Work on the cross-country course for the London 2012 Olympics has started in earnest in Greenwich Park.

Specialist contractors from the Sports Turf Research Institute have begun to de-compact, irrigate and reseed the planned path route, using GPS markers to pinpoint their progress.

Equestrian competition manager for the Games Tim Hadaway told H&H:

“Good going is paramount in eventing. We have begun work to improve the turf, which will be ongoing from now until the Olympics.

“We first put down white tufted markers to define the course, then plotted all those points with GPS. This was overlaid on a map of the park and each of the tractors has GPS to allow us to see exactly what work has been done.

“It’s all progressing well and we are glad to have been able to start work as it has taken a while to get to this point.”

But the commencement of work in the park has not pleased everyone.

A Greenwich man appeared in court earlier this month accused of cutting the 100-plus markers showing the path of the cross-country course out of the ground.

Edward Hill, of Creek Road, pleaded not guilty to criminal damage at Woolwich Magistrates Court on 7 October, (bad week, 14 October).

And another local, Rachel Mawhood, has written to the chief executive of the Royal Parks, Mark Camley, claiming that work is “obliterating the rare and protected acid grasslands”.

She also claims a chestnut tree has been damaged by the machinery.

A London organising committee (LOCOG) spokesman said: “We have planning permission for everything that is taking place.”

She added that the chestnut tree had been damaged by the wind, not the turf improvements.

This article was first published in Horse & Hound (21 October ’10)