We made the most of the cold, dark days to nab our brilliant Head of Grounds, Paul, for an interview. It was great to find out more about the demanding work of our diligent Grounds Team and chatting to Paul has certainly given us a new-found appreciation for the beautiful pitches and gardens we are lucky enough to enjoy each and every day of the year here at Bloxham, in spite of rain, snow, frost and drought!
Have you always enjoyed being outdoors? What first made you want to work as part of the Grounds team at Bloxham?
I’ve always been an outside person. My previous job was working on a farm. The outside life in the summer is lovely as I’m into cricket, sport and everything that’s outdoors. I get claustrophobic if I’m inside for too long; I like to be in nature. I was drawn to Bloxham specifically because it has such brilliant sports fields and facilities. I come from quite a small village background and when I first visited and saw how nice the grounds at Bloxham were, I thought I wouldn’t mind looking after somewhere like this! It was one of my dreams to take care of such wonderful pitches. I’m not good enough to play certain sports but I can produce a pitch for people who are good enough to play! It’s such a nice community within the School and that drew me to the job too.
What’s the most challenging aspect of your role as Head of Grounds?
The weather! The weather can change our daily routine and can alter so quickly. It’s hard meeting demand for the pitches, especially when fixtures have to be moved around, cancelled, or added. Wear and tear of the pitches can be a big challenge. On the gardens side, it’s about keeping everywhere looking as nice as possible. People want instant colour and instant prettiness, but you can’t get instant which can be tough. The gardens are always a work in progress.
What does a typical day look like for you and for the other members of the grounds team?
The team come to our office first thing every morning and I explain what we’ve got on fixture wise. We then go out and meet those needs, setting up the pitches ready for the games. Once the matches are going on, we disperse and go out to do our groundskeeper work off the pitches, which includes things like reducing woodlands or tidying the gardens. It’s recurring jobs each day but in different areas. We work in a circle – at the beginning of the week we start somewhere and by the end of the week we aim to have got back to that place, so we know we’re not missing anywhere.
What are some highlights from your time at Bloxham so far?
I’ve been at Bloxham for about fourteen years. I’ve seen a lot of changes, but I love it here. One highlight for me is that Oxfordshire Cricket now use our facilities. We also had the Wasps rugby team here training over the summer, and Banbury Cricket Club too. It’s great having outside clubs come in and use our facilities because they see that they’re of such a high standard. I see that as success for us and recognition of our hard work.
What are some of your hobbies and interests outside of work?
I’m sport mad! I don’t play every sport going but if I can’t play it, I watch it. My biggest passion is cricket – I love playing cricket and that’s where my heart lies within the school as well. Cricket season is my favourite part of the year here. I could be out there all day every day.
I also love spending time with my family. I’ve got two young boys and they’re sport mad too! My partner Holly loves watching the football or cricket with us too. We love going out walking the dogs as well. We’re members of the National Trust so spend a lot of time walking round National Trust properties. I just love being outdoors – that’s my way of life, to be outdoors as much as possible.