The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) runs an estate covering around 600 hectares of turf in many countries across the globe. The main area of activity is in France and Belgium and commemorates the war dead from the first and second world wars.
The organisation has a proud history of creating gardens of remembrance. With the centenary commemorations of World War One the number of visitors to the sites in France and Belgium increased significantly. Under the traditional model of turf maintenance, the grass was less able to cope with the increased wear in the higher traffic areas and this led to poorer visual merit. The aim was to ensure the sites were in the best condition possible for the centenary events.
STRI was retained as key turf consultancy partner by the CWGC. Our role was to advise on turf issues and develop new strategies for turf maintenance to increase potential turf wear tolerance and reduce maintenance costs.
STRI reviewed a number of key sites and produced a bespoke assessment strategy. This allowed progress to be tracked over the longer term. The cause of the wear was identified and related to current maintenance practices. It was concluded that whilst the majority of the areas were in good condition, the key traffic routes suffered from compaction, close mowing and poor health.
A revised maintenance proposal for the wear areas was recommended including sand applications, additional aeration and fertiliser applications. The height of cut was suggested to be raised to give the turf better resilience. During this process novel technologies for grass protection were reviewed from turf covers to turf reinforcement. Potential new mowing and aeration equipment were reviewed and recommended.
Regular follow-up visits were made to review progress and after three to four years, a progress summary developed showing the improvement in those cemeteries fully implementing the changes. The changes to maintenance reduced mowing times, reduced calendar practices such as widespread autumn scarification and helped to save significant time and cost.
A number of staff training events have been held to promote the revised maintenance plans.
We also provided risk and remediation advice during the Ceremony at the Thiepval Monument for the Somme Centenary commemoration.
Successful improvement to the wear areas was seen at all cemeteries following the revised management regime.
A significant reduction in maintenance time and costs was achieved.
STRI continues to support the CWGC, providing regular follow-up visits.