Top class cricket and irrigation

Top class cricket and irrigation: The historic Rainham Cricket Club in Kent is all set for the 2024 season and once again the club’s reputation for providing some of the best prepared pitches in the Kent cricket leagues will be demonstrated. This is all thanks to hard working and dedicated volunteer grounds staff as well as the continued support of Holts Irrigation who in 2021 installed a Rain Bird irrigation system.

Glen Cook is the Club’s Groundsman and Secretary. Since retiring after a long playing career, he has dedicated much of his time to the club’s Berengrave Lane home. There are four Saturday teams which compete in the Kent Cricket League and a Sunday team in the Kent Village Cricket League. An extremely popular Colts section provides opportunities for the 9-17 age group of this family orientated club which has a very active social calendar and will celebrate its 170th anniversary in 2026.

Top class cricket and irrigation

Top class cricket and irrigation

Preparing pitches to the highest standard follows a procedure that can take anything from 10-14 days. There are 17 pitches on the Rainham square with at least two in use at any time. In 2021 it became clear that a new approach to pitch preparation was required with irrigation a key issue. This was reliant on connecting a hosepipe to the mains water supply and running across a 50+ metre square. Irrigation could take as long as two days to complete and could include overnight watering.

Not only was the water quantity that reached the square insufficient, but the pressure was too low. There was no prospect of irrigating the square uniformly and, with its slope, water would also run away. A series of long dry spells during that summer also meant that any surface water quickly evaporated.

The club was put in touch with Holts Irrigation, a company with extensive experience in sports turf irrigation. Andre Holt recommended a completely new approach based around the installation of a Rain Bird ESP-RZXe irrigation controller to manage six 950 Series pop up rotor sprinklers, as well as a 10000 litre water tank complete with a Grundfos submersible pump and controller. With close cooperation between grounds staff and Holts Irrigation, the full installation was completed within a week.

Four of the 950 Series rotors with double nozzles and 90º arcs are positioned at the corners of the square and the other two at the side which have 180º arcs. They can throw to a distance of up to 28.0 metres providing head to head 100% uniform coverage across the square. The  ESP-RZXe controller has a large LCD screen and a simple user interface. With its rapid programming feature it was simple for Andre to set up and is ideal for grounds staff to carry out additional manual functions.

The controller offers many irrigation scheduling options and in practice, during the playing season, it runs a minimum of two heads. The rotors are set up to irrigate the pitches that are to be used at the weekend and they are also turned on after play on a Sunday evening.

Glen also has the flexibility to apply additional manual irrigation throughout the season when required during dry spells or when carrying out pitch maintenance including reseeding and repairing used pitches. “ We can put down fertilisers and soil conditioners at any time we feel necessary as we now don’t need to rely on the weather to water it in if we have a dry early spring. We are also no longer reliant on waiting for the right weather before we carry out any renovation work and can simply turn on the irrigation system. This is flexible and convenient as well as helping with conservation, as water is applied only when and where it is needed,” says Glen.

Since the installation, Rainham Cricket Club has received praise for the quality of its playing surfaces. This is down to both the professional care afforded by the volunteer grounds staff and the irrigation regime which prevents the surface breaking up on the strips and helps to provide the right amount of water to repair and prepare wickets for second use during the busy playing season. This has resulted in predictable pace and bounce for bowlers and a consistent safe surface for batsmen. The irrigation system makes it much easier for the grounds staff to build on the great cricket surface already established over recent years by the previous groundsman.

Andre Holt carried out the pre-season checks of the irrigation system in late February 2024 at the same time as Glen and his team started pre-season pitch preparations for the new season. Electrical testing of  the irrigation controller and the pump start were carried out along with water pressure and leakage checks. The rotors and nozzles were checked for correct rotation and arc orientation as well as for  debris that could result in clogging.

The start-up checks and the reliability of the installation means that there will be no need for a return visit from Holts Irrigation until after the end of the season when the system is shut down. “Andre’s knowledge of sports turf irrigation has helped to transform the management and upkeep of our pitches. As the 2024 season progresses and the drier spells become more prolonged and frequent, the irrigation system will really come into its own. It’s been a very worthwhile investment and will virtually guarantee the quality of our playing surfaces throughout the summer,” says Glen.

For more information contact: Holts Irrigation, Heathfield, East Sussex, X: @AndreHotech  and

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