ROLLING hills, a friendly atmosphere, and a fantastic community hub are all things that you can expect with a visit to Long Lee Cricket Club.

Located on the footpath to St Ives Estate from the village of Thwaites Brow, Golden View cricket ground is aptly named, with spectators treated to magnificent scenery and able to see as far as Ingleborough on a clear day.

Surrounded by the fields of a local farm, the club’s ‘cow corner’ is as such, with shots frequently causing fielders, and unsuspecting members of the public, to hop across the wall to retrieve a cricket ball that has been hit for six.

The club pride themselves on supporting the local community and was instrumental in the installation of the village’s first defibrillator outside the Dickie Bird pub (opened by the renowned umpire himself) in February 2020, a cause close to the players’ hearts after one of their teammates suffered a heart attack on the cricket pitch in 2015.

And when the coronavirus lockdown hit just weeks later to halt the upcoming cricket season, Long Lee put their facilities to good use to help the locals, as committee member Richard Ayrton explains.

“Throughout 2020, when the restrictions allowed, the ground was used most days,” he said.

“We were aware of how the pandemic limited sports and impacted the wellbeing of others, and when we were approached by local groups to use the pitch to run activities including Zumba and rounders, we gave them our support.

“The field is a community facility, not just a cricket pitch, and that will continue beyond Covid.”

Taking advantage of two pandemic-disrupted seasons, the clubhouse has undergone a radical transformation, with players and local residents integral in the installation of new banquet seating, and bar and games areas, made possible by extra funding from the Yorkshire Cricket Board (YCB) and the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB).

But the clubhouse is not all that has been remodelled to allow greater access to the community, with the committee also overseeing the renovation of the ‘cricket field path’ in recent years, to high praise from the locals.

On the pitch, the 2021 season saw success for both of the club’s senior sides in the Craven & District Cricket League, as well as the re-introduction of two junior sides for the first time since 2003.

Despite finishing ninth in a closely fought Division Two, the first team enjoyed a prolific season with the bat, with new signing Zafran ‘Tommy’ Ghaffar writing his name into the history books by scoring a century in just his third appearance for the club, batting the whole innings against Eldwick & Gilstead to finish with an outstanding 109 not out.

Their second string, competing in Division Four, were dealt the cruellest of blows after losing out on the title, and promotion to the third tier, by one point on the final day of the season after falling to an eight-wicket defeat at home to eventual title winners Skipton CI Seconds.

Showing a vast improvement across the season, the club’s juniors gave a fantastic account of themselves in the Upper Airedale Junior League against established sides, with Ayrton himself a product of their youth set-up in the past.

Coached by a number of the club’s senior players, who worked with the ECB to earn their Level 2 badges, the juniors have gone from strength to strength, with more than 30 children attending training on a Friday night, half of those being girls.

“The club members have been aware for some time that the future of the club depends upon juniors being encouraged to play and feel welcome, and the feedback from parents and players has been extremely positive,” added Ayrton.

“We have been supported significantly by the YCB, and the development managers have provided guidance and support on how to start junior cricket, administer the club, and look to develop long-term achievable goals.

“We hope to support and sustain cricket in the local area for years to come and sustain the playing teams for the long-term future of the club.”