Todmorden Cricket Club
by David Markham
Todmorden Cricket Club have one of the busiest league cricket grounds in the north with a heavy programme of matches managed by a team of four volunteer groundsmen.
Besides 26 Lancashire League matches at first and second team level, a senior third team and three junior teams, Todmorden have also been host to a two-day pre-season practice match for Lancashire, a two day Lancashire v Yorkshire under-19s match. They are looking forward to the main event of the season, a three-day county second team match between Yorkshire and Surrey.
To make life even more difficult this year, the volunteer groundstaff, Nevil Sutcliffe, Richard Crossland, Paul Montague and Alan Fiddling have been hampered by a wet summer following an unseasonably dry April.
At one stage the ground was under water before they embarked on a hectic four days spell of cricket - two league matches followed by the under-19s match, but it quickly recovered and now the groundstaff are hoping the dry weather prevails for the three day county second team match.
There has always been confusion in some places as to whether Todmorden is in Yorkshire or Lancashire and, until the 1880s the county boundary line ran through the ground. It was possible to bowl in Yorkshire and bat in Lancashire.
Now the whole town is in Yorkshire but, with the boundary not far away, it is a natural venue for Roses matches.
Nevil Sutcliffe and Richard Crossland who gave a joint interview to Pitchcare said: "It has been a horrendous season because of the excessively wet weather.
For the first time we can remember we were watering wickets in April. Normally, we are fighting to keep the water off. Since May the weather has been dire."
Before the weekend of July 13-14, Todmorden had failed to complete their senior fixtures on seven occasions. There have been 26 days of rain in June.
"For a league club we have got some of the best covering around, with three mobile covers and sheeting. We are able to cover nine of our 12 pitches and, because of that, we can put on games when other people can't. We can keep the square dry, but the outfield is a different matter."
A heavy programme of matches has hampered preparations for the three-day match and the groundsmen admit: "It is a juggling act."
While they keep it dry and protected under a mat, they also want to keep it moist to help with the rolling.
"We try to keep the pitch moist to help rolling. We don't want the ball to dry out too quickly. If we get dew on the pitch we roll that in as well."
One of their continuing problems concern pigeons. "We have awful problems with pigeons and if we don't cover the seeds with germination sheets they`ve gone. We can't put seeds down unless we cover them."
Todmorden have two rollers and they have special pride and affection for one of them in particular - a Greens two-ton roller originally manufactured for Nottinghamshire in 1950.
"They reckoned it was too heavy for them so they sold it to us. We had a 50th 'birthday party' for the roller two years ago when Northants came here for a Yorkshire second team match. We decorated it with balloons!"
They also have a three hundred weight roller. Two years ago they bought a new Allet wicket cutter; they cut the outfield with a 30 inch Ransomes mastiff.
Todmorden have a good range of machinery at their disposal - a Sisis hydromain mini-tractor with spiker, slitter and brush attachments, and a sarrel roller with small spikers which helps the water to seep into the surface and also helps to plant seeds.
"We also have a small scarifier, but we would like a larger scarifier such as a Sisis rotor rake.
One of our biggest problems on the square is growing grass. We embarked on a policy of using Surrey loam. We were advised to use it by the Sports Turf Research Institute in Bingley.
The pitches are better in terms of pace and bounce, but it is difficult to grow grass. Visiting teams always admire our surface, but we cannot get the grass cover we would like.
We also have a problem with 'twitch' grass on the outfield. We keep trying to scarify it, but we haven't got the equipment to do the job properly. We bring in an outside company to scarify the outfield every year, but that isn't sufficient to keep the 'twitch' grass at bay under prevailing conditions.
Currently, we are in a programme of sanding the outfield - we have been doing that for six years. Our ground is low lying and in 1982 we suffered from a horrendous flood, which left us with a lot of silt. Since then we have had the problem of getting the water through to the drains. So, we are trying to improve the nature of the subsoil so that it drains better.
The Sports Turf Research Institute advised us that to make any difference we had to put on 50 tons of sand per acre. So far we have put on about 260 tons in total and, over the years, it has made a difference.
We are halfway through the programme of sanding. The drains are there - it is a question of getting the water from the ground and into the drains."