Another day, another Yorkshire cricket story, only this time it has nothing to do with events at Headingley and everything to do with a very different type of dark cloud.
Of the three storms to hit the UK over the past week – Dudley, Eunice and Franklin – it is Franklin that has done the most damage to clubs, due to the huge volume of rain that has barrelled down, especially in the north of the country, specifically in Yorkshire. Early Yorkshire club casualties include Bradford & Bingley, Ilkley CC, Olicanian, Horbury Bridge, Mytholmroyd, Bridgeholme and Greetland.
Horbury Bridge is entirely underwater, flooding on Sunday evening. The club president Danny Terry found out around midnight when the landlord of the pub that sits on the corner of the cricket field phoned him to say the River Calder had topped the bank and was flowing on to the field.
“It currently looks like a reservoir,” he says, “a metre of water over the entire playing surface. And the square is what we’re worried about most of all – the outfield is not a real concern. We spend a lot of money at the end of each season to make the square ready for the next season, doing the prep work, and now all that work and money has been written off. When the flood water recedes we’ll have to look at a recovery plan which will cost a considerable amount of money. We’re particularly worried about invasive plants, like moss, that come with the flooding.
“I’ve been involved in the club for more than 15 years and only in the last five years has the playing surface been underwater – this year and last year.”
Last year’s flood happened at around the same time, but the club started the season on the button thanks to Wakefield Metropolitan District council pumping the water away. Terry hopes that the council will help them again.
“We’re not allowed to pump the water out of the field ourselves and if we just have to wait for the sun to shine, that’s where the risk is, if it doesn’t recede enough for us to start the season in mid-April.”
But whereas the Horbury Bridge clubhouse is safe because it is set on slightly higher ground, things are different at Ilkley, close to the River Wharfe. Henry Wilson, the first team captain, is down at the ground alongside Look North, who are filming the damage.
“Obviously with the weather we had on Sunday, we were nervous,” he says, “with the River Wharfe rising. We’ve now been flooded four times in the last six years. Last year, after the flood, we built a perimeter wall around the clubhouse in the hope that it would avoid water getting in in the future. Unfortunately, you don’t know if it has worked until you’ve had another flood, and the water got over the wall and came through the drains. There’s probably three or four feet of water in the clubhouse: in the carpets, up the walls, in the fridges. The carpets will have to be taken up again and replaced.”
“We are insured. We’re hopeful. Most of the water has drained away from the ground, leaving just large puddles. The ground needs clearing of debris and leaves, then hopefully nature will take its course. “
“Like lots of sports clubs, we rely on a willing team of volunteers, we’re very fortunate to have that at Ilkley. So as sad as it is, as heartbreaking as it is, we’ll band together and put the work in.”
Edenfield in Lancashire and Hadleigh in Suffolk are also casualties and any clubs near the swollen Severn are at risk. Worcestershire CCC is under water again, 4.5 metres on Monday with levels expected to peak on Wednesday. After so many previous floods – nine in the past two winters – the club hadn’t been flooded during this off-season and the ground had been looking in spanking condition. Although no players’ cars have been washed away from the car park this time around – everyone has now learned their lesson once the flood warnings come – it is currently impossible to get into the pavilion. Kidderminster, Worcestershire’s reserve ground, will be on high alert, with that first game at HQ against Sussex less than nine weeks away.
The England and Wales Cricket Board has been contacted by dozens of clubs who have been hit by flood and storm damage – with some unable to afford insurance after repeated flooding – and their flooding advice is now on the front page of their website.
This is the eighth major flooding event to hit cricket in England and Wales since 2007. The most damaging storms were Desmond and Eva in 2015-16, which affected 58 clubs, and resulted in the ECB paying out £3m. Even last year, 38 clubs sought support from the ECB’s emergency pot. Other money is available through the County Grants Fund, which can help clubs become more flood resilient (as well as drought resilient and provide help with energy saving and water management)
Although it is hard to link the frequency or intensity of storms to the climate crisis, the number of extreme weather events has increased and will continue to do so. As Dr Ella Gilbert from the University of Reading told BBC News: “We don’t know if we will see more storms in the future as the climate warms but what we do know is that climate change increases the impact of these sorts of storms, particularly when we get so many so close together … so they add up to be greater than the sum of their parts.”
Cricket has been warned. Again.