Badgers stop play! Historic cricket club cancels season before it begins after protected animals tear pitch to pieces
Manicured grass of Rickmansworth Cricket Club has been totally shreddedClub officials are powerless to stop the animals which are protected by lawThey say they can't afford to re-turf it so don't know when they'll play again
15:28 GMT, 4 April 2013
01:00 GMT, 5 April 2013
For more than 200 summers, the sound of leather on willow has echoed around Rickmansworth Cricket Club.
Not this year. The club, one of the oldest in England, has had to suspend play following an unprecedented pitch invasion – by a colony of badgers.
The animals have ripped up the pristine turf, turning 50 square metres of it into a mudbath.
The usually-manicured grass at Rickmansworth Cricket Club has been destroyed by local badgers
It means the Hertfordshire club,
founded in 1787, cannot start the season. It has had to suspend play
indefinitely because badgers are a protected species, so members can do
little to get rid of them.
They can only watch helplessly as the
animals rip up the historic ground. In 1882 it hosted the Australian
team that nine days later beat England at the Oval, the defeat which
gave rise to the Ashes.
Chairman Mark Raine said: ‘I’ve been
at the club for 25 years and never seen anything like this before. We
estimate that around 50 square metres of the pitch has been damaged by
the badgers and because they are protected by law we are totally
helpless to stop them.
‘The pitch looks more like the Battle
of the Somme as it is covered in huge holes and mounds of earth. It
looks like someone has turned up with a mortar and tried to trash it.’
Game, sett and match to the badgers: Club officials believe a colony of the protected mammals is to blame
Happier times: This photograph shows how it used to look before the badgers staged their pitch invasion
It's just not cricket: Rickmansworth Cricket Club secretary Paul Blackwell shows the damage that's been done
The badgers are believed to have been attracted to the turf by crane flies, which lay their larvae in the grass.
Usually the club sprays the ground to
clear the insects, but it was too cold to do so this year. The treatment
only works at temperatures of 8C to 12C (46F to 54F).
Under the Protection of Badgers Act
1992 it is illegal to kill, injure or disturb badgers or to destroy
their setts. Mr Raine said: ‘Apparently the badgers really like the
larvae and they have been tearing up large swabs of the ground in
search of them.
Rickmansworth Cricket Club played against the England team in 1882 on its pitch – and won
This team photograph dating back to 1938 shows how the pitch has always been kept in perfect condition
‘We have bought some sonic alarms to
try to frighten them away, but they are proving totally inadequate and
we are powerless to do anything else.
‘In the whole history of the club a
game has never been cancelled due to badgers before. The badgers have
churned up so much grass that it looks like we will have to re-turf the
whole pitch, which will be really expensive.
‘At the moment we don’t know when we will ever be able to play on the pitch again.’
The 226-year-old club moved to its present ground, Park Road, halfway through the 19th century.
RICKMANSWORTH CRICKET CLUB: AS OLD AS AUSTRALIA
Founded in 1787 – the same year as the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) – Rickmansworth Cricket Club may date back even further than that, as there are records of games held at the club as far back as 1760.
Initially based at the south end of the town, the cricket club moved first to Rickmansworth Park, now the grounds of the Royal Masonic School for Girls, and then to its present site at Park Road in the middle of the 19th century.
The club owns a well-preserved score book covering the years 1881-1883, and it includes details of the celebrated game between the host side and the England team which Rickmansworth won just days before the Australians beat England at the Oval in the game that gave birth to the Ashes.
The following year, the Australians returned and defeated Rickmansworth by nine wickets.