Turf restoration job at Greenwich Park moves into the final stages

Park staff and Sports Turf Research Institute team up to lay and reseed grass following Olympics.

Parks staff and turf specialists are nearing the end of a major 5ha repair job in one of Britain's most famous parks, which was churned up by horses during the Olympics.

Grounds staff at Greenwich Park teamed up with the Sports Turf Research Institute (STRI) to bring grassland back up to scratch after the grade I park hosted last summer's cross-country horse-riding events.

Teams are laying 3.5ha of turf and reseeding 1ha of damaged grass. Parks manager Graham Dear said: "The final stage of restoration is to repair paths and roads, and turf the site of the arena, training area and stables.

"Hosting the Olympics was fantastic and a wonderful promotion for the Royal Parks, as billions saw the events on TV."

Games organiser LOCOG, which is paying for the restoration work, was not allowed to anchor temporary buildings or 23,000 seats into the ground, so everything was built on temporary tubular structures that rested on the turf.

Grasslands in Kent supplied turf grown on Romney Marsh, but the restoration project also involved improving existing acidic grasslands at the site that form important habitats.

Dear worked with the STRI on sifting through hay crops to collect seed and then used it to overseed existing acidic grass areas.

STRI strategic projects manager Lee Penrose said that the Olympic Games organisers briefed him to prepare the "world's best-ever" cross-country eventing venue fit for riders such as Zara Phillips and horses worth millions of pounds.

Speaking at the Institute of Groundsmanship annual conference late last year, he said: "This project made my life tricky. It's a brutal sport with steep stretches that you can barely walk down. If the footing isn't right, you can lose seconds or seriously injure yourself and horse."

Olympic eventing - Preparation challenge

About 55,000 fans watched the Olympic eventing in Greenwich Park last August. The challenge of preparation included metre-by-metre surveying of 12,000sq m of grassland that made up the 6.2km course to bring it up to Olympic standard. Teams had to protect archaeology, including an Anglo Saxon cemetery and Roman temple, as well as rare acid grasslands.

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