Seaward is SW19's guru of grass and he is still cutting edge

If Wimbledon is sporting theatre, Eddie Seaward is its stage manager, the chap who hones the All England Club's turf to pristine condition, then steps back to let the show go on, to reappear in the public gaze only in times of drought or monsoon during the fortnight in London SW19.

The 65-year-old is in his 20th year as Wimbledon's head groundsman, and he expresses gratitude that the All England Club have requested him to delay retirement until after the 2012 Olympic tennis there.

Eddie is protective, year-round, of his Centre Court turf. Nobody is allowed to set foot on it, except in pursuit of preparation work by his 14-strong permanent staff, until immediately before the tournament.

The Seaward gaze is especially severe. "I had a contractor walk on the court this year," he said. "I told his boss: 'There is a door there and if it happens again he is walking through it and not coming back.' Somebody walking on new tarmac and then going on to the grass could kill it."

He is "very conscious" of the reputation of that grass. "If I go away and start chatting to someone and they ask me where I work I never tell them, otherwise you are there forever more talking about Wimbledon. I just say I work at a tennis club in London."

That work escalates to ridiculous levels during the Wimbledon fortnight. Starting this morning, Eddie will have been collected from his Raynes Park home at 6.30am by car, having already done a thorough briefing on the weather prospects, and never leaves until at least an hour after the final match has come off court and he has, in his words, "got the courts watered and put to bed". A 17-hour day, at the very least.

Still, people tell him, it must be nice watching the fruits of your labour. A snort of amusement. "A French newspaper asked me did I enjoy that fantastic 2008 Federer-Nadal final and I said I had yet to watch it. I've got it on DVD at home."

This is, for Eddie, part of the downside of the Centre Court roof. "Whereas I used to be able to sit on Centre Court with the referee, watch a bit of the match and keep an eye on the weather, now if you've got the roof closed you don't know if it's raining or not, so you need to be outside if there are matches on other courts. I spend a lot of time on a bench by Court 14 looking at the clouds."

Outside the Wimbledon fortnight, he walks the three miles to work most days and, since the court care is done at his command rather than by his own hand, he enjoys mowing his own lawn. "My grass is OK," he smiles. "It is striped, it's green, weed-free."

What comes as a surprise is the revelation that the club's 28 courts were used by members, and then Wimbledon's actual competitors, until last night. "We finish play on the match courts at 6.30pm on Saturday ready to start play on Monday morning. So we have got just Sunday to sort everything out."

If spectators have ever wondered how the courts look so glorious on Monday morning, here's the answer: "If the grass is bruised by people playing on Saturday, you let it grow a little bit longer, then water it so you can lift the bruising and cut it out on Sunday."

Eddie says Wimbledon's new roof has been "generally good news". But despite a guesstimate outlay of £100 million (The All England Club never discuss costs), the familiar, oversized Boy Scout tent which is Centre Court's temporary cover will remain in use. It takes seconds to put in place, rather than the roof's minutes. "You can also get a scenario where you get a burst of rain that only lasts a couple of minutes," says Seaward. "It would be pointless operating the roof, so we will use a combination of the two."

Eddie's happiest moment? "When the umpire calls game, set and match for the last time." So he can get a bit of time off? Not a bit of it. "I maybe have the Monday off and then we are straight back into it, getting ready for club and other events."

There are times, however, when Wimbledon's guru of grass does take a break. A couple of years ago he saw a house in Cape Town which he loved. "I couldn't believe how cheap it was. I said to the agent, there has to be a catch."

The man told him the house came with a requirement to have the front garden professionally maintained.

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
PROMOTED VIDEO
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'