Urinating vixens, greedy pigeons, May frost and idiosyncratic mowers are just a few of the problems facing Wimbledon’s head groundsman in the run up to the world’s most famous tennis championships.
Most tournaments, even if they once were played on grass, now use easier-to-manage hard or clay courts, but for Eddie Seaward the yearly cycle of growth and tending is part of the joy of his job, wildlife notwithstanding.
Foxes who roam freely round leafy and prosperous Wimbledon, in southwest London, are regular visitors to the All England Club, even seen creeping across the commentary boxes. They are welcome as long as they keep off the grass.
“We put an electric fence round here and the showcourts most of the year,” said Seaward. “It’s the vixens that are the problem, if they urinate on the court it just kills the grass off,” he added.
Centuries-old methods, in keeping with Wimbledon’s love of tradition, are used to keep at bay the pigeons, who would otherwise gorge on newly sown seed.
“We have a hawk to scare off the pigeons. It flies three times a week and that deters them,” he said. The falconer and his hawk are kept busy even during the championship fortnight so that the pigeons do not come back.
Seaward, chief groundsman since 1991 has delayed retirement to stay on until the 2012 Olympics, when Wimbledon will host the tennis event. He has overseen changes from a grass mixture to a 100 percent rye grass which is tougher and helps to create a harder surface.