Club Cricket Conference

Tuesday, 30th November 2021

Folkestone follow the Dennis and SISIS path to build a Kent venue

Their ground has been upgraded, and Folkestone CC hope to realise an ambition of bringing championship cricket back to Cheriton Road after a gap of more than 20 years.

Folkestone, where England off-spinner James Tredwell learnt his cricket, enjoyed status as a regular venue for Kent until 1991, and the last first class game there was played in 1995 against Cambridge University, though the ground has hosted a Kent one-day match.

A major facilities upgrade -- and a rebranding as Three Hills Sport Park -- was launched after the local council passed responsibility for the upkeep to a trust in 2011. Financial support from former Saga owner Roger De Haan meant a fresh start and a new pavilion for the cricket club, with their own groundsman and SISIS turf maintenance equipment.

Australian-born Josh Bryen, Folkestone's captain in the Kent League, is now in his second season as the club’s groundsman. He has been receiving regular support and advice from key members of the Kent Cricket Board Groundsman’s Association, an indication of how seriously the county regards the future of the ground. The move to a higher status is already in motion with the hosting of Kent 2nd XI Twenty20 games this season.

One of Bryen’s first jobs in the 2012 season was to assemble the correct set of turf maintenance machinery to nurture the impressive 25-strip square, relaid as part of the redevelopment programme and the focal point for more than 40 games a season.

The practical details of Bryen's crucial task has been outlined in this article by Dennis and SISIS. The trust gave him a machinery budget and he researched the market thoroughly, using the ECB advice document on equipment essentials for quality pitches at club cricket level as his template. His visit to a cricket seminar held by Dennis and SISIS at Chelmsford last spring was what impressed him most and this was followed by pre-season demonstrations of their respective machines at the Folkestone ground.

Bryen wanted to purchase a specific cricket wicket mower and chose the 22-inch Dennis Razor Ultra with 11-bladed cylinder to give a sharp, even cut. Three tractor-mounted machines from SISIS completed his armoury. For aeration work and scarifying he chose the multi-use Rotorake TM1000 with debris-removing nylon brush, which Bryen particularly found useful ahead of cutting. For top-dressing he went for the Powaspred with rotating brush for even distribution and, for seeding, the Variseeder 1300 with studded seedbed. Bryen said: "Buying all my cricket pitch maintenance equipment from a single source made good sense. One contact point for everything - help, advice, spares, servicing is a major benefit."

Bryen added: "Dennis and SISIS are more than just cricket friendly, they really do know about the game and what is needed to get quality pitches. Now that the re-laid square is bedding down nicely and I’ve been using the new quartet of machines for a season and a bit, pitch quality is really on the move. Everyone that plays here, including the trust, are really pleased. Being a wicketkeeper I get a close-up of how a pitch is performing, and I can honestly say the machines we bought are making a telling difference."

Folkestone used to be a pleasing venue for spectators on the county schedule and produced memorable performances before The War, mostly from leg-spinner Tich Freeman, though Leslie Ames hit 295 there in 1933. Fred Ridgway once took four wickets in four balls against Derbyshire. A reputation as a 'result' pitch probably hastened Folkestone's demise as a first class venue. Now Bryen is the man charged with bringing four-day cricket to this part of the south coast.