VOLUNTEERS that look after the pitch at Bream Rugby Club hope they will soon have a "Twickenham-style" playing surface at their ground after picking up some valuable tips from an expert adviser to the RFU.

Last week, the club had a visit from expert pitch advisor Simon Johnson from the Grounds Management Association (GMA) - which advises the RFU, FA and ECB on the management of their playing surfaces - with a view to creating a top quality first team pitch over the next few years.

The Forest club is currently investing in its facilities, including building a brand new "eco" clubhouse next to the first team pitch after selling off some of its land last year.

As part of that investment, the club is also looking to improve the quality of its first team pitch, and facilities manager Jon Havers and groundsman Steve Lambert took advantage of the GMA’s free advisory service during Simon’s visit to the ground last week.

Jon said: "We’re investing in our facilities, we’ve got a new clubhouse being built and part of that investment is the rugby pitch.

"Steve and I are the volunteers who maintain the pitch, and we’ve managed to get Simon along today to advise us on how to improve it.

"Hopefully we can have a Twickenham-style pitch within a few years down in Bream!"

Within the GMA, Simon works for the Pitch Advisory Service, which visits pitches at clubs across the country with the aim of taking them from the level they’re at to "the next level".

The advisers assess factors such as soil quality, grass coverage, weed percentages and root depths before deciding what action can be taken to improve the pitches, as well as asking questions about their current maintenance regime.

Simon said although the pitch at Bream "looks very nice", the current regime only consists of grass cutting and occasional chain harrowing.

He said after assessing its current state, he’d be suggesting that the grounds team treat it with fertiliser and implement a "slit and aeration" programme to improve it in the short term.

He commented that the quality of the soil on the pitch was very good, and that with some simple steps, the grounds staff can transform the pitch into a top-quality playing surface.

"We’ve improved 4,500 pitches in the last couple of years, just by going out, writing reports and giving them to the club", Simon said. "We can put together a gold, silver or bronze package for improvements, it’s just about getting the pitches to where the clubs can afford to go - just putting some fertiliser down will help.

"Once the clubs start seeing the improvements, then can then start planning how they can get to the next level, and so on."

With the site visit now complete, Simon will now put together a report for the club on improvements that can be made in both the short and longer term.

The club is hoping that the improvements - to the pitch and to the surrounding site - will benefit everyone who uses the ground.

Volunteer groundsman Steve Lambert explained: "On a Sunday morning now we’ve got 30 youngsters up here training and having fun, they’re the future of the club so we want the second pitch to be nice for them as well.

"We’ve had a new team here now for the last few seasons and they’ve gone up and up.

"They’re winning most of their games now and we hope to be going up again at the end of this season, so we also want to get some more lights put in so we can play here during the week - it’s all money going into the club."

It is hoped that the construction of the new clubhouse will begin later this year, and temporary facilities will be installed next to the first team pitch while the build takes place.

The existing clubhouse - part of which has fallen into disrepair due to a break in during lockdown followed by bad weather - will be demolished and housing will be built in its place, as well as on a section of the car park.

The club also developed an "exciting" partnership with Hartpury University last year, which will see degree level students assist them with developing a business plan and marketing strategy for the new clubhouse.

They also previously secured funding from the council to build a stand next to the first team pitch.