Harris Hawk on standby to scare seagulls from Springbok practise pitch


Hawk brought in by Cleankill to scare birds away

Eastbourne College Head Groundsman, Richard Maryan was horrified, when the pitches he has spent months painstakingly preparing for the Springboks to use in their World Cup preparation, was invaded by seagulls.

Richard, whose team has prepared the College’s Memorial Ground pitches to the exacting standards demanded of a Rugby World Cup pitch, knew hawks are a humane method of scaring away pest birds and have been used successfully at venues like Wimbledon. So he made a call and George the Harris Hawk is now on standby to save the day and protect months of Richard’s hard work and provide a training ground fit for the world’s 4th ranked rugby team.

Richard said: “At one time we had more than 100 gulls on the pitch after we had cut the grass and they were making an horrendous mess.”

Jon Whitehead of Cleankill Environmental Services who provided George said: “We were delighted to be called in to help and be involved with the Rugby World Cup, in a small but, nevertheless important way. Hawks work really well with birds like pigeons and gulls which are naturally scared of them. The hawks rarely harm the pest birds – they just discourage them from landing. It’s natural and green pest control at its best.”

Richard and his team started work on the pitches a year ago and their efforts have continued throughout the summer to make sure the facility passes the Rugby World Cup’s exacting international standards.

Preparations have included re-seeding the area, top dressing the pitch with 60 tonnes of sand, the application of special fertilisers and cutting the grass to an exact height at least three times a week.

Richard explains: “The Rugby World Cup organising body has visited several times to conduct detailed pitch inspections and the representatives are delighted with how the College pitch is looking. The inspections include 17 different tests with the aim of ensuring our pitches match closely those the players will play on during the tournament.

“We are extremely proud that the Springboks are coming to Eastbourne and very pleased to be playing an important part in their preparations.”

Eastbourne College Headmaster Simon Davies said: “We decided to bid to be a Rugby World Cup Team Base not just for the benefit of the College but for the benefit of the whole town of Eastbourne. The process involved people from across the town working together and it is incredibly exciting that this hard work has resulted in the South African team being based in Eastbourne and training on our pitches. It is a great privilege.

“One of the reasons the Springboks team is coming to Eastbourne College is our outstanding outdoor sporting facilities. The tourists will also be able to see the work that has just started on Project 150, a £33 million redevelopment of the centre of the College which will include state-of-the-art indoor sports facilities and much more. It is scheduled to open in 2017 to coincide with the College’s 150th anniversary.”

The College choir has been selected as one of only 20 choirs across the country to be part of the World Cup official welcoming ceremonies. The welcome for the Springboks took place on Sunday 13 September in Eastbourne.

The College will also be celebrating the South African visit with other events including themed lunches, a braai and a visit from a South African township choir (http://www.projectzulu.org).

Finally, as a legacy of the South African team’s visit, a rugby bursary will be established. The purpose of the bursary will be to provide talented young rugby players of the future, who would otherwise be unable to attend an independent school, with an Eastbourne College education and the opportunity to develop their rugby to the highest level.

Eastbourne College has a long rugby tradition and has hosted international touring teams of yesteryear including the Australian Wallabies and the New Zealand All Blacks. Being a part of this year’s world cup and the South African base builds on this rich history.

For further information about the College's role as an official team base for the forthcoming Rugby World Cup please visit: http://www.eastbourne-college.co.uk/Rugby-World-Cup

Eastbourne College is a co-educational school for boys and girls aged 13 to 18 in the town of Eastbourne on the south coast of England. At the heart of College life are our six key values; the pursuit of excellence, participation, integrity, courtesy, kindness and taking care of those who take care of us. Headmaster Simon Davies believes that these values should be the bedrock upon which all education should stand. Pupils are able to flourish in a nurturing environment gaining excellent academic results along the way. Furthermore, Eastbourne College offers a full boarding ethos both at weekends and in the week. This ethos allows pupils time to enjoy the excellent academic, creative and sporting opportunities and state of the art facilities available at the College and fosters their development into balanced young adults.