A Newcastle community cricket club is aiming to be a cut above the rest after taking delivery of a new mower.
Benwell & Walbottle Cricket Club had been looking at ways of replacing its existing grass cutter, which was more than 20 years old and which has required increasing amounts of repair and maintenance over the last few years to keep it going.
After securing a £5,000 grant from North East property, mining and renewable energy firm The Banks Group, the club has purchased a new machine which will help the team of volunteers that looks after its ground carry out their work much more quickly when the new season eventually gets underway.
And because it comes with a range of different settings and accessories, the cutter can be used for preparing both the pitch and the outfield.
Benwell & Walbottle Cricket Club is based in the grounds of Walbottle Campus Technology College and its three senior teams compete in the Northumberland & Tyneside Senior League.
It also runs three popular junior teams, at under nine, eleven and thirteen level, and aims to provide a pathway into senior cricket for local young players as they progress through the ranks.
In addition to this, it had around 40 local children taking part in regular Tuesday night Cricket All Stars sessions last season, as part of the England and Wales Cricket Board’s national drive to introduce more children aged between five and eight to the game.
The cricket club is an integral part of the recently-formed Sporting Club Walbottle, which is a partnership organisation that has been created between Walbottle Campus school, several other sports clubs and the Local Education Authority.
Alan Squires, treasurer at Benwell & Walbottle Cricket Club, says: “Our old cutter has been on its last legs for quite a while and we’ve had to do a lot of patching up just to keep it going, which added to the time that our members already spend on getting the ground ready for practice and play.
“The new cutter is a real step up on what we had – it’s far quicker and more efficient, and because it’s also much more adjustable, we can use it to prepare our pitches as well as the outfield, which will significantly ease the workload that our volunteers take on every week.
“Offering the right kind of playing facilities is an important part of encouraging young players to start and keep playing the game, as well as enabling them to develop the skills and techniques that will allow them to progress.
“Paying out this amount in one go would have been a real challenge for a community club like ours and we would have had to have kept struggling on with the old cutter if we’d not been able to get Banks’ support.”
The Banks Group is a longstanding supporter of both professional and amateur cricket around its home region, sponsoring Durham Cricket’s youth development squads, six cup competitions run across the region by the North East Premier League and Northumberland County Cricket Club.
The family-owned firm is also the developer of a number of residential property and renewable energy projects in the region, and is currently looking to develop the Dewley Hill surface mine on agricultural land to the north of the nearby A69 Throckley junction, which will provide a new £50,000 community fund for local good causes and a £50,000 skills fund to help local unemployed people overcome barriers to work.
Jeannie Raine, community relations manager at The Banks Group, adds: “North East cricket had a major boost last summer through the high profile successes of Ben Stokes and Mark Wood, and we hope this grant will give the youngsters at Benwell & Walbottle Cricket Club the best possible chance of following in their heroes’ footsteps.
“All our projects are designed to bring a range of benefits to the communities in which they’re based and we have an unmatched track record of delivering facilities improvements right across our home region.”
Anyone interested in applying for funding should first contact the fund manager for The Banks Community Fund at the County Durham Community Foundation via firstname.lastname@example.org or on 0191 378 6342 before applying for a grant to check if their group or project is eligible.