give them some extra scarifying and top-dressing care in September, when the forty days of drought should be over.
Now would be a good time to plant some autumn-flowering bulbs – for example the lovely autumn crocuses (Colchicum autumnale) or the blue-violet Crocus speciosus. They like well-drained soil and many gardeners like to plant them in soil with some grit content. Gardenscape provides various standard mixes of topsoil, compost and grit and are also happy to create a custom mix to your own requirements – just ask!
Sternbergia (also known as winter daffodil) is another candidate for planting now. It will provide bright yellow flowers on a contrasting background of dark green leaves – just the sort of tonic you might need when the nights draw in.
Bearded irises like a dry summer, so they should be delighted with this year. They can be planted between now and October and, if you have a clump that has been in place for three or four years, it can be divided now that its main flowering is over.
Otherwise, just keep watering those containers, but be sensible and make the most of scarce water resources by watering in the evenings, to minimise losses by evaporation. Also, the plants will prefer a good drenching every now and then to a constant dribble, which encourages roots to feel their way upwards where they risk drying out.
And don’t worry too much about St. Swithun (or Swithin). It’s probably just an old superstition anyway...
Heavy Goods Vehicles travel about a billion kilometres within London every year and move in the region of 150 million tonnes of goods. Without them, the city couldn’t exist, and most landscaping projects are dependent on reliable deliveries of heavy and voluminous bulk materials. At the same time, London wasn’t necessarily designed for 44 tonne articulated vehicles (rigid lorries can have a maximum weight up to 32 tonnes). Narrow roads and little separation between types of traffic far too frequently result in tragic accidents. In 2017, eleven cyclists were killed on London’s roads and in seven of those cases, a lorry was involved1.
Responsible haulage operators have long recognised that something must be done. New lorries have 360-degree cameras and sets of mirrors to try to eliminate blind spots. They have low-level windows on the near side and audible warnings when the vehicle is turning to the left. In addition, there are indicator lights along the full length of the vehicle, not just at the front and back. Developments like these have resulted in a slight, but nonetheless welcome reduction in accidents over the last three or four years.
Another important aspect is driver education and the adoption of purposeful, company-wide policies. One organisation that helps commercial vehicle operators show their commitment to best practice is the Fleet Operator Recognition Scheme (FORS). It has been in existence for around ten years and now has nearly 5,000 members. The aim is to drive up the standards for safety, efficiency and environmental protection and accredited members of the scheme are required to show commitment to such standards well beyond the minimum legal requirements. There are three levels: Bronze, Silver and Gold; each requiring increasingly stringent audits and evidence. Many delivery contracts now specify FORS accreditation.
The CLOCS initiative is also important for London operators. The acronym stands for Construction Logistics and Community Safety and it stems from a report published in 2013 by the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) which highlighted the road safety problems when large construction vehicles operate in close proximity to vulnerable road users, such as pedestrians and cyclists. A CLOCS community was formed, which published a national standard for improving and promoting road safety within the construction and logistics industry.
Haulage operators can demonstrate their commitment to better road safety by signing up to the CLOCS Memorandum of Understanding, and implementing a plan for continuous improvement. FORS members having reached the Silver standard qualify for the CLOCS scheme, and there is now work going on to clarify and highlight how the two schemes complement each other.
Meanwhile, the exhaust from large diesel engines causes pollution in the densely populated city. According to the London Assembly2, NOx (nitrous oxides) pollution causes 3,000 premature deaths in London every year, and about 12% of this pollution comes from HGVs.
The London Low Emissions Zone has been in operation since 2008 and now requires HGVs to comply with the Euro IV standard or pay a significant daily charge. From 2020, there will also be an Ultra-Low Emissions Zone which will require the much stricter Euro VI standard. This applies to vehicles with a type approval after the end of 2013, and introduced a reduction of permitted NOx levels by about 80% from the 2008 Euro V standard.
Moving around London, bus lanes, cycle superhighways and controlled roads are on the increase, leaving less road space for lorries year on year. By the very nature of the city, many deliveries are to locations where timing is of the essence, for example where building site restrictions require the haulier to keep to strict timeslots, or where public access must be allowed at certain times. However, the unpredictability of traffic patterns and increased congestion across London’s roads make it ever harder to arrive on time. Add to this the (rightly) strict drivers’ hours regulations and you might ask – who would operate a lorry in London?
Again, technology comes to the aid of hauliers. With various types of GPS tracking, not only can the drivers plan their routes to avoid traffic problems, but the dispatcher can predict and keep the customer updated on expected arrival times. Nonetheless, any contractor relying on deliveries to London sites must be prepared for a certain degree of flexibility over timing.
Another specific problem in the landscaping industry is the delivery of bulk materials to constrained spaces. Obviously, the cheapest and quickest way of delivering soils, sands and aggregates is in bulk by tipper truck, but this is usually only possible in parks or other large spaces. Mostly, the materials will need to be delivered in bulk bags of around one cubic metre, and then handled by the consignee from a convenient point reachable from the lorry’s own grab or crane. On occasion, however, the limitations of access may require delivery in small bags to be man-handled, sometimes over long distances and up flights of stairs.
The challenges add up. For the contractor, using a FORS Gold haulier shows the commitment to safety and the environment that should run through the specifications for any quality project. Equally, involving the transport operator’s experience and expertise in project planning at an early stage guarantees the best logistics response to the complexities of London operations.
(This article originally appeared in the Pro Landscaper London Supplement, July 2018, and is reproduced by kind permission from the publisher, Eljays44 Ltd.)