“Being involved from the word “go” has been amazing”

Chris King, The Nest’s groundsman, gives us an insight into his experiences on the 22-acre site at The Nest

Come rain or shine, Chris King is the man responsible for keeping the site’s eight football pitches in great condition for the large array of teams and groups that use them on a daily basis.

We persuaded The Nest’s groundsman to take a few minutes out of his busy schedule to give us an insight into his experiences.

Chris’ remit, when he joined the Foundation in 2018, was to transform the overgrown landscape on the disused Anglian Windows site into top-tier community sports facility pitches.

“The clubhouse was in disrepair when I joined, and the proposed buildings just sketches on paper. The grass came up to your knees in some areas,” says Chris. “It had been a long time since they had been used; it was daunting just beginning to think about the work that needed to be done.”

Chris reflects on the challenges he’s faced in his three-year battle to make the pitches the quality they are today.

“The first year was hard. I joined just after the Beast from the East. We had come from a really wet winter, anyway, which led into the ensuring chaos of the storm. This was then followed by a long, dry, hot summer. Tough conditions for any groundsmen!”

“I had a quick deadline to get the pitches playable for when the first phase of the build was due to be complete [September 2018].”

The past year has thrown up its share of challenges and problems.

“For a long spell, because of the Covid-19 pandemic, The Nest was closed down – it was very eerie. But obviously nature doesn’t stop over lockdown too, so there was a lot of work to be done.”

“A fallen tree wiped out our irrigation tank too, which took a long time to be fixed. I was relying on just rain water until July!”

At every step of the way, the support of individuals, business and organisations has been invaluable to the construction of The Nest.

Chris has benefitted from donated machinery; he received a fully-electric loader from Avant Tecno UK earlier this year.

“The Foundation are a charity, and with every penny of spend having to be justified, I’ve had to think on my feet and improvise at times.

“The support of organisations, such as Avant, the Football Foundation, Duralock, Ben Burgess and MHGoals, has been a lifeline. It was great also to have the support of volunteers who helped me turn The Nest around after the long lockdown: there are so many areas of landscape away from the pitches that need looking after.”

One of the most satisfying elements about Chris’ role is seeing the change that has taken place at The Nest.

“Being involved from the word “go” has been amazing. The change between the site when I first joined and now is quite staggering: and that’s with the main hub building still under construction.”

A 3G pitch, part of ‘Phase Two’ developments at The Nest, opened for use last month, and sits adjacent to what will be the new hub building, housing accessible changing rooms, an IT learning suite, two multi-use spaces and a café.

Groups that have used the pitch in the past month include children and adults from a variety of Foundation programmes including Walking Football, disability, Proud Canaries, kids’ courses, the Football & Education programme, and the Football Development Programme.

Norwich City Women FC are due to play their first FA Women’s National League home fixture on the 3G pitch this weekend (2pm, 27th Sept); joining a number of grassroots teams who also use the facility on a regular basis.

For Chris, seeing all these groups enjoy the facility makes all the hard work worth it.

“It’s definitely the upside of the job. It’s a spectacular facility, and once construction is complete it’s going to be quite a place. I’m really proud to have played a part in it.”

Can you help Chris?

With the site being used more than ever, and the new 3G pitch now open, the Community Sports Foundation are seeking volunteers who’d be able to assist with a variety of landscaping/gardening/match prep tasks on a weekly/ad-hoc basis.

These include:

  • Grass cutting
  • Pitch marking
  • Strimming and weeding
  • Landscaping
  • General maintenance and upkeep
  • Matchday pitch preparation
  • Pitch irrigation and feeding

If you are interested, please email [email protected]. You can find out more about the Canary Citizens programme here.