0 Saltaire Cricket Club

Saltaire CC

By David Markham

Saltaire is a Victorian industrial village near Shipley in West Yorkshire's Bronte Country. A World Heritage site, the village was built in the nineteenth century by the philanthropist Sir Titus Salt, to provide self-contained living space for the workers at his woollen mills.

The mill itself has now been converted into the "1853 Gallery" which houses a collection of the works of the famous artist, David Hockney, who was born in nearby Bradford.

As a World Heritage site the village receives protection from development and modern day influences which may damage the character of the area. Not the case, unfortunately, for the local cricket club.

No sooner had the Open Championship started at Muirfield than the local kids were hacking away at Roberts Park, the home of Saltaire Cricket Club.

That's nothing new for the Bradford League club, for repairing golf divots is a constant problem for Groundsman Billy Ricketts.

Roberts Park is one of the most picturesque grounds in the district, but being a public park the threat of vandalism is never far away.

Billy said: "We were plagued by vandalism at the start of the season. Today we have had the golfers and the divots are all over the outfield and on the square.

School truants have played football on the pitch, smashed furniture in the pavilion, damaged the locks on the sightscreens and pushed them over and thrown stones all over the place, but it has been getting better recently.

We have had fewer problems with the kids since we made a pact with them but, sadly, there are horrendous problems of drugs and under age drinking in the park. Our biggest problem is with school truants during the day."

Despite his problems, Billy manages to turn out a good standard wicket, "It is extremely difficult to prepare good pitches, but we have fared better since we managed to buy a new roller.

We used to use a 1937 Greens roller which needed repairing. However, we couldn't get parts for it, so, we paid £1,500 for a Bomag tarmac two ton roller. We can increase the weight to five tons with a vibrator attachment and our pitches have been a lot better since then.

I`ve got a tractor with gang mowers to cut the outfield with and that is paying dividends. Unfortunately, we cannot use covers because of vandalism - the vandals would take them!

One of our biggest problems is keeping the pitches damp. Our ground is next to the River Aire. The water table is so low that no matter how much water we put on the ground the pitches are rock hard. The water soaks through and goes straight into the river.

In fact, our ground drains so quickly that it can be under water at 10am and you can be playing cricket at 1.30pm. What I tend to do is flood the pitch at night and then my colleague Julian Young rolls it in the morning.

The pitches have been playing really well recently and scores of well over 200 in 50 overs are commonplace now. We have so much junior cricket during the week that we often don't have enough time to prepare them, but changing work patterns have helped to give me more time to spend at the cricket ground."

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