Bridge seek quick Walton Street return

Sowerby Bridge Cricket Club.
Sowerby Bridge Cricket Club.
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President Tim Helliwell says members of flood-ravaged Sowerby Bridge CC are determined to play on their Walton Street ground at some stage during 2016.

Bridge have been left with a shell of a pavilion and a blackened, damaged pitch in the wake of the Boxing Day deluge, raising fears that they might have to play elsewhere for the whole of next season.

However, Helliwell said the spirits of members had been raised by the tremendous support they had received from fellow cricketers and people in the town.

He confirmed they were in discussions over the use of an alternative pitch to start the season.

“We may not be in the clubhouse this year but we are determined to get on the field at some stage, even if we have to change in portacabins,” he said.

There is an ECB emergency fund to help clubs and the damage at Sowerby Bridge and fellow Spenser Wilson Halifax League clubs Copley, Bridgeholme and Mytholmroyd was assessed by officials in a four-hour tour on Monday.

Dan Musson from the ECB and Ian Mather-Brewster from the Institute of Groundsmen were among the party while Yorkshire CCC chief executive Mark Arthur and captains Andrew Gale and Alex Lees also paid a visit.

Keswick CC is rated the most badly hit club in the north with Sowerby Bridge, where the water came up four feet higher than at any time in recent history, close behind.

Bridge have had to gut their pavilion and have plans for a refit on the existing footprint.

Helliwell said there would be two floors instead of one, utilising the void under the current building.

The lower floor would have the changing rooms and showers but no furniture and could be washed out in the event of future flooding.

The upper level would be above the height of the recent high water level and would include the kitchen, toilets and bar area.

Work on clearing the pitch of debris and mud is set to continue tomorrow and on Sunday from 10am with all assistance gratefully received.

Helliwell said last weekend’s snow and frost had meant the work parties had been deployed elsewhere but the bulk of the debris had been cleared from two thirds of the pitch.

“We have cleared the most important areas. The ground still looks muddy but it is ‘clean mud.’ Now the rubbish has been taken off the grass should grow through the mud.”

Helliwell said Monday’s visitors had been shocked by the extend of the damage but pleased that “we hadn’t sat on our hands and done nothing.”

Some of the clubs visited were given estimates of how much money they might get.

Mytholmroyd, where installing new drains is the main task, and Bridgeholme could be in line for around £15,000 each.

Sowerby Bridge could receive much more while the amount received by Copley, where the lower floor of their pavilion has suffered badly, is believed to be subject to an insurance claim.

Helliwell said Sowerby Bridge had been unable to insure their riverside ground, which is a flood plain, and that water had never come high enough to threaten the pavilion before.

Members had been shocked when they had entered the clubhouse on December 27 . “We were devastated and feared it might be the end of the club,” he said

“But 24 hours later we had a meeting at the Sportsman at Greetland and the mood was so positive it was untrue.”

Helliwell said the support from the community, local businesses, Halifax League officials and the cricket authorities had been fantastic.

“We also can’t thank the other clubs enough. It is brilliant how people from Jer Lane, SBCI, Denholme Clough, Luddenden Foot and Bridgeholme have joined in the mud clearing.”

Fund raising is in full swing. Around 50 people are expected to take part in a sponsored walk from the Jer Lane to Triangle clubs on Sunday, February 7.

A 250-seat dinner at the Shay on February 20, when there will be a band and an auction, is already sold out.

Helliwell added: “2016 will be a difficult year but we definitely intend to be starting the season in mid-April.”