Lanhydrock House in Cornwall is presented as the perfect Victorian country house, as it was remodelled in the 1880s following a destructive fire. The property is far older than its Arts and Crafts interiors suggest, having been built in the Jacobean period. After the devastation of the 1881 fire, Lanhydrock became a happy family home, lived in by Thomas Charles and Mary Agar-Robartes and their children, until, like so many others, their lives were shattered by the First World War.
Now owned by the National Trust, the house and estate offer a fascinating glimpse into Victorian life and a home to Lanhydrock Cricket Club for over one hundred and fifty years.
Situated just south of Bodmin, where the A38 comes up from Plymouth to join the A30, Lanhydrock is about as central Cornwall as you can get, being pretty much equidistant from Padstow on the north coast and Fowey on the south.
"Lanhydrock Cricket Club is one of the most picturesque in Cornwall," states Head Groundsman John Trethewey. "We are very proud of our square and the wickets we provide."
John is a retired china clay worker who lives just outside Bodmin. He has been involved with the club since his boys started playing as youngsters ten years ago. "Then, in about 2008, I started helping the then groundsman, Brian Read. As he has grown older I have now taken over, although he still helps out when he can," John confirms.
"During the cricket season, I do nearly all the work on the ground, although I do get some help from the lads! My wife Sheila has been treasurer since 2008. She has also been chairperson and is currently vice chair. She also runs the bar - purchasing all bar stock - and makes the tea 'every' week. Our middle son, Thomas, is captain of the first team, and also club captain, and our youngest son, Jack, is also in the first team, so it's a bit of a family affair!"
"We are one of the oldest cricket clubs in Cornwall. We lease land from the National Trust and are right next to Lanhydrock House car park."
"A few years ago the club nearly folded but, with new committee members on board, we have gone from strength to strength and 2014 was a splendid year for the club. We have two senior teams who, last season, were in divisions 4 and 6 East in the Cornwall League."
"The first team consists of mostly youngsters; nearly all in their twenties ... but with a couple of more mature players!"
"The first celebration last year was when the club won the Rosevear Cup in July. Then, only losing one game all season, the first team won the East Cornwall Division 4 league (another cup). The real celebration came when we beat the winners of West Cornwall Division 4. So a triple win for us. So, this year, we are in Division 3 East. We are looking forward to the new season and maybe the 2nd team can earn promotion as well."
"We also have juniors ranging from six to fifteen. Some of the older ones have started playing senior matches. They are the future of Lanhydrock Cricket Club. Most of the first team started in the juniors and have stuck with the club."
One senses John has immense pride in what the club provides for the local community, and there is little doubt that this is what drives him to produce such good wickets and present the ground to such a high standard.
"Machinery-wise, we have a Toro Greensmaster 3200D for cutting the outfield, and an old John Deere 220A for keeping the wicket trimmed, but this machine desperately needs replacing," he confesses. "We also have a Cub Cadet RH1200 for general tidying up and a scarifier powered by an Intek 206. Another handy gadget, which we had a grant for, is the Super Sopper, which is not used quite so much now we have mobile covers! And a very old roller, which is so ancient I can't find the maker's name on it."
"Last year, we managed to buy the mobile covers on credit, which have been a great help and a lot easier for me to roll on and off when the weather is wet rather than dragging on and off flat sheet covers, which I used to do with the tow hitch of my car."
"We are in desperate need of a new wicket mower as we have always made do with secondhand. Hopefully, this year when we have paid off the covers, we can purchase a new Dennis mower with two cassettes in the same way, this will also make our life easier with more options."
"We are fortunate that the National Trust regularly cut the grass around the rest of the ground. They are also responsible for the trees etc."
"The square is Mendip loam and has seven playing wickets and three practice wickets. As I am retired, and the main groundsman, I spend most of my time in the season working out at the club, although I do still have some help from Brian when he is able to. I also have the assistance, from May onwards, of my youngest son Jack when he is home from university. He is a great help. Some of the other players help out when they can, especially on a Saturday before a match. As we have two teams, we have a home league match every Saturday during the season. We also have friendlies - usually a weekday - against touring sides; some teams are regulars, coming every year."
John goes on to explain that the square is fed with Everris Greenmaster Pro-Lite - Spring Summer 14:5:10 and Autumn 6:5:10, which they currently get from a local supplier in Hayle. "We get discount as I am a member of the Cornwall Groundsman Association," he confirms.
"In September, after we have finished all our matches, we hire in the county's Channel 4 trailer for a day to renovate the square.
There's a scarifier to scarify the wicket and a spreader for the grass seed, loam and fertiliser. We had perfect weather for doing this; the sun was shining and we even had to dampen the square to keep the dust down. We had help from some of the lads. It was a long day, but we got the square scarified, loamed, fertilised and seeded."
"We also use this day to put the club to bed for the winter. We used to have to take down large boundary nets that protect the public in the car park from flying sixes but, in 2013, the National Trust made a new cycle trail and built a new cafe and, as we were concerned about people being injured, they managed to get a grant to put up longer and higher nets which are not only permanent, but save us a tedious job in winter and spring."
"In the autumn, we usually aerate the square again with a hired machine from the county. Unfortunately, due to circumstance, we were not able to do this last year but, at the time of writing, are hoping to get this done at the end of January, weather permitting.
Because the autumn was so warm down here, I had to cut the new grass several times before it cooled down and stopped growing. So we must have done a good job!"
"I also keep the clubhouse in order, usually during the winter. If needed, I decorate and do running repairs, but have not needed to do much this winter as we managed to keep it in good order. We have a work day before the start of the season, which is connected with the NatWest Cricket Force weekend, where we 'wake up' the clubhouse etc. and get ready for the season."
"We have a couple of biggish jobs we need to do in the next couple of years. Firstly, the relaying of the drains that run down the side of the square as these are currently only soakaway drains which have been steadily squashed over the years by the roller."
"Secondly, our outfield is mostly moss! This will be quite a major undertaking and may have to be done in stages, but will improve the outfield considerably."
All work at the club is voluntary and all funds have to be raised through match fees, bar income and fund raising. "We would love to improve our facilities, but funding seems very hard to come by. We have applied twice for funding for permanent outdoor training nets, but both times have been turned down. It seems the bigger clubs are in more need of 'more' money than us small village clubs! Hence why we have to get things on credit! But the club is going from strength to strength and, maybe one day, we will lucky and get some funding. It would be good to be able to extend the changing rooms, have a girls/umpire changing room and a bigger machinery shed."
"Here's to our dreams."
FOOTNOTE: An unheard of event happened in 2014 when John and his wife took time out of the cricket season ("usually I don't like to leave the cricket club during the season!"), when they went on a much deserved two week cruise with friends to Norway. It was there that John took the photo, which was the overall winner of Pitchcare's 2014 Photo Gallery competition, whilst going up a fjord to Andalsnes. "Our friends joked as we took over 3,000 pictures, but if you don't take any you might miss the good one, and this was one of the really good ones taken on a Nikon Coolpix P510."