As the tension mounts amongst the many garden designers keen to showcase their best horticultural talents at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show, for people like Colin Gould, Head Groundsman at King Edward’s Witley, tending (acres of) stunning gardens is a year round responsibility.
Colin - who has worked as a Groundsman for 38 years following in the footsteps of his father who was also Head Groundsman - heads up a team of five who share the considerable task of caring for the grounds and gardens associated with the King Edward’s 100-acre site, near Godalming, Surrey.
Mowing the grass alone requires a fleet of a dozen professional cylinder and rotary mowers and generally all grassed areas are cut on a fortnightly basis, although in the growing season sports fields are cut weekly. With such an extensive array of sporting activities and competition fixtures hosted by King Edward’s, it is vital that the sports grounds are kept in tip top condition. Colin takes personal responsibility for the cricket pitch which is tended to no less than three times a week, this involves precision cutting (the grass is kept extremely short) and then rolling the playing area for an hour to deliver the famous flat surface. Last month, HRH Princess Anne visited the School so not only did the gardens and grounds need to look fit for a princess but also the playing field was carefully prepared for a Royal helicopter landing!
The team’s challenge not only extends to looking after the extensive areas of natural grass. The School’s astro turf (officially opened in 2006 by HRH The Duchess of Gloucester) also require specialist care and four years ago the groundsman staff at King Edward’s were nominated for the national Best Kept Astro Turf award. Although they didn’t win they were the runners up to the team responsible for the pitch at the legendary Manchester City football stadium, which boasts a part grass / part synthetic surface.
Keeping the stunning flower beds free from weeds and planning out the riot of colours to celebrate each season, as well as making up the 20 wooden flower troughs and planters that grace the school grounds also falls to Colin and his fellow groundsman. Add to that the 1,000 bulbs that are planted every year and it is clear to see that being a Groundsman at King Edwards’s is certainly not a job for the faint hearted!
Commenting on his role, Colin says, “We are incredibly proud of the beautiful grounds here at King Edward’s and recognise the important role the natural scenery plays in not only creating a positive first impression of the School but also in providing a naturally welcoming environment for the pupils”.