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Syd’s Aerator

Syd with his spiker

In response to my request for readers to share their ideas and experiences,  Bowls-Central regular Syd Kennerley sent me a photo of his green aerator a few weeks ago.

This is a machine that Syd designed and built himself and it seems to be a very effective addition to his machinery shed.

Syd kindly agreed to share the story with us, so here it is in Syd’s own words:


Some 15 years ago I decided to buy a spiker for our Bowling green; it was a two cylinder job, about two feet wide.
When pulling it, the spikes went in to about one inch depth, but I noticed when I pushed the machine in front of me it then went in to a depth of about two inches.
In those days I was a farmer and agricultural contractor, I had done Moto cross riding, Football, and also a bit of tug o war so I was reasonably fit and not frightened of hard work, but I swear to you had I continued spiking our green with that machine I would now be bowling on that superb green just beyond those Pearly Gates.
I had to find a better solution to spiking the green and I had an old 24inch ride on mower which was surplus to requirements which I had already decided to sell at an implement sale at our local cattle market. I loaded the old mower and dropped it off at the sale and on the way home I stopped off to take a look at the green.
I thought “this green could do with spiking” but I couldn’t face yet another trudge over the green with the old spiker. While driving from the green to home I started thinking that I could make a powered spiker by using the old mower, yes the mower that was about to be sold at the implement sale!

I couldn’t get back in time to stop the mower being sold, so I rang the market and told them to put a reserve price of £500 on it and of course  I got a phone call around 5pm to say the mower had not been sold due to the high reserve.

With the mower back I was able to make a start on my project. I started by removing the cutting cylinder and front roller. I then removed the rear drive rollers as that was where I wanted the spike rollers to fit thus making a powered spiker. The front roller I then mounted behind the spiked cylinders; so that I could rock it back onto it for turning corners. I also used the guard of the spiker as you can see on the photo.

The day of the trial run arrived on my lawn at home with just my wife to witness this grand occasion. I set the throttle just nicely ticking over and released the clutch. When she managed to finally stop laughing my wife saidif I had not held on to it so tightly it would have out raced me to the thornedge without a shadow of doubt, so back into the workshop yet again.

After many visits to a lawnmower repair firm sifting through all his old sprockets, chains, and bushes I eventually got there, now ticking over it goes at a slow walking pace.

For the photo, I have taken the guard off so you can see the gearing down sprockets. You will also notice the two weights which slot onto the front;with these on it will go down to maximum depth if needed. When spiking the green I start on the outside and keep going round and round until I get to the centre, the reason for this is the machine works best going in straight

lines so doing it this way I only have to make 90 degree turns rather than 180 degree, if I went back and forth as you would to cut the green.
It also helps to keep compaction to a minimum and away from along the side where you might want to start your matches from.

I hope I have not spoiled the picture with having yours truly on it!

Thanks again John, for all your help and information you pass to me,


Thanks Syd for this fantastic story; a great example of the ingenuity and resourcefulness that goes on at clubs around the country and an example of the kind of helpful thinking we need to adopt in the future if we are going to have thriving bowling clubs.

Now Syd, I need to know before Sunday: Have you ever played rugby (even once!) and do you have any distant Scottish relatives?

Resourcefulness and Club Survival

Eric, Syd and Doug have demonstrated admirably the trait of resourcefulness and innovation that exists throughout the bowling scene.

A common theme running through all of these stories is the determination to do the job correctly, regardless of the financial barriers in the way.

I spelled out this need for clear and innovative thinking in my Manifesto for a Successful Bowling Club late last year. The Manifesto is still available Free here.

Although these readers have demonstrated the common theme of resourcefulness and innovation, the stories are also clear illustration of the main issue in bowling today; lack of funds!

When Eric emailed the details of his machine, he went on to say that he had often thought of trying to get a group of clubs together in his local area to share the cost and benefit of new machinery…another example of innovative thinking.

Almost every email or query I receive from readers of this site starts with or includes a sentence about how they are working under very difficult financial conditions.

Club Management Committees must start to embrace the Read more

Doing Nothing vs Trojan Horses

With the end of the bowling season in clear sight, many clubs will have acquired a familiar temporary feature over by the roadside hedge somewhere. If you look closely there will probably be a pallet or five of bagged top-dressing, ready to go on the green as part of the autumn renovation program.

The bags might be plain or they might be covered in text and graphics proclaiming all of the benefits for your turf that are held within.

They are essentially Trojan Horses, in that they appear to be bearing good news and gifts, but they are actually full of sand (up to 90%) and represent the continued insistence of many clubs and consultants to pursue a program of desertification of bowling greens in the UK.

When your green was first constructed, it probably had an 8-10” (200-250mm) deep layer of topsoil (rootzone). An average bulk density for topsoil would be around 1.6 tonnes/m3. If we say that the average green is 36m X 36m we get an area of 1296m2. The volume of soil required to fill this is calculated thus:

 1296 X 0.25 = 324m3

Using our bulk density average of 1.6 we can calculate weight of soil required as follows:

324 X 1.6 = 518 Tonnes. So our average green was built using approximately 518 tonnes of topsoil.

Most hollow tining operations can penetrate the soil to 4 inches (100mm) and this is usually used in conjunction with top-dressing. This then means that top-dressing operations have been concentrated on about 40% of the actual soil used to build the green (the top 4 inches). 40% of 518 tonnes is 207 tonnes.

30 years of top-dressing with 5 tonnes of material each time is equal to applying 150 tonnes of highly sandy material and this disregards the soil being removed by the hollow tiner! This also assumes that your club only jumped on the train to la la land in the 1980’s; many have been at it for at least a decade before that. I also know of some greens where they are routinely throwing 10 tonnes of straight sand on every year, so these figures are only averages and are probably leaning towards the less crazy end of the spectrum.

Is it any wonder then that greens suffer from localised dry patch, excessive thatch build up, powder dry inert soil, compaction, disease, low microbe populations etc, when almost all of the top 4 inches of the green has been replaced by sand?

If this is the plan for your club this autumn it would be better for your green, if you just do nothing. Yes, even neglecting the green and failing to undertake any autumn renovation would be much less harmful to the long term health and performance of the green than following this program.

The Pursuit of Excellence and…economy.

Now that the new season is upon us, we’ve been getting a lot of enquiries asking two basic questions:

What is the ideal maintenance program to ensure an excellent bowling green surface this year? and…

How can we reduce costs for maintenance without compromising the performance of the green?

Well, although both of these questions are fairly easy to answer, the actual solution depends a lot on what has gone before and at what stage your green is at, in terms of performance at the moment.

The pursuit of excellence on a sensible budget is very much the theme of Performance Bowling Greens.

In the book you will find a step by step blueprint in layman’s terms where John explains the reasons why most bowling greens don’t perform to the required standard, or if they do, why they don’t seem capable of perfoming consistently over the long term.

Also in the book John talks about his philosophy on high performance bowling greens, what makes them and how to achieve a tournament quality green on a reasonable budget, consistently.

John said ” I decided to write this book to detail in layman’s terms the exact formula needed for a great bowling green. A formula that is based on thorough scientific research and experience”

He went on to say: “I also wanted to alert bowling club officials and greenkeepers to the 4 major obstacles that stand in their way, the 4 obstacles that repeatedly stop them from producing the green they desire, so that hopefully they can learn to spot these and avoid them in the future.”

You can get hold of your copy of Performance Bowling Greens here.