The last time we were there was eight years ago in 2002 having originally been called in mid-season because the green was not performing well. Poor grass growth, standing water and a strong smell of sulphur (rotten eggs) suggested that something was drastically wrong with the underlying drainage: failure of grass growth resulted in black areas forcing members to play from rubber mats for the first match of the season.
The green was built into the side of a valley with the green forming a terrace with the down slope end on well drained black soil. The down-slope wasn't a problem and was in excellent condition; it looked good and played well and the drainage was how you'd expect.
The problem was the upslope area; dug out of the mountain side, it had a subsoil of heavy but not wet clay, with small areas of sandstone bedrock at about 600mm below the ash base of the green.
The saturated surface, overlying a relatively dry subsoil led us to suspect that the ash layer, which had originally come from the steam boiler at the local colliery, had become cemented and was forming an impermeable layer preventing drainage.
Using a hydraulic hole preparation machine, we punched holes through this pan layer before bringing in our Terralift machine to insert a steel probe one metre below the surface. Compressed air was then injected through the probe to create fractures and fissures to break up the subsoil and provide air channels from one metre depth, right up to the surface. Dried, milled seaweed, injected on the final air blast ensured, as it swells when wet these new channels stayed open.
Working at two metre spacings on a staggered grid pattern, the terralift was used to treat the whole green, reducing the air pressure on the down slope as the sub soil conditions were softer, so that the surface remained undisturbed and following treatment the probe holes were filled with Lytag.
Four hours later, the wettest areas of the green had dried, and the surface was checked for flatness and curl. To the bowlers delight, flatness was deemed acceptable and the curl was restored. Two days later the entire green was cut ready for an important county standard match which was reported to be a great success.
The long-term success of this treatment is the reason that Simon Beacham, Senior Parks Officer for Caerphilly County Borough Council, decided to bring us back, not just to re-treat the green at Gelligaer but eight more within the county.
This time we took our new, improved Scamper Terralift, designed especially for bowls greens.
Commenting on our visit, Simon Beacham said “The de-compaction treatment has had a big impact on all nine greens. Basically they were all compacted and taking a while to drain away. All the clubs are happy.”