The Cygnet Health Care Stadium has not welcomed supporters to a game since November 3rd last year, a span of exactly 200 days. When fans hopefully return later in the year, they will notice some further improvements to the ground since their last visit as the club continues to develop both on and off the pitch.

We caught up with Chairman Kevin Sturmey who filled us in on some of the work being done around the stadium and what plans are on the table for the future. Kevin told us: “Brian Pollard, our incredible Vice Chairman who looks after the Stadium and Facilities, never rests in his mission to improve the stadium. Over the last 12 months, while very challenging for everyone, has allowed us time to look at improvements to the matchday experience and Stadium Infrastructure. Brian is like Superman, he can turn his hand to anything needed with his team of Volunteers. Last summer he removed the old pigeon shed, so called as in the past it was often full of racing pigeons from the local Pigeon Club which no longer exists. This allowed the extension to the terracing which now runs all the way along the southern side of the Taunton Plumbing & Heating Stand towards Hamilton Park. Once we are promoted (to Step 2) this will mean a new turnstile block can be positioned in place on a concrete base. We don’t believe funding is available for this until we are promoted so we would have until 31st March of the subsequent season to get any works completed to allow us to compete in play offs to reach the next level (Step 1).”

The planned developments don’t stop there. The Chairman continued: “We also have planning permission in place to extend the covered terracing on both sides and at both ends, and also to extend the terracing in the bottom corners at the Hamilton Park End (currently Invest South West End), this End is available to sponsor by the way! We also have planning permission for the new turnstiles as above which will be installed when we need to, hopefully next season! Brian and his Volunteer Team have dug out the three areas and will start work on the terrace extensions when the weather allows. We all hope that by 13th July, the scheduled date for our first home friendly, works will be complete in most areas, but knowing Brian as I do, he will be continuing with more projects during the season. One of his missions has always been to see our seats replaced with claret and blue seats and hopefully we may see the start of that project this summer.”

The trees at the bottom end of the Cygnet Health Care Stadium have been a backdrop for many years, however the landscape will soon be changing. “We have also received planning permission to “Pollard” (not named after Brian!) the 13 Poplar trees adjoining Hamilton Park”, remarked Kevin. “We have been discussing these trees with the local Council for a number of years as they have got progressively more dangerous. In the last year, several branches have fallen and damaged the back and roof of the stand, as well as Brian having a near miss when a branch fell and hit him on the back! These trees are also causing us serious problems under the pitch and terracing as the roots of these trees can extend 50% longer than the height of the tree which is way beyond the halfway line as well as seriously affecting the bottom third of the pitch. A Tree Surgeon is booked to pollard the trees before the start of our pre-season matches at home.”

The pitch at the Stadium is looking mightily impressive but to keep it in tiptop condition an obvious essential ingredient is water which is where the next initiative comes in. Kevin informed us; “Another infrastructure investment we are currently embarking on is the installation of a “Borehole”. Initial work will begin on 25th May and if this goes to plan a system will be installed including pumps. With climate change with us forever, the dry spells seem to happen in the spring and wet spells can happen at any time so investment in watering equipment is vital to produce the pitch we want at any time of the year. If successful, we will be able to extract up to 20,000 litres per day free of charge. That may sound a lot but would only last about 3-4 hours to supply our irrigator and portable sprinklers. The beauty of it is we would be able to water every day when we need to. One day it would be great for Simon and I to have pop up sprinklers and a Hybrid pitch! This is a great investment and will ultimately save us money in the future, so we don’t have to water off the tap. We still harvest rainwater, but we can only hold about 20000 litres and if it doesn’t rain like in April this year they can’t refill! We will always aim to be innovative and continue to push boundaries to keep the club climbing an upward curve.”