Save our sports pitch

Students and staff explain why we need to raise £18,150 if we're to enjoy pitch perfect sports at Ripon Grammar School

AN £18,150 fundraising drive has been launched to ensure students can enjoy pitch perfect sports at Ripon Grammar School.

The all-weather Astroturf pitch - used for hockey football, cricket, softball and rounders as well as fitness lessons - has been out of action for fixtures since November, after it became so degraded it was declared unsafe to play on.

Installed in 2011 with a predicted ten-year life span, the RGS pitch is now suffering from poor drainage and an often slippy and undulating surface.

For the past four years, dependent on weather conditions, the Astroturf has been suitable for training and PE lessons for only around 50 per cent of the year. But now even a small amount of rain results in it being unusable.

Director of sport Adam Milner says it’s crucial to restore it to its original state to help our young sports stars reach their full potential: “It’s an important priority for us at Ripon Grammar School.”

“When it rains the water doesn't drain properly, causing the badly contaminated infill below the carpet to rise to the surface, creating a thick, slimy layer of slippy mud,” he explains.

“It has got progressively worse over the last few years. We have been unable to use it for about 50 per cent of our curriculum time this year and have had to stop home fixtures on it.”

In addition to costing RGS more in transport as more matches are played away, the effect on students is massive, he says: “As well as not getting the full block of work for hockey it disrupts other lessons as they have to share or move into other teaching spaces.”

It means our teams are not as successful as they could be, he says: “If we can’t train, we can’t make the same progress we have in the past.”

Keen hockey player Katie Wilkinson, 16, (pictured above with Mr Milner and other players) is among many students hoping the pitch can be cleaned up and restored so that it is up and running again soon: “It freezes easily, and the amount of dirt built up through flooding makes it unsafe to play on,” she says.

The aspiring vet, who also plays for Thirsk ladies’ team, adds: “We want to be able to train more frequently to allow our school team to excel and perform to the highest standards we are capable of, and play the sport we love.”

Mr Milner praised the amazing job RGS’s groundsman Adrian Sloanes has done in maintaining the pitch to extend its life beyond expectations: “Without him, it would have been lost two or three years ago.”

Sadly, although Mr Sloanes has regularly cleaned and removed the mud once dry, damage to the layers below has been deemed irreversible and continues to cause further degradation to the surface.

Restoration work by a specialist contractor to remove surface contamination and replace the damaged infill layer to repair the drainage is now the only option.

So far, £4,000 has been donated by the Jepson Foundation charity and £2,000 from Ripon Ure Bank and Spa division councillor Barbara Brodigan’s locality fund, in addition to £2,000 committed from the RGS Development Fund pot towards the £18,150 needed to make the pitch usable.

*Find out more about the RGS Development Fund here