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Grass guru boosts Olympic horsepower
1:39pm Monday 30th July 2012 in The Olympics and East Lancashire
OLYMPIC horse riders have been strutting their stuff on smooth surfaces created by a man from East Lancashire.
Lee Penrose, 33, from Burnley, was given the task of transforming Greenwich Park into a world class sports venue with his team at Yorkshire-based Sports Turf Research Institute (STRI).
The married dad-of-two, who is project manager at the sports surfacing company, said the challenge was the highlight of his career.
He said: “Greenwich Park has proven to be a unique challenge.
"The high profile of the games, varied stakeholders and scale of the job, has proven a career highlight for me.
“It has been three years hard work, admittedly in beautiful surroundings.”
Lee, who now lives in Corn Mill Mews, Whalley, said the challenge encompassed 12,000 square metres of course to be brought up to specification on a 6.2km course that winds through a historic public park, Roman antiquity and rare acid grasslands.
It started for STRI, with Lee Penrose leading the project, in 2009 when they won the commission to manage the project and deliver the venue.
Detailed plans were made to develop the course while maintaining the unique elements of the park.
An extensive consultation process was undertaken with local residents and this informed many of the plans for remedial works after the games.
Work started on site in September 2010 with the excavation of a Roman temple that had already been visited by Channel 4’s ’Time Team and a number of Universities. The work was undertaken in partnership with the Museum of London Archaeology. The company will remain at the site until 2015 returning the park to its former state.
Lee, a former St Theodore's pupil, said: “Typically, when creating a new sports surface for the cross country we would expect to excavate the area and build a whole new soil structure, irrigation system and put grass over it so we know it's perfect, but that wasn't possible. “We had to think of ingenious ways of making sure it can hold the most elite horse racing event in the world while protecting the park and it's history. We had to apply our scientific approach to the project.”
Lee's company also created 24 new football pitches for all the teams to train on.
The Burnley fan added: “It has all been an incredible experience.”
Lee also attended Friday night's spectacular opening ceremony.