After a three-day journey to attend a Dennis and SISIS bowling green maintenance seminar in Perth, Scotland, Mike Bailey – secretary and treasurer of the Lerwick Outdoor Bowling Club, feels that the club has benefitted in more ways than one.
Founded in 1925, Lerwick is the only outdoor bowling club in the Shetland Islands, and after extensive research, Mike is led to believe that it is the most northerly outdoor bowling green in the world. The green at Lerwick is owned by the council but the bowling club took over the maintenance due to cost-cutting, and while, according to Mike, “it may have looked good to passers-by it was an infrequently cut green and was becoming impossible to play bowls on.”
Determined to improve the green, Mike felt that, even though he had picked up some relevant experience of tending to a cricket pitch for 31 years, he still needed to further enhance his knowledge of maintaining a bowling green.
“I wanted to attend the Dennis and SISIS seminar which was held in conjunction with Bowls Scotland, as my knowledge of bowling green maintenance was limited and the club thought that discussions with the experts could only be a benefit to us all,” he said.
However, it wasn’t a straightforward journey as he explains. “To get to Perth for the mid-morning start, I had to get the car ferry from Lerwick at 5.00 pm the evening before the seminar and had a very rough overnight crossing to Aberdeen which I did not enjoy as I am prone to sea-sickness. We arrived at 7.00 am and then I drove to Perth arriving in plenty of time for the event. Unfortunately, after the seminar, I could not get back to Aberdeen in time for that evening’s sailing so had to stop the night in a Perth hotel before a leisurely drive to Aberdeen the next day.”
Designed to help club greenkeepers and volunteers maintain their bowling greens, the popular seminars have been credited for improving the greens at numerous bowls clubs throughout the country. Combining insightful presentations and practical tips, a number of industry experts take to the stage to discuss a wide range of key topics, and Mike believes that the strenuous journey proved to be worthwhile. Not only did he pick up some essential tips but he also discovered ways on how to source funding – which proved extremely valuable.
“It was well organised, proved very helpful and I managed to seek advice from several experts about greenkeeping. It was also good to look at new, lighter machinery because the council equipment we were using was fairly old and heavy and the majority of our bowling club volunteers, who do the physical work, are pensioners.
“When I gave my report about the trip to our Committee, the idea about a new multi-purpose machine with easily changed cassettes really appealed to them and a fund raising programme was set up with a view to purchasing a Dennis FT510.
“Ironically, representatives from the Big Lottery Fund visited Shetland shortly after the seminar so I approached them about the possibility of obtaining funding for the machine without much expectation of a positive response. However, there was no negativity at all and I informed the council and our Committee that I was going to make an application.
“I was soon informed that we would be getting the full amount of money for the new mower and it arrived a couple of weeks after we had ordered it.”
The Dennis FT510 is highly regarded by many who tend to bowling greens and it is easy to see why. With a 51cm working width, the FT510 provides its user with comfort, flexibility and excellent performance. A true sense of control is obtained through the full variable speed on the rear roller and the drive means that power will not be lost when carrying out tougher jobs such as scarification.
Available with five-bladed and ten-bladed cutting cylinders the machine can be matched to any situation and the interchangeable cassettes can be speedily changed without the requirement of tools. The range of 11 different cassettes mean that one machine can be used for several key maintenance tasks including scarifying, verticutting or brushing. These features combined with the tool-free click system of adjusting the height of cut are all elements which Mike believes has made life easier for the volunteers at Lerwick Bowls Club.
“I had used a Dennis mower at my previous cricket club, so I knew that it would be a reliable, well-made machine.
“The power unit arrived with cutting, scarifier, and verticutter cassettes and has worked up to our high expectations. We hope to get the best results from our proposed autumn work. The speed with which the cassettes can be changed is a real bonus and the whole machine is so much lighter than the one we used previously.”