The storms of February were the straw that broke the camel's back for Dowdeswell Cricket Club as their last remaining 'facility' - their machinery shed - was brought to its knees. So, in pure British Bulldog spirit, the club has relocated to the nearby village of Shipton Oliffe in an attempt to resurrect an unused facility in time for this season.
Groundsman, Ed Robinson, explains how things are progressing and suggests that cricket will be possible this year, thanks to the efforts of the few and sound advice from the Pitchcare message board
In late February 2014, after the particularly wet winter with heavy rain and winds decimating our 'machine shed' at our cricket ground, we decided that enough was enough! The old club was in the very small hamlet of Dowdeswell in the Cotswolds, and had a fairly rich history of village cricket. In the 1990s, however, the cricket stopped being played and the pavilion was torn down and the field left to grow. In around 2007, the club was reformed and started playing cricket there again although, with no facilities at all, it was never going to get very far. As groundsman for Dowdeswell for the last two seasons, it had been an uphill struggle to prepare a track each week, so it was decided that we should look for an alternative ground, which had some facilities available to use.
So, after seven years of banging heads against walls and getting nowhere, the main playing members took up an offer from another local village to restart the cricket club in Shipton Oliffe.
Situated in the heart of the Cotswolds, Shipton Cricket Club has been reformed after a break of around seven years. The club has a long, although slightly patchy, history. The first match - that there seems to be any record of - was in 1914, when a group of married men played a team of single men from the village. There were two large farms in the village, so it was no trouble to find young, fit men who were keen for a game of cricket.
The club won the Cheltenham Challenge Cup in 1924, and has always had a proud history of village cricket.
More recently, the Cotswolds has been the target of second home owners, and some believe this has unfortunately led to a lack of young players coming up through the ranks and creating the strength a club requires to succeed and grow. Unfortunately, village cricket has slowly been on a downward slope, with many clubs being unable to raise a midweek team for friendly fixtures, and only the larger, more established clubs are flourishing.
Shipton Cricket Club has always had the facilities, which have been used on and off over the last twenty years. There is a post second world war pavilion, a kitchen building, including the all-important machine shed, and a changing room which was built 'sometime in the 1960s or 1970s'. The Shipton Sports Field, located between the Shipton Golf Course and infamous Frogmill Inn, was a plot of land owned by the local farmer, and he gave this to the Parish Council so it could be a recreational area for the village.
The Cotswold Classic Car Club started using the pavilion last year and, after the Parish Council organised for it to be rewired, the Car Club did a lot of the work required to get it up to a decent standard again, replacing lots of the rotten wooden shutters, doing various small bits of plumbing and building maintenance and giving it a good paint job! We are working together to improve the other buildings and facilities at the club as the benefits will be there to be enjoyed by all.
There was a local football team which also used the field up until around 2010, when the changing room was broken into and the boiler and pipework stolen. With the high cost of copper, and due to the FA rules regarding hot showers, the football club had to move to a new ground instead of repairing and replacing the stolen items.
This, in turn, led to the field falling into a state of disrepair. The grass was not cut for over a year, and resembled a meadow. Mr Mike Evans, of the adjacent Shipton Golf Course, then took over the mowing duties, slowly working the land back so it was at least suitable for recreational use. With his help, experience and advice we are now slowly working the ground back to a suitable state for cricket.
The outfield was covered in molehills, where around six different mole colonies existed, although a four day trapping period was all that was required for local mole catcher, Charlie Golding Barrett. He caught nine moles in total and is fairly confident that he has them all. Sure enough, one week on there was no visible fresh activity. A cracking job done by a very skilled man!
A message was posted on the Pitchcare message board, entitled "Where to Start?!", and all of the responses from other board members were extremely helpful, encouraging, with different ideas and techniques offered on how to do things. All were gratefully received.
I am not a professional groundsman by any means - far from it! I studied agriculture at Hartpury College and have always loved working outside and being hands on with whatever I do. I am now an electrician; however, it is always nice to get down to the cricket field and do bits and bobs, and preparing the square and outfield in the summer gives me a great sense of achievement and satisfaction. It would be nice to get another young lad to come and give me a hand; someone who finds it as interesting and satisfying as I do.
We have already completed a fairly heavy scarification of the square and it has responded well. The square is located almost exactly where it used to be; we think this, as it is by far and away the flattest piece of the field! There were two large trailer loads of moss and thatch removed, the soil has now dried out and the grass is starting to grow nicely.
Next on the list was the outfield, and the first task was to remove and keep the soil from the molehills, which would then be used to fill in rabbit holes and any mole runs that might collapse. Our Club Captain, James Richardson, will be supplying a compact tractor with front mounted topper and rear mounted harrow to try and get rid of some of the thatch, and level out some of the undulations. This will be followed by a hydraulic brush to clear up the remains, and give us a level to start regular cutting with our gang mowers.
Due to the fact that the club is effectively brand new, we have next to no money to spend, so we have applied to various local authority funding schemes, such as the Gloucestershire Playing Fields Association, to try and aid the set-up of the club, and the regeneration of the field. We have also sent sponsorship letters to around eighty businesses and individuals, all of whom the club members have an association with, or who are involved with Shipton Oliffe in some way. We are hoping that, in this way, along with fundraising events such as a car boot sale, we can raise enough money to get the club up and running.
We also registered for the NatWest Cricket Force event on Sunday 6th April, in a bid to get some much needed money through the Jewson Account Scheme, to do up the kitchen building, which was totally derelict and in need of a good amount of work. We have managed to beg a second hand kitchen, as a friend runs a kitchen company, and various other bits of timber etc., to build storage and shelving for the all important teas. This will hopefully add value to the club as it will enable us to sell refreshments at the other events we are organising.
In terms of machinery, groundsmen, brothers and club vice chairmen, Ed and Charlie Robinson, have acquired various machinery and kit over the years. This includes an Atco Club 20inch mower, with the 10 blade cylinder, to mow wickets. There is also an Atco Royale 24inch, with slinky seat, that is used for the square. For the outfield, we found a very cheap Mountfield Triple-M gang mower on eBay which performed brilliantly last summer at our old club. We also have a set of Dennis trailed gangs, which are currently being sharpened by Dennis expert, Keith Carter, near Swindon.
The one item which we really lack is a good roller! We have a very heavy trailed roller which used to be one half of the very first steamrollers and, at around 1.8m wide, has to be towed by a tractor equipped with turf tyres. We have found an old roller at another local club which we plan to carry out a hydraulic conversion on, as the gearbox has been taken apart and many of the parts lost. This roller would be ideal; however, the money required for the hydraulic conversion is not something the club can afford at the moment.
The club is made up of a core of nine people who form the committee and are all enthusiastic playing members. We have a few other people who have informed us that they are keen to get involved when the season starts, so our pool of players is around the twenty to twenty-five mark.
To start with, we have transferred our fixtures over from the old club and the total number of fixtures comes to twenty-eight, with seventeen home games, most of which are midweek friendlies, but also including two six-a-side competitions. We are also in the process of transferring our entry into the Cotswold District Cricket Association league over to the new club, in their midweek T20 cup.
We hope to keep you updated as the season progresses.
Follow us on Twitter, @shiptoncc, or see our website www.shiptoncricket.co.uk