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The High Peak Cricket Society's Service to Cricket Award, 'The Norman Harris Trophy', for 2007 has been awarded to Whaley Bridge Cricket Club. The Society has requested that Tony Holden receives this trophy on the Club's behalf and the following article leaves no doubt as to why.

Whaley Bridge Cricket Club celebrated its Centenary in 1982. For the majority of its first hundred years it had played its games on what everyone knew to be Whaley Bridge Cricket Ground "Horwich Park".

In the 50s, 60s and early 70s the playing surface at Horwich Park was renowned as being fair, good batsmen prosper but still with something in it for the bowlers. The changing and catering facilities were, through until the early 70s, comparable with many in the Derbyshire and Cheshire League.

The playing surface at Whaley Bridge suffered from the lack of a permanent groundsman in the late 70s. It was only when Tony Holden, who was at first simply there to assist his two sons who had joined the Club, took a grip of matters with the enthusiasm that only Tony Holden can generate, that the playing surface was restored to being as good as it had ever been and possibly better.

Once Tony took over there were never any complaints about the playing surface at Horwich Park. In the last few years he has been very ably assisted by Chris Smith. The changing and catering facilities however were being left behind. Just as the Club were beginning to think about addressing these problems they were struck with double disasters at the end of 1989. Firstly the Chairman IB Wild a "character" known throughout the League died very suddenly at the young age of 52 and secondly storms caused great damage to the existing changing facilities.

The Club resolved that a new Pavilion should be built both in memory of IB and because, quite simply, it was needed. Long years of fund raising ensued. The initial enthusiasm saw 60s nights at the Opera House in Buxton, Sportsmen's Dinners, the continuation of the annual six-a-side, race nights and all manner of fund raising.

Negotiations with the Landlord for the purchase of the ground/extension of the lease were also entered into; the Lease in existence - the first Lease ever obtained by the Club in its hundred year history - was 21 years from 1980. From 1989, when Mr Wild deceased, there appeared to be time with regard to the Lease however as the fund-raising continued and the cost of replacements grew, the length of the Lease was not long enough to secure grant monies that were felt necessary. Fund raising continued and negotiations continued there were times when those involved felt that the end of the road would never be reached.

Funds in excess of 40,000 were built up, purely from the Club's own fund raising. It was felt that, if at all possible, the Club should own its own Ground in order to secure the future of Cricket in Whaley Bridge. Whilst the Landlord of the Club was ever helpful and relations with him remained and remain good, he made it clear that he was not prepared to sell.

The Club's Officials felt it incumbent on them to make efforts to buy ground. Several sites were visited and eventually the Morton family, several of whom had graced Whaley Bridge Cricket Teams, and still do, offered to sell the piece of land that was to become "New Horwich Park".

The Club held an Extraordinary General Meeting at which the Committee recommended purchasing the land. This was passed unanimously and was the point at which light at the end of the tunnel could be seen. There were times when that glimpse of light disappeared again! First of all objections were raised to the land being used as a Cricket Ground. Planning Officers recommended refusal of the application and the first of several personal appearances before the Planning Committee took place. On each and every occasion the Planning Committee has supported the Club and permission for the land to become a Cricket Ground was granted.

Because of the exacting demands of Lottery Funding the Club eventually decided that it could not fulfil the requirements of the Lottery - to give an example, to keep to the standards required would have meant a budget somewhere in the region of 750,000 - the Clubs ability to find 35% was never going to be realistic.

The Club's Officials therefore took the view that they had sufficient monies to pay for the ground to be levelled and turned into a Cricket Ground and took the plunge instructing Contractors to undertake this work in 2003.

Those who are members of High Peak Cricket Society will be well aware that that led to the second battle with protesters and the second appearance before the Planning Committee.

The ground however was levelled, members past present and future took part in the laying of the square over two days at the end of 2003 under the careful eye of Mr Holden who had himself read round the subject, spoken to anyone and everyone involved and was determined that the new square should be every bit as good as the one he and Chris Smith had tended for years at the top of the lane!

Those involved in the laying of the new square will never forget the camaraderie over several generations that shone through throughout that weekend. The ground was then seeded and was tended by Chris and Tony for two years whilst they were also maintaining standards on Horwich Park 1.

In 2005 it was decided that the Club must go for broke and sort out a Pavilion.

Again there were those who were more cautious than others, but spirit of the Club shone through. Tough decisions were taken and work commenced in late summer of 2005 on the building of the new Pavilion. Work was undertaken by Chris Smith, a man who having built Birch Vale's Pavilion is becoming something of the equivalent of Sir Christopher Wren in local Cricket Pavilion building. The project was managed by Tony Holden.

No one at the Club could possibly have done the job that Tony did in cajoling Merchants, friends, neighbours and Members to provide materials, turn up on time, work when they really would rather not and quite simply without Tony's efforts the Pavilion would not have been built.

It was a moment of great pride for all those involved when the IB Wild Memorial Pavilion was opened at Easter 2006 and the 2006 Season was played out in the beautiful setting of New Horwich Park and players took hot showers in the Whaley Bridge Pavilion.

The Club Members are proud of their achievements - they have a long way to go in paying off debts and are certainly not resting on their laurels - but the sight of 70 plus Juniors every Friday night throughout 2006 (and we can report that throughout the Winter there have been a group of under 15s who have attended and played on the ground every weekend and every school holiday including Christmas holidays) is justification for all that has been done.

There are many friends and members of the Club who have contributed hugely to what has happened, none has contributed more in terms of time and effort than Tony Holden and the Society's choice in asking Tony to accept the award on our behalf is one with which the Club wholeheartedly concur.

Many thanks to all the Society Members who have supported us throughout this period and, we hope, will continue to support us.

Thank you.

T Russell Wild (Chairman Whaley Bridge Cricket Club)


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