Natural Playing Surfaces

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Natural Surface Construction

Our experience ranges from fine turf to winter turf, from radical earthmoving and shaping, to the installation of intensive drainage and irrigation infrastructure. Our mission is to demonstrate how natural turf pitches at local level can be engineered for much greater use at an affordable price.


We have over 20 years experience in building natural playing surfaces for a range of sports. We have invested heavily in a range of specialist machinery and can offer a comprehensive service from new build pitch design to full implementation and project management of all aspects of construction. Starting from initial site clearance and full drainage schemes, we can look after the process all the way to the installation of goal posts and final white line marking.

Our experience ranges from fine turf to winter turf, from radical earthmoving and shaping, to the installation of intensive drainage and irrigation infrastructure. Our mission is to demonstrate how natural turf pitches at local level can be engineered for much greater use at an affordable price.

Natural Surface Maintenance Icon

Natural Surface Maintenance

Maintaining your natural playing surface is the key to longevity and durability during the season. We offer a full range of services and treatments that will give your grass and rootzone layer the best opportunity to thrive. Our sister company Bourne Amenity are one of the country’s premier manufacturer of premium sports turf products, which give us access to high level materials to complement our wealth of experience.


The ability to get water swiftly off the playing surface is the singular most important feature of a natural grass playing surface that will determine its playability and durability through those wetter months.

Most grass pitches are located on the indigenous clay loams that characterise our trading area in the south east of England (and some have been constructed on the footprint of old buildings where the ground is heavily compacted or on old landfill sites).

Primary Drainage

In all these cases a drainage scheme will be required to get the water away from the pitch. This will generally consist of 80mm diameter perforated pipe installed at 5 to 10 metre intervals across the pitch at a depth of 600mm filled up with 10mm shingle and topped up with rootzone to the surface. These "laterals" will link into a "main" running along the side of the pitch and then away via an inspection chamber into a local water course or purpose built soakaway.

Secondary Drainage

This will consist of either 30mm sand slits passing at right angles to the drains at 200mm centres connecting into the gravel of the drain runs or 50mm Lytag bands at 1m centres, again at right angles to the drains, and connecting into the gravel of the drain runs at 250mm depth. Both the sand slits and lytag bands can be filled up to the surface as neither is harmful to players or mowers.


With intensive use the secondary drainage with sand is likely to last up to 5 years, with Lytag up to 10 years, and the primary drain runs can last up to 30 years.


All drainage systems take a while to bed in and should be accompanied in the first three years by the application of sports sand to the surface at the rate of 60 tonnes per normal sized pitch. This will assist the water in migrating to the slits and drain runs and should be repeated as often as the budget allows.

As the British weather continues to deliver records in all forms, the above procedure and regular maintenance should allow at least 3 matches on average per week during the playing season.

Verti Draining / Spiking

The purpose of verti draining and spiking is to allow oxygen into the root system and to provide a conduit for surface water to the drains.

Even if an existing drainage system is not present, there will still be considerable benefit in the opening up and de-compacting of the soil structure to allow oxygen in to feed the roots.

We have a range of mainly Charterhouse equipment of different widths and tine sizes to adapt to all pitch sizes; all mounted on various tractors up to 100hp and all utilising specialist sports tyres to tip toe across the playing surface.

For post season maintenance on rugby pitches it is advisable to use as large tines as possible penetrating as deep as possible into the surface (always being careful to establish the depth of any piped drainage or other services). For post season maintenance on fine turf, only pencil tines should be used to ensure minimal disturbance to the surface.

As with many turf maintenance activities, ground conditions at the time are the key to achieving the optimal benefit. Clay soils can bake hard and prevent tines from entering the ground. Machinery manufacturers specifications for depth of tine penetration are worth little if the ground is too hard to receive the tine (and considerable damage can be done to the machine). On fine turf surfaces the surface can be prepared by extensive watering to soften up the ground before our arrival. Tines can wear out very fast and are an expensive consumable.

Holes are punched into the pitch surface at depths up to 150mm for 25mm width of tine, down to 75mm depth on fine turf with pencil tines. A roller then follows behind to smooth the surface and make it playable

Hollow Coring

Tines can be fitted that eject the soil cores onto the surface, where they are collected. The holes are then filled with free-draining sports sand.

Top Dressing

Regular application of sports sand to the surface assists drainage and ball roll.

Only silica sports sand should be used for application to a natural sports surface. Using reject or building sands merely introduces more silt and clay into your playing surface, increasing the chance of surface compaction and impeding drainage.

Adding silica sand will gradually improve the particle size of the soil but needs to be implemented on a continuing basis over a number of years. It is not advisable to apply more than 100 tonnes to a winter pitch in one dressing for fear of smothering the grass.

We will supply an appropriate sports sand from the nearest quarry to keep the haulage costs to a minimum. The sand is delivered, tipped onto a stone free area close to site, and loaded on to belt and spinner spreaders pulled by tractors all with sports turf tyres to avoid any unnecessary damage to the playing surface.

Although sand application should ideally be carried out in conjunction with other treatments, the introduction of a good washed medium/coarse silica sand into the rootzone will go a long way to aiding drainage and improving the wear tolerance of your grass playing surface.

We carry out particle size testing on your existing soil in our own laboratory to ensure that you are applying a sand that will enhance the soil structure.

Scarifying / Thatch Removal

Scarifying rakes out the dead grasses and opens up the sward allowing the new season’s grasses to flourish.

Even one pass on an established pitch can generate visible results after 2 weeks as the new grasses begin to take over and bring a new rich green colour to the sward.

Sharp cutter blades can be set to penetrate up to 25 mm into the surface and with the arisings collected in the box this activity carried out on a regular basis will avoid the build-up of thatch which creates significant problems in sportsturf (see hollow coring) and is expensive to remove.

For complete removal of the top layer without impacting any irrigation or other infrastructure, we use a Koro Field Top Maker to create a clean seed free of surface weeds.


Modern rye grass cultivars are more hard wearing and drought tolerant but they are not long lived.

To maintain a hard wearing playing surface it is important to replace some of the growth every year by overseeding in the closed season. With adequate natural rain water this will ensure a green healthy sward at the beginning of the playing season. Without this the bare areas that are left will colonnate with weeds and restrict the healthy development of the sward. Grass seed is expensive and sometimes we are asked just to treat the worn areas which we are happy to do. We provide a special service for goalmouth renovation which presents its own challenges.

We employ Blec and Vredo disc seeders designed to drill seed directly into the grass sward. They are stripped down annually and all wearing parts replaced.

Without natural rain water the seed will not germinate and all clubs should consider water availability when carrying out overseeding. A standard domestic supply is not sufficient and facilities managers need to consider access to water hydrants and water tanks to ensure the seed is given the best possible start. We offer an irrigation service once the job is complete but this can be costly if done as regularly as required.

Goalmouth Repair

The majority of wear on a football pitch occurs in the goal mouths, with some amount on linesmen’s runs and on the centre spot.

Simply topping up the goal mouths with loam or rootzone and re-seeding is never that effective because the roots of the grass will not penetrate into the compacted surface. After the first match the players will have ripped out the young shoots and back to square one.

In response to this problem, Bourne Sport have developed a specialised loam product and service to provide a more long term solution.

Firstly, the whole goal mouth area is rotovated to a depth of 150mm. We then add TS3 plus to build up the area to the correct level. TS3 plus is a mix of 75% clay loam and 25% green compost. The clay loam gives the rootzone the strength that it needs to combat the wear and the green compost encourages healthy plant growth. Finally, the area is levelled and seeded with our Bourne Amenity Football/Rugby Grass seed; the roots of which will be able to penetrate up to 150mm into the rootzone.

This process gives strength to the rootzone which, when combined with a durable ryegrass mix, will give the goal mouth the best chance of surviving the season.

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Associated Services

Sometimes on-site grounds maintenance staff for whatever reason are unable to carry out all their duties. We can provide staff at short notice to carry out all the regular jobs, as part of our grounds maintenance service.

Additionally, we can look after the installation of rugby and football posts, regular or one-off line marking on football pitches, tennis courts and any other playing surfaces, as well as perimeter works such as tree and shrub planting, fencing and footpaths.