The weather watcher: Mark Mennell

What do greenkeepers think about the way the climate has changed? Fulford veteran Mark Mennell gives his take on the weather…

Mark Mennell has to think hard about the time he last saw what he’d call a ‘proper winter’. The veteran head greenkeeper, who began his career at York-based Fulford back in 1975, has kept a diary of conditions for more than three decades. They tell him the seasons have altered.

“They definitely seem to have moved. When I look back in the diaries, for the past three or four years the first dressing of our greens has been at the end of February and the beginning of March. If you go back 25 years ago, you wouldn’t dream of dressing then because there wasn’t any body or growth in your greens to take it in. You used to start top-dressing in mid-April. Now you have the opening to do it a bit earlier because of the climate.

“I’m one of those who still thinks that if we went back to 1685 or 1784 the yearly seasons we have now would probably be the same as we had then. Records and statistics are a lot more common now. But, in my 40-odd years, the weather has definitely changed.

“You are having warmer Novembers and Decembers and wetter Junes and Julys. You can have a bitterly cold March and April and you’d expect that to be in December and January.

“But we are finding that because of the climate the cutting season, or the fine-tuning, has gone from mid-September to mid-November. “That’s in the north of England.”

Greenkeepers have much greater access to a host of weather apps and information than when Mennell started but he’s a bit more old school when it comes to following the forecasts. “I’ve been brought up the way I have and I haven’t become too technically minded. Sometimes it can put you off what you actually want to do. I look at a forecast – like the BBC – but I don’t look at an iPhone. Some of these apps, weather forecasting, don’t do what they say they are going to do. They’ve stopped me doing what I want and its ballsed up my plans.

“The lads are the other way. They look at charts and temperatures.” Even with a sceptical regard for technology, Mennell knows extreme weather is much more common. Think about a downpour of rain and the effects of course flooding come into mind. That has far greater impact on a layout than just standing water.

“You can’t get out there and cut because there’s a bit of flooding here, there and everywhere,” explains Mennell. “When you get out there, your fairways are about an inch high because they’ve grown that much. You are trying to cut it clean, you don’t and it’s leaving grass cuttings all over. You look at it and think ‘it’s disgusting’.”

By Marie Taylor

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