16th August 2019

ORGANISED SPORT IN PARKS: A long innings

This week's Summer of Parks spotlight shines on Sherwood Cricket Club in Kent, who have used Fields in Trust protection to secure their home ground and ensure organised sporting activity in Rochester is safeguarded for future generations.

Sherwood Cricket Club is based in Rochester, Kent and play at the "SCG" - Sherwood Cricket Ground. But it was a tough journey before they could finally call their ground "home". Over many years the club struggled to find a fixed location and to secure the space for long-term use. However, the SCG is now protected with Fields in Trust as a Queen Elizabeth II Field, giving Sherwood Cricket Club the security and re-assurance that it will remain a local hub for the community for generations to come.

A nomadic club

Sherwood Cricket Club was established by residents and friends of the Sherwood estate in 1965. However, without a home pitch, the club spent the next 20 years moving between several different recreation grounds until finally setting up an agreement with a utility company who offered a ten-year lease on some abandoned sports pitches. It was reported at the time that the grass on the wicket area was four feet high and "...it took an expedition to find the square". There was an old wooden building which served as changing rooms, but no showers and very basic tea-making facilities.

A momentous task was undertaken to not only clear the area and make it playable, but also to ensure the grounds would stay home to Sherwood Cricket Club. By the early '90s, the lease for the grounds was due for renewal and it was here that the real fight began to keep the cricket ground available for the community. The landowner had plans to use the space for housing development but following local objections to the council it was agreed that parts of the ground must remain a sports field.

A huge community fundraising effort gained support for the project and with this, alongside bank loans, Sherwood Cricket Club raised sufficient funds to purchase the site - the SCG was safe for now. Owning their own land, the cricket club could now take on the task of creating a more suitable clubhouse, which was designed by one of the club members, who oversaw the whole building process.

Protecting the pitch

Although the club now owned the grounds and had built a new clubhouse, there was still a lingering concern that the SCG might be vulnerable to loss for housing development. With this and its nomadic history in mind, the club applied to secure their financial and community investment and protect the space with Fields in Trust as part of the Queen Elizabeth II Fields Challenge. Club committee member Simon Preston explains "it gave us peace of mind that the field will stay protected; you always see on the news that they're trying to build on fields and the Fields in Trust protection ensures that, even if Sherwood did cease to exist as a cricket club, the grounds will continue to be there for the community to use for sport, play or other social events".

Whilst first and foremost a cricket club, SCG is also home to several youth football teams who use their pitches. Simon says the club is not just about sport, but also offers a local space for play and community activity: "The SCG encourages the community, across all ages, to get involved in sport and offers those who are no longer able to play the opportunity to get involved whether it be by helping run the bar, serving teas and coffees or keeping scores. It keeps them part of the team atmosphere".

SCG doesn't just have a focus on sport but is also a crucial part of the local community with the clubhouse providing valuable facilities for local activity. From training courses, firework displays, local company meetings, to use as a polling station and for residents group meetings, the SCG fulfils the function of a vital hub to the local community.

Local heritage

Having been founded over five decades ago, Sherwood Cricket Club has a rich history and Simon is proud of the heritage: "The club is here today because of the community and the efforts of past members, and it's therefore always been - and continues to be - important to SCG that the community have access to grounds for sport, play and communal facilities. Fields in Trust's protection safeguards this and means that all the hard work of members past, present and future, will not have gone to waste: it will continue to be a hub of the local community".

Moreover, protecting the site with Fields in Trust helps when applying for grants or loans by providing security and reassurance that the investment is worthwhile because the space has a secure future. Simon notes that "this is a great benefit to SCG, especially as we're looking to extend and improve facilities". He continues, "It's not just about protecting the land but also gives clubs, grounds and playing fields opportunities to better and enhance the land for the community. Thanks to Fields in Trust, Sherwood Cricket Club has preserved the club's past, but more importantly has protected its future".

 


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