Bradley Stoke’s Council-owned cricket pitch at Baileys Court could be out of action for months following an unexplained incident in which weedkiller appears to have been applied across all ten wickets.
The damage came to light just over four weeks ago, when staff noticed the grass was starting to die off, and experts brought in by the Council have since confirmed that a “readily available” weedkiller is to blame.
Four of the damaged wickets had been freshly created for the upcoming season, with the Town Council forking out £6,000 for two of them and the cricket club paying for the other two.
Councillors at this week’s meeting of the Leisure, Youth Amenities Committee heard that there was no clear evidence to indicate whether the incident had resulted from vandalism or mismanagement by the company responsible for the ground’s maintenance.
However, the fact that the Council has since “wiped” the cricket part of its contract with the maintenance firm (Classic Landscapes) suggests that Council officers and members suspect the latter.
At Monday’s meeting, Mayor Ben Walker expressed the view that “you wouldn’t expect vandals to do it in a neat rectangle”, adding “we should be getting some recompense for the disaster they [the firm] have imposed upon us”.
Activity Centres Manager John Rendell said the Council had been looking to appoint a replacement contractor for the cricket ground but this has proven difficult because other firms are all extremely busy at this time of the year.
An interim solution has been found by asking the firm that currently looks after the Baileys Court bowling green to take on the cricket ground, although they will only be able to provide cover for two days of the week, leaving cricket club members and Council staff to “muck in” with the remaining tasks.
Attempts to get new grass seed to germinate on the damaged wickets have so far been unsuccessful. If it turns out that the weedkiller used is of a type that persists in the soil, the whole playing surface will have to be renewed, a job that would take months and cost thousands of pounds, added Mr Rendell.
John Connell, proprietor of Classic Landscapes, told The Journal he was “mystified” about how the weedkiller came to be applied to the playing surface. Although he is not personally claiming the incident was the work of vandals, he also refuses to accept any negligence on the part of his company.
The groundsman in question had “put his heart and soul” into the development of the Baileys Court cricket square over many years, said Mr Connell, adding that cross contamination between fertiliser and weed treatment could be ruled out because the firm used separate machines for each. Furthermore, the weedkiller identified by experts as the culprit was not one used by his company.
The Journal invited Bradley Stoke cricket Club to comment but they failed to get back to us by the time this article was published.
According to the club’s website, the first home league matches of the 2012 season are scheduled to be played on Saturday 5th May.
Photo: Happier times at the Baileys Court cricket ground.
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