THE dawn of spring represents a significant change in the district’s sporting calendar.

The sound of leather on willow will be heard in local towns and villages this weekend, when the cricket season returns after a six-month winter break.

Teams competing in the West Tyne, and Northumberland and Tyneside cricket leagues, will both return to action on Saturday.

Other summer sports, such as tennis and golf, are already in full swing as the weather improves and nights get lighter.

But the spring period is one of the busiest times of year for local sport.

The football and rugby players who have endured wet and windy conditions throughout the winter, have still not finished their respective seasons, which will run into May.

The overlap means that for several weeks, the Courant has almost double the amount of matches to cover, which highlights the popularity of sport in the area.

It also provides a challenge for sportspeople who play both summer and winter activities.

Dickie Purvis, results secretary of the West Tyne Cricket League, said: “There is a bit of a cross-over between the seasons. A few of our clubs have players who play football, and it can affect them in terms of numbers.

“On the opening day of the season, we only have first team fixtures. This means that if some teams are missing players due to footballing commitments, they can use their second team players.”

Now aged 70, Dickie is a stalwart of Humshaugh Cricket Club. A long-serving former player, he is now the club’s groundsman.

He said the overlap between winter and summer sports was more prominent now than in previous decades.

“I used to play football as well as cricket,” he said. “There was a time when the football season would finish just in time for the cricket to start. There would be midweek football matches, but they wouldn’t affect the cricket on a Saturday.

“Now the football season starts earlier and finishes later than it once did, and we are doing all we can to work around that.”

Hexham Football Club’s first team still has half a dozen league fixtures to fulfil in Northern Alliance Division One, with their last match scheduled for May 4.

Manager Martin Lowes said: “We do have a couple of lads involved with both football and cricket, but we don’t put pressure on them to choose one over the other. Local sport is there to be enjoyed, and we leave it up to the players themselves to decide.”

Martin said any vacancies in the team would enable him to give younger players valuable experience of first team football. He added: “I think if we had a cup final to play, we’d be hoping to put our strongest team on the pitch.

“However, we have a good group of lads who have done well this season, and I think we have enough players to get us through the remaining fixtures.”

With spring now upon us, it must be noted that the first three months of 2019 brought a high level of success for local sportspeople.

Among the highlights, Tynedale Harrier Darren Towart set a new world indoor hurdling record, and also won a bronze medal as part of the Great Britain relay team at the World Indoor Championships.

And Hexham’s Nick Ryan rowed for the winning Oxford University crew which defeated Cambridge in the Lightweight Boat Race, on the famous Thames Tideway.