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The importance of ecology

JUST over 12 months after his appointment, Wrexham course manager David Wilkinson has had such a positive impact that it’s not just the golf course that’s flourishing but the local wildlife too.

On the course things are as good as ever thanks to the impact of Wilkinson, who joined from Whitley Bay last September.

The 53-year-old insists that the greens are cut by hand and this has made an incredible difference to the quality of the putting surfaces, but it’s his passion for ecology that really sets him apart from most of his peers.

He hopes to reintroduce heather that will give the course its original heathland look. “There’s a lot of it around in the area so there is no reason why we can’t make it work,” said Wilkinson.

“We have already worked really hard on the gorse. We cleaned it and thinned it out and it’s made a big difference and is proving a haven for insects and birds.

“In the clubhouse we’re thinking about the environment too and use a biomass heating system. We even recycle all our products that are generated in the kitchen such as potato peelings, which go for compost.”

Wilkinson, who lives in Pulford, has introduced so many new ideas that the club are considering running tours for its members to see all the initiatives.

“The plan is to possibly introduce wildlife days – maybe one for ladies on a Tuesday and then one for the rest of the members,” said development committee member Mike Parsons.

Six bat boxes were put in woodland alongside the course when the new bypass was added and this has already attracted numerous Pipistrelle bats.

Two insect stations, which Wilkinson fondly describes as ‘insect hotels’, are also tucked away in the woods as the plus one handicapper plays a key role in trying to improve the image of the greenkeeper/course manager. “We are responsible for our environment,” he said. “We are not just grass cutters and we have a duty.” At the forefront of this is the two new beehives built in trees to the left of the third fairway.

“There are about 40,000 honey bees in the smaller hive and 80,000 in the larger one,” added the former Windermere Golf Club head greenkeeper. “These bees pollinate over an area of about two and a half miles so the whole area benefits, not just the golf course.”

It’s thought approximately 82 different species of birds habitat the course as well as grass snakes, stoats and badgers.

“I’m hoping to create wildlife notebooks where members will be able to take a pad out with them on the course so they can make a record of the wildlife they’ve seen. It will be a great way to build up a log of what is out there,” said Wilkinson, who is married to wife Louise.

The BIGGA North West and North Wales committee member added: “A number of members turned up for a demonstration from Johnny Hulsen, who is an ecological consultant for North Wales Wildlife Trust.

“The members have been great and are really buying into the concept and more than 100 came to hear about all our plans for the next 12 months at the annual presentation I did in late October.”

These plans include introducing mixed bins on the course for re-cycling, setting aside wildflower areas and sowing wildflower mixes for the bees and butterflies and adding two owl boxes. “We’re even thinking about introducing some Hebridean sheep to graze on land to the left of the practice area near the new bypass,” added the Mancunian, who has also worked in Norfolk and the USA.

“Lots has been achieved in such a short space of time, but it really is just the beginning,” he enthused.

Pictured is one of the fabulous ‘insect hotels’ at Wrexham.