Good progress was made on a number of improvements to croquet facilities in the SECF. These included the fast tracking of two major projects, the completion of a third and the successful launching of a new club.
A grant of £10,000 to Sussex County (to be spread over three years) was approved by the CA Development Committee and then by the Management Committee just in time to allow phase 1 to be tackled before the season end. Work started on phase 1 on 15 September following consultation with drainage experts. Lawns 1, 2 and 3 had been stripped, verti-drained, harrowed, laser levelled and seeded. Work was completed on Friday 26 September. A large blanket was laid on the three lawns (to aid, it is said, germination of the grass seeds).
Another CA development grant was awarded to Guildford and Godalming for the creation of two new croquet lawns. These were needed as a result of a decision by the board of their parent club to allocate to “mini-rugby” activity some of the land formerly laid out as croquet lawns. The two new lawns were to comprise approximately 500 square metes of established lawn and 1,500 square metes of un-used, rough grassland. The process of new lawn construction began during the first two weeks of August when a team of Croquet Club members, bringing their own mowers, cut and removed as much vegetation as possible from the rough grass area. The last croquet fixture needing all four of the old lawns was on 20 August 2014 and at 6 a.m. on the very next day the chosen contractor sprayed the entire area to further reduce spoil volume. Then, a week later, they returned to undertake the task of turf-stripping, levelling and seeding the 2,000 square met re area. Everything went smoothly so that the work was completed on the same day – the contractors having worked from 7 a.m. until after 8 p.m. The ensuing spell of very hot weather caused additional work for members, who had regularly to sprinkle water over the four lawns adequately to ensure germination. There are no reports that a blanket was needed or used for any purpose.
Caterham managed to overcome obstacles surrounding their application for a long lease and fund raising and completed the installation of a new toilet. This was in use for the last few weeks of the season. It did not improve the croquet but it made everybody feel a little more relaxed when playing. Work on two new lawns was also completed. They were fenced off to keep them free from damage until the grass was properly established. This made them look like a prison yard. The completion of the two projects has enhanced the club’s facilities significantly.
The new club at Lodsworth got off to a flying start in their first season. The new lawn lived up to expectations and 70 members were signed up, of whom about 45 were active playing members. 22 couples participated in a doubles knockout tournament and the club came 5th out of 10 teams at the Littlehampton Centenary Challenge Cup event in July. The Club also played against Rother Valley and West Chiltington and won. They will be fund raising this winter in order to build a dedicated club house next year.
Preston (Brighton) has a long term project to add a third lawn by reviving an old croquet lawn in the atmospheric grounds of the adjacent, council-owned manor house. John Mundy, the Chairman of the club, is the driving force behind the project and is in the early stages of fund raising.
The land on which Canterbury currently plays is going to be sold in the near future (2014/early 2015) by the parent sports club. Polo Farm is prepared in principle to offer an alternative site which will accommodate 3 lawns. This land has been prepared with spoil from building operations on the site and the topsoil replaced. Unfortunately, the site will not be fit for play in the 2015 season but Polo Farm will allow the croquet club use of other areas (cricket outfield but subject to limited availability). Cheam has a plan to install automatic watering at a cost of £10,000. They have a CA grant of £1,000 and will raise the required balance. They will be looking for a supplement from the SECF in due course. That is their right as a member of the Federation. Hundreds of pounds may be available. The SECF pool of equipment remains out of hoops and balls. The Development Officer again appeals to clubs for any equipment which becomes surplus, including such minor items as clips and corner flags. They will be gratefully received by Development Officer, Michael Hague and made available to new and/or expanding clubs as required.