Claire Perry opens Burbage's much needed new cricket ground - and bowls over-arm
On a fine Friday evening (June 19), Claire Perry MP opened Burbage and Easton Royal Cricket Club's new Glebe Ground at East Sands - by bowling the first ball on its freshly laid all-weather wicket.
She told the assembled junior players - many of their 110 registered juniors - and parents that her son had warned her that on such an important occasion she could not bowl under-arm. And she duly produced a pretty straight over-arm delivery to under-eleven club member Daisy Franklin.
Mrs Perry also cut a blue ribbon and, with some helpers, cut the inaugural cake - and that came complete with an icing picture of the Glebe Ground and its tree. Joining Mrs Perry to congratulate the club was Chris Sheppard, Chairman of Wiltshire Cricket.
It has been a long and costly slog to get to this auspicious opening. Seven years ago, as Chairman Marek Grabowski explained: "The club was going down hill - like many other village clubs. Then we devised a plan of action." It was an ambitious plan.
With only their established Red Lion Ground they could not offer enough cricket for the full range of teams and coach young players. As it was, the third team had to use a pitch eleven miles away at Marden for their 'home' fixtures.
So they started the four-and-a-half-year-long process to make the adjacent field into their second pitch. It is a 'glebe' field belonging to the Diocese of Salisbury. They faced opposition from the parish council - worried about increased traffic - and also from some nearby residents.
But Wiltshire Council planning committee sided unanimously with the cricket club and gave permission for change of use from agricultural land. Then they hit the problem of compensating the farmer who was leasing the field from the Diocese. Those negotiations took so long that the planning permission ran out and they had to start again.
They finally settled with the farmer - paying him £8,000.
Why did the celebratory cake include a miniature tree? Glebe Ground has a unique feature - a beautiful oak tree large enough to hide a king and quite close to the new artificial wicket. It stands at about mid-wicket - if the batsman is facing bowling from the village end. The rules for playing around this feature are simple - if you strike the ball and it hits the tree you get two runs.
It is almost appropriate that there is still a 'boundary dispute' going on at the edge of Glebe Field. But that is not something the Club is involved with and they can carry on without that dispute being solved.
With help from members, volunteers, local builders and ground workers, they have created a new pitch - and spent about £10,000 in the process. With new nets opened in 2013 and costing £30,000 - they do a lot of fund raising.
Their plan and their investment in time and money is paying off. This season the first team has so far won three, tied one, lost two and had one game cancelled. The second eleven are second in their league, the third team top of theirs and the fourth team are...well, they are not fourth in theirs...yet.
Last month their 1st Xl coach Paul (Stoddy) Stoddard won the ECB Wiltshire Award for Coach of the year. He will be going to the Cardiff Ashes Test Match to be presented with his award. As the club website put it: "Great work Stoddy!"
To see the advantages of looking after junior training and junior teams, look no further than first team captain Tom Wallbridge. He played for the club as a junior and is now in his fourth season as captain.
The Club's overseas player for the season is Luke Woodcock - a New Zealand international player who plays regular first class cricket with Wellington.
They have now achieved at least one of their ambitions: they have young players playing under the various levels of starter rules and a full complement of adult teams. They would dearly love to have a ladies team - if they could find enough local players...perhaps when these juniors are old enough...
Their inclusive training policy brought them great success last season: their first team were champions of the West of England Premier League's Wiltshire Division. Their third eleven were champions of the Wiltshire County Division Six. Their Under-15s were champions of Wiltshire Youth County Division Two. And the Under-11s were champions of Wiltshire Youth County Division Two South.
Burbage and Easton Royal is accredited by Sport England's Clubmark scheme - which shows that a club is properly run and provides the right environment and ensures the welfare of members. And to prove the point we meet Sue Milne the club's welfare officer.
They are especially keen to bring on young players - giving all abilities the chance to play. In the past six years they have gone from 30 to 110 registered junior players. Certainly on the two evenings this reporter has been there, the two grounds and the nets are abuzz with different levels of keen young hopefuls and half a dozen and more volunteer coaches.
And as club chairman Marek Grabowski told Marlborough News Online, it is not just about the sport: "There's real evidence that young cricketers are least likely to become young offenders."
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