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.

Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features staging of a playground gun massacre
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
Morrissey pictured in 2013
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Robyn Lawley
i100  ... he was into holy war way before it was on trend
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmThe film is surprisingly witty, but could do with taking itself more seriously, says Geoffrey Macnab
Life and Style
food + drinkVegetarians enjoy food as much as anyone else, writes Susan Elkin
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine