ONE of the district’s cricket clubs has beaten off competition from two North-East heavyweights to win a prestigious award.

Stamfordham Cricket Club, of the West Tyne League Division One, received the Northumberland Cricket Board’s ground of the year award.

The village club was up against Jesmond-based Newcastle Cricket Club, of the North East Premier League, and Ashington Rugby Cricket Club, which competes in the Northumberland and Tyneside Cricket League.

The honour acknowledges improvements made to the playing surface at Stamfordham by a voluntary grounds team, but also reflects the enormous progress made at the club in recent years.

Stamfordham were staring extinction in the face back in 2014, but instead of backing down, club members embarked on a transformation of their facilities.

In May 2018, a brand new clubhouse was opened after £150,000 was raised, following a fund-raising programme which included a grant from Sport England.

Speaking at an awards event at Benwell Hill Cricket Club, Northumberland Cricket Board’s director of cricket Ian Wardle said: “Stamfordham have created a fantastic facility. They personify what we look for when a club is nominated and highlight what can be achieved when volunteers work together on and off the field of play.

“The award acknowledges the improvements they have made to their pitch, the courses they’ve undertaken, the end of season works they have undertaken, and also their new pavilion.”

Stamfordham Cricket Club’s Ian Harkness said: “It is a brilliant acknowledgement of the work we’ve put in. It is amazing to think how far we’ve come in the past few years and it’s a great pat on the back for the lads who have put in the hours.

“To be in a category with two serious clubs like Ashington and Newcastle is great, but to win is staggering.”

Club secretary Richie Gledson said: “Having completed the clubhouse last year, it would have been easy to sit back and enjoy it. We realised what an opportunity we had given ourselves to not only protect sport in the village for the immediate future, but to create something that could be the best community sports club in the area.

“In 2014, we were a coin-toss away from throwing in the towel and closing the club for good. Since then, we’ve rebuilt the club from the bottom up, and have something which we’re proud of.”

Stamfordham’s new clubhouse, named after club stalwart Bill Telfer, is a multi-use community facility, and Richie said Stamfordham was working hard to be an inclusive club for families, and people of all ages.

He added: “Amateur and social sport has changed massively in recent years, especially in rural areas. It is a great place to bring the family, we provide a brilliant social calendar, have a superb group of people who put in the work to benefit others and can offer a game of cricket for anyone from a serious club player to those who want to give it a go for the first time.”

Stamfordham were one of the district’s clubs which successfully launched the ECB All Stars Cricket Scheme for six to eight year-olds last summer, and will be introducing another new programme for tight to 11 year olds in 2020.

The club has added to its coaching team with the signing of South African player Uzair Matthews, who will arrive in the spring.

Stamfordham chairman Ian Donkin said: “The All Stars scheme is amazing. It was a joy to see so many youngsters enjoying sport in the village last summer. Being able to offer coaching for children of all ages and to be in a position to provide quality coaching is fantastic.”