MJ Abbott

Construction of pitches at new High Performance Centre

Bristol Bears Rugby


World class high performance training facility

Having previously trained at Clifton Rugby Club, Bristol Bears Rugby began construction of their new world class high performance training facility in 2019.

Located near Failand in southwest Bristol, the 23-acre site includes new club buildings, a half size indoor pitch, two external full size hybrid carpet pitches and an external synthetic training grid.

Local Bristol company, Beard Construction Ltd secured the club buildings contract and Collinson Construction Ltd were contracted to build the new indoor dome and pitch facility.

MJ Abbott successfully tendered the external sports works project designed by PSD (Professional Sportsturf Design), and work on the pitches started in July 2019.

Project challenges

Previous landfill site

The site had previously been landfilled and capped off by a local earthworks contractor. The pitch and building plateaus were created on what was a very steep piece of ground.

Nathan George, MJ Abbott’s Contracts Director, comments: “Comprising inconsistent landfill materials, capped with indigenous heavy clay and rock, from start to completion, the ground conditions presented an almost daily challenge for our guys to overcome”.

The initial key to the success of this project was to find and protect the buried layer of pozidrain, which formed part of the landfill contractor’s scope of works. This important layer is installed to remove water and liquids from the landfill.

Our approach

Strategic cut off drainage

Following a detailed site investigation to better understand the ground conditions, work began to create the desired pitch levels and to achieve positive drainage outfalls complete with strategic cut off drainage.

Establishing positive drainage outfalls was paramount to the success of this project. Levels of precipitation in this area can be high so it was essential to remove water as quickly as possible to enable works to continue.

Focus was also made in the early stages of the project to construct a suitable site compound and haul roads between pitches.

Our approach

Hybrid carpet pitches

Following the initial cut and fill earthworks and drainage work, MJ Abbott completed the following scope of works:

  • Installation of post sockets, main and lateral pitch drainage, pitch irrigation systems complete with geotextile lining to all trenches and the sub base
  • Installation of 125mm depth of 2-6mm gravel raft, 200mm depth of lower sand rootzone and 50mm depth of upper rootzone complete with nutrient retentive amendments
  • Installation of HERO™ Hybrid Carpet Pitch system
  • Installation of ducting and pitch floodlights to 1 No pitch
  • Landscape and shaping to pitch/building surrounds, installation of further primary & secondary drainage, preparation and seeding of all landscaped areas.

Our approach - continued

Synthetic training grid

The scope of works continued as follows:

  • Installation of main and lateral pitch drainage, geotextile lining to all trenches and the sub base, installation of concrete perimeter kerbs, installation of stone sub base
  • Installation of macadam layer to create fully engineered base and 3G synthetic turf system comprising shock pad and sand/rubber infill
  • Landscape perimeters including seeding where appropriate
  • Installation of a 4G embankment between building and pitch level changes complete with steps where required.

Following successful completion of works and handover from seed, the client under the expert leadership of head of grounds Dan Sparks and senior groundsman Chris Fox, grew the pitches in and maintained to achieve match conditions until first usage.

Charles Henderson of PSD made regular monitoring visits during construction and provided ongoing agronomic support during the grow-in.


“The best in the world”

Bristol Bears moved into their new state of the art facility in Summer 2020, in time for the start of the new Premiership Rugby season.

The new high performance centre was described as “the best in the world” by director of rugby Pat Lam.

In October 2020, Bristol Bears Rugby lifted their first-ever European trophy with an impressive victory over Toulon in the Challenge Cup final.

Following handover in 2020, the pitches have been successfully renovated each year by County Turf.

MJ Abbott maintained a successful client relationship with the Bears owners Bristol Sport, going on to construct a number of pitches for Bristol City Football Club’s new training ground.