If all goes to plan, we are a matter of weeks away from being able to open the Old Spotted Dog Clubhouse. It was therefore necessary to transition away from the Clubhouse being a renovation site/workshop/storage space and into it being a functioning bar and community centre.
We also needed to prepare the site access for the builders of the new changing rooms through the Upton Lane gate and – not least – cut the grass.
On Sunday 23rd January, a big clean was called for and over 25 members made their way to the OSD on a cold but clear morning to get the job done.
The clubhouse deep clean would have met with an approving nod from Mary Poppins, Mr Muscle et al:
Outside, the Grounds team took on the task of moving the Upton Lane turnstiles, so that access is now clear for the builders of the new changing rooms to access the site with their machinery. The turnstiles can be repaired and put back into place as and when we need them.
The grass was receiving its first cut of the year, with three more members getting trained up on the mower and pitch maintenance.
Lastly, the power to the ground has been serviced by UKPN so it’s in a better place for the changing room build to start.
Overhauling 20 years of neglect is no small task, but once again, our members have stepped up. We own the club, we run the club, we build the club.
Old Spotted Dog clubhouse gets a makeover
The OSD clubhouse has endured years of neglect, so it has been a priority to spend time making it a clean, safe and welcoming place for our members and for the Forest Gate community.
Though the superb fundraising efforts and the generosity of donors allowed us to replace the roof, the projected interior restoration cost was, unfortunately, more than we could immediately fund.
But that wasn’t going to stop us! Restoring the clubhouse is central to generating income we can then spend elsewhere on the ground, so our members got to work.
Following further fundraising efforts from members selling t-shirts, the clubhouse team was able to fund a proper makeover, and not just a lick of paint mind you. The clubhouse team has worked wonders in the storage rooms, cold rooms, toilets, bar area and main space which are now mostly restored and almost ready for use.
This work is entirely member-led and has meant hundreds of hours of work on jobs like stripping back multiple layers of old paint and wallpaper, then filling, sanding, plastering, cleaning, sweeping, damp-proof painting and preparing and repainting walls and ceilings. Just listing it all out is tiring to be honest.
It cannot be overstated how many hard hours went into getting the walls and surfaces at the clubhouse clean and smooth once more. We will benefit from this work for years to come.
In addition, vital health and safety electrical work has been taking place, with new sockets fitted, new cabling, new lights fitted and the fuse board boxed up and made safe.
Also, the existing toilets and plumbing were basically unsanitary when we took over. This has now been addressed with the removal of ‘materials’ and inappropriate surfaces, the removal of rotten, urine-soaked plaster and rotten, untreated wood under the urinals. Gross.
In its place, new tiling and toilets have been installed. Lovely!
We are very lucky that our membership includes carpenters, tilers, painters and decorators and electricians who have donated countless hours of their time and experience.
In addition to all that, another bunch of members who are carpenters have been busy designing and building new benching to go inside the clubhouse, which will increase and improve the seating capacity.
We also have a member who is a signwriter working on something special for the bar. More signage around the ground is very much in our long-term plans and we have had several offers from other signwriters we hope to pursue.
Lastly, we have installed a projector and a new fridge, which was kindly donated by a member.
You’ll soon get the opportunity to see the clubhouse after this mammoth member’s undertaking is complete. Don’t worry about missing out, we will certainly be shouting about it when it’s time to raise a glass and celebrate their efforts.
If you’ve read this far and you would like to join us in the ongoing restoration of the Old Spotted Dog Ground, please email us at OSD@claptoncfc.co.uk
We are ALWAYS looking for members to lend a hand, If you can help out with the trades, grounds or literally anything else, please don’t wait to be asked, speak up!
Your club needs you.
The pitch has been in recovery mode since we took over on the 24th of July, 2020.
After many years of abuse and overuse, it’s been receiving a lot of TLC from our wonderful grounds team and the members assisting them.
The good news is that the grass seeds planted last year sprouted well and are growing into a lush pitch. The bad news was that a very wet May disrupted planned workdays. Our adaptable team has been busy with weeding and other general tasks. It’s been time-consuming but we’re told, therapeutic too. 🤔
So, the grass is growing very lush on the two wings but a little slower in the middle third because the soil contains a lot of sand which was in the past used to improve drainage. The outcome is soil with poor nutrients.
The team cut the grass in early May, lay fertilizer a couple of times and then decided to overseed the middle third of the pitch to increase the grass density. The good news is that the seedlings are sprouting, enjoying the sun and rain while the ground team are nurturing them to maturity.
The grass is enjoying its moment in the sun with the good grass winning the battle against the bad grass. Here’s your quick guide to the bad interlopers who’ve decided the OSD is a great place.
The leftmost two are Yorkshire Fog – not good.
The next two are both Poa, a meadow grass and “Ok”.
The next two are (maybe!) Bromegrass and no use to us.
2nd from right is a Wall Barley – bad bad bad!
The rightmost two are both Rye Grass – good good good!
Think we got that right, please do write in and correct us though : )
What next? The plan is to maintain the pitch, feed, weed and cut it. The grounds team has done a great job. Take a look for yourselves. We are hoping to have a member’s open day at the OSD on July 24th, covid restrictions allowing, keep an eye out for more information and do come down and take a look!
If you would like to come down and help our Ground Maintenance team, either as a one-off or on a regular basis, please email Ground@ClaptonCFC.co.uk
The replacement roof for the clubhouse at The Old Spotted Dog ground was completed on time and on budget in early February.
Just in time to give protection from the winter snow that followed later in the week.
The benefit of a water-tight roof was quickly seized upon, the hole in the ceiling could then be repaired. This in turn allows us to prepare for redecorationg the clubhouse and opening for members of Clapton CFC and the local community.
All of the clear up, getting everything into the skip, was taken on by club members. This meant we were able to save on costs.
In addition to the roofing professionals, we had over 30 members commit hundreds of hours to get the clubhouse watertight and DRY.
Unfortunately, the water that had got in led to large sections of mould on the ceilings and walls, these sections have now been replaced, repaired and replastered.
We are trying to reuse materials where possible and were able to re-roof the electric shed with boards leftover from the project. The steady stream of wood, bricks, blocks and other materials we keep finding at the ground have now got their own storage area so they can be used for future building projects.
On an unseasonably hot and sunny February day, members also tackled the huge pile of rocks, rubble and sand next to the electric shed. We were slightly worried the pile had become structural for the shed next to it, so breathed a sigh of relief when the shed didn’t come down.
Football Foundation Grant
The club has been been awarded significant funding from the @FootballFoundtn towards the construction of brand new changing rooms at the Old Spotted Dog. This was a process kicked off nine months previously, and involved members from across the club contributing toward our application, so we are thrilled to be awarded the maximum available amount.
The Old Spotted Dog Ground Trust has instructed a new architects firm to design the changing rooms and is gearing up for another fundraising push later in the year. A Working Group focused on winning further grants has been set up, if anyone has fundraising/bid writing experience and wants to help out, please do get in touch with us at OSD@ClaptonCFC.co.uk.
Meanwhile, if you want to contribute to the ongoing work our members are carrying out, you can donate here.
CCFC members have been hard at work again! Due to the abnormally warm early winter (#climatechangeisrealkids) our worms continued being over-active as has our grass which needed another cut after its previous final cut! But before the grass could be cut we had to again rake the worm casts on the whole pitch again. (See previous update for details)….. and when it’s wet you can’t rake or cut and so a frantic two-day raking took place recently followed by another FINAL cut into the twilight. Anyway, done now and surely that is the last cut before the new year and a very welcome 2021!
But to get the ground ready for fans in 2021 we have to make safe the pitch surrounds to and as part of making the Scaffold safe CCFC member Felix has been angle grinding off all the sharp dangerous bolt end as shamefully the previous regime left for years since the Scaffold was built.
The ground also had numerous piles of random rubbish, soil and rubble and here Ellie, Annabel and Gu have just triumphantly polished off a large pile of soil near the Disraeli Rd gate! Job done!
Plumbers were hired to carry out work to replace sinks and worktops in the clubhouse kitchen and bar on a cold Saturday morning. The work spilled over on to Sunday too, due to the extent of the repairs. We will post the ‘after’ photos soon.
CCFC super volunteers have been hard at work all week, raking and blowing worm casts on the Old Spotted Dog pitch. But ‘what is a worm cast?’ I hear you cry! Well, it’s a convoluted mass of soil, mud, or sand that is thrown up to the surface by an earthworm, after it passes through the worm’s body – lovely!
Worms are essential in a grass football pitch. Their worm tunnels are perfect for both drainage and aeration, bringing air to the grass roots for them to breathe. Aristotle described worm tunnels as the “intestines of the earth” while Pro Evo fan Charles Darwin called worms “nature’s plough”.
In 1881, Darwin wrote, “It may be doubted whether there are many other animals which have played so important a part in the history of the world, as have these lowly organized creatures.”
Bill Mollison, the godfather of permaculture, said of earthworms that they “act as an innumerable army of pistons pumping air in and out of the soils on a 24-hour cycle.”
All well and good, but the problem is that in the spring and autumn, they will regularly create worm casts and when we cut the pitch. These casts get smeared by our feet, wheels, rollers etc, which can restrict or even stop the grass growing.
So before cutting and rolling, we have had to rake or blow away *all* the casts, 1000s of them!
Who feels they know enough about worms for the time being?
Anyway, the upshot is that members finished clearing the casts and as twilight fell on a very autumnal Thursday, we were able to finish what may be the last cut of 2020.
This week, members spent a day clearing the alleyway behind the clubhouse in order to gain access to the water pipes located there.
Fighting brambles, ivy, rusty cans, worms and dangling live cables, hardy Tons cleared everything along the path, which is now unrecognisable!
Once again there was another treasure trove of detritus to triage, with members working out what was still useful and what had to go. This week’s finds from across the decades included old shelving, scaffold poles and clamps, scrap metal, plastic matting, astro-turf, tyres, wooden boards, plastic boards and one old fridge tray. The Antiques Roadshow doesn’t currently have an upcoming stop in Newham, so a lot of this was disposed of (properly, mind) in the skip.
A member wished to emphasise there were a LOT of worms, possibly at least 55.
Meanwhile, inside the club house, the future cold room next to the kitchen was completely cleared and is now ready to store barrels of beer.
It wasn’t all hard going though, some members found time to play jump rope in the clearance area, with some unearthed rope/cable that was totally safe and all totally fine. No new entry in the accident logbook, so all’s well that ends well…
A very big week for us as Jon Smith, Senior FA Ground Inspector, visited the Old Spotted Dog Ground on Thursday and met with members of our Grounds committee and the OSD Trust.
Jon was very enthusiastic about the ground and the possibilities in making it safe, making improvements and rebuilding it to a larger capacity.
We have been studying the FA ground requirements at length and Jon was able to help us understand exactly what facilities we need for each different Non League Step.
Our women’s first team are at a higher level than our men’s first team, playing in the Greater London Premier, the 6th tier of the pyramid. With results as they are, we’re looking at promotion to the 5th tier, which has equivalent ground grading to Step 3 in the men’s pyramid. We have to be ready for that and Jon was pleased to hear that CCFC are giving women’s football equal standing at the OSD.
Our men’s first team are currently at Step 7, in the Middlesex County Premier, but with aspirations on promotion to Step 6, the Eastern Counties League. Over the longer term, the Tons are aiming to return to the league we helped found in 1905, the Isthmian League at Step 3.
We know our attendances are going to be approaching Step 3 levels next season, so capacity and health and safety are a much bigger concern for us than other clubs at our level.
Jon agreed the current pitchside fence is unsafe and was pleased to know we are currently working on replacing it. He gave advice on what materials the new walkways will need to be made of (concrete from recycled materials looks the easiest and longest-lasting) and how to arrange our terracing so fans can be safe and as close to the action as possible. As we’re only allowed two seated stands, Jon advised that a new 250-seater stand would be the ideal option (and hopefully we can cover this in solar panels). He also told us a little bit about LED floodlights, which look a good option in terms of running costs and, crucially for any grounds crew with vertigo, they don’t need replacing that often!
So what does all this mean for next season? Jon said we’re all set to be compliant with Step 6 if we can make The Scaffold safe.
Breathe out, unclench and relax… this just means angle-grinding off the dozens of protruding bolts that the previous tenant never sorted out.
He also gave the Old Spotted Dog an estimated capacity of 2,000 – imagine!
Coming up, the Spectator Accommodation Working Group will be prioritising the new pitch fence, to be installed over the next few months. We then will be looking at redeveloping the Scaffold side into a new, much larger scaffold roofed terrace. This will hopefully take our capacity up to a very healthy 3,000!
It’s all going to cost money – but we have cause to be ambitious. With some FA funding and the support of our members, not to mention our future gate receipts, it’s all possible.
On a weekend our volunteers were again doing some heavy work onsite, we hit another important milestone – the first CCFC game live-streamed in our clubhouse!
The bar that existed in the clubhouse previously was can-only. However, we have an ambitious plan to install proper lines and taps, in partnership with a local independent brewery.
40ft east brewery is owned by a CCFC member and they will be supplying us with beer and providing the installation of the lines. In order to get to that point, there is still plenty more to do including plumbing, gas and electricity connections.
Phase 1 of this plan is getting the bar up and running, getting kegs of beer in from the brewery, making some structural changes and taking out sections of wall to make a cold room so we can supply draught beer. Some walls just had to be torn down before they fell down because they were so rotten. These walls must (not) fall!
Volunteers blocked up one door and created a new one to turn a storage room into a sealed room, ready to be insulated to become a cold room. This now needs a plumber to come and make safe the pipes.
Again, issues like rotten walls mean that starting one task has often meant stopping immediately to repair some newly discovered problem. A lot of the work is one step forward and two steps back, so volunteers have had to show the patience of saints! It must only be a matter of time before they get called up to the canonised first eleven.
Up top, there’s a leaking roof that needs sorting, with another mild and wet winter forecast. A cost-saving victory is that the asbestos survey has shown the roof and indeed the clubhouse is asbestos-free (yay).
So, early strides forward taking place, but much, much more to come on the clubhouse and bar front. The aim is to get the bar open and generating income for the club as soon as possible. So your first drink here might be amongst some minimalist and post-industrial chic surroundings, but we’re pretty sure you won’t mind…
On Saturday, we spread a big pile of pitch material that came up during the scarification process (see videos below) across the top of the bank on the Margery Park Road end.
A small Saxon burial mound’s worth of grass and mud got sorted out and we’re one more job ticked off to having the OSD pitch back in working order.
The volunteers have done an amazing job cutting back the wildly overgrown vegetation around the ground – ivy, weeds, sycamore and bramble – they’d grown totally out of control as they’ve not been dealt with for at least two years. The difference this effort has made to the perimeter paths is so satisfying, check out the before/after pic below!
Saturday’s crew also cleared ivy and other vegetation on and around the trees, to prep them for the Newham tree officers’ visit. Us doing this clearing will also save money on the tree surgeon’s bill and will hopefully speed up this essential safety work.
As we get the water pressure sorted with Thames Water, we’re currently stuck using smaller/domestic sprinklers to water the pitch. September is usually the ideal time to sow grass, but the extreme heat in August and early September could have burnt off the seed. To prevent this, some lucky members got to while away the hours moving sprinklers from spot to spot… to spot… to spot.
We’ve got professional sprinklers ready and waiting, and we’re keeping up the pressure on TW to up the pressure asap.
We’ve also gone all Dick Dastardly and been chasing pigeons around the Old Spotted Dog. They have been pecking away at the nice new seeds we’ve bought, so when we have volunteers on site, one job is to intermittently run around whooping and hollering to scare them off to West Ham Park. Apparently, a traditional scarecrow is no use. Are pigeons, therefore, smarter than crows? Please write in and let us know.
Equally, if anyone has got a small dog that wants a run-out, our DMs are open.