Tewkesbury have grounds for hope after flood misery

PLAYERS, officials and ground staff will this week be keeping a closer eye than usual on the weather forecast in the hope that Tewkesbury can on Saturday belatedly stage their first home match of the season.

While the vast majority of clubs will be preparing for a fourth weekend of league matches, following on from one or two pre-season friendlies, Gander Lane hopes to finally be ready, for the 2nd XI’s home Gloucestershire County League date against Apperley.

Community clubs across the entire country have this year been battling the weather and wet conditions like never before but it’s fair to say that no one has had more to deal with than Tewkesbury whose low-lying home in the centre of the town has been flooded a remarkable NINE times since October.

Tewkesbury’s ground under water. Image courtesy Martin Goodwin

The first occasion, naturally, came just after an end-of-season re-seed and top dressing of the square.

And so much rain fell between the start of November and the second week of April that officials counted only 12 days when water could not be found pooling on the ground .

To say the last few months have been challenging is an understatement but they’re remarkably resilient here because, as groundsman Dave Allcoat says, they simply have to be.

Tewkesbury, after all, must be one of the few clubs in the country to have a pavilion built on stilts that raise it ten feet off the ground!

Dave said: “I’ve been here 20 years, and you get used to being flooded but the last few months have been challenging. You have to work incredibly hard just to stand still.”

Tewkesbury came to the realisation very early on that starting the season at Gander Lane would be impossible.

But where there’s a will there is often a way, and officials quickly came up with a plan of action to ensure their teams would somehow still be in action.

Tewkesbury Abbey provides a stunning backdrop to the club’s Gander Lane ground

Early season first and 2nd XI fixtures were switched to the club’s second ground at Twyning with director of cricket Mark Tompkins and fixture secretary Gwyn Williams burning the midnight oil to then rearrange 3rd and 4th team games by reversing matches or moving to Sundays.

And, once conditions eased, a dedicated team of ground staff began the painstaking task of bringing Gander Lane back to life, from scraping silt off an artificial wicket to seeding, putting down fertiliser and cutting the outfield with mowers more commonly seen in a back garden.

Dave added: “It was the only way as the ground is still too soft to use a tractor and gang mowers.”

The specialist advice and experience of grounds consultant Graeme Balmer has been particularly crucial in recent months as Tewkesbury can now finally look forward to the rest of the summer with some hope.

There’s absolutely no time to relax, though, as secretary and president Hilary Caudle makes clear.

She said: “We are fortunate to have a good team of volunteers at the club, who all work incredibly hard.”

The club’s bar has been shut for months, cutting off a crucial income stream, making it even more important for established forthcoming fund-raisers such as a golf day, live music weekend and cider festival to be successful.

Hilary added: “We’ve been fortunate to receive some flood-related funding from Sport England and the ECB, but the flooding has made life difficult. It happens a lot here, but this year has been particularly trying.”

With a stretch of dry weather, it is also hoped that youth fixtures – Tewkesbury run two U11s, two U13s and an U15s team – can now be scheduled, as well as hard and soft ball matches for the fast-growing women’s section.

First, though, everything is crossed that the 2nds will be able to face Apperley on Saturday.

Main image: Hilary Caudle with Dave Allcoat

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