Chippenham Cricket Club has been awarded £4,000 to repair dilapidated and dangerous practice areas, known as nets, from the community foundation’s Coronavirus Response and Recovery Fund.

The nets at the club are hard surfaces surrounded by wire netting which allow batsmen and bowlers to practice at full tilt without endangering nearby players. The surfaces have been re-laid since they went down in 2005 but the netting is now 16 years old.

“They have had holes punched in them from balls being fired at them and have become frayed,” said fundraiser Steve Silk. “Although we’ve been repairing them with cable ties, there’s a danger that balls will go through and that’s dangerous. It was a real challenge for us this year and it came to the point where our chairman was at the point of having to close them.”

The club, which attracts players from north and west Wiltshire, has more than 250 players competing in six adult Saturday teams, five women’s and girls’ teams, eight junior teams, a Sunday team, two midweek teams and an All Stars section for five to eight-year-olds and Dynamos for eight to 11-year-olds.

“The nets are used every day and without replacing the netting we’d have 115 senior players and more than 150 kids who couldn’t practice,” said Mr Silk.

With so many people struggling with the financial and emotional toll of Covid, being able to get out and practice or play cricket is a vital lifeline.

“All the people at the club are just buzzing to be out there again. Last Saturday they were even playing in the rain, which they never would normally, and that’s because of the lockdown and people gagging to get back together.”

A year of lost fundraising and sponsorship income through missing more than half a season has taken a heavy toll on a club that already faces an annual uphill struggle to keep going because of its unique situation.

“We rent our ground from Chippenham Sports Club which means we don’t get any revenue from the bar,” said Mr Silk. “Because we don’t own our own property and don’t have a rateable value we missed out on support grants from local authority grants. Some clubs have been getting up to £30,000.”

Last year the club halved its £100 senior and £50 junior memberships to support its players, but the annual rent remained the same.

“We have to generate £10,000 before we even start playing, that’s just to get the teams on the pitch. We have to buy or service the machinery to make and look after the pitches and pay umpire and league entry fees,” said the fundraiser.

“That doesn’t leave any room for extras like putting money away for new machinery in the future or to develop the club at all. Our mower broke down and we had to get an £8,000 loan from the England and Wales Cricket Board to replace it with a second-hand one. We were fortunate to get the grant from Wiltshire Community Foundation and it has been a massive help.”

Mr Silk said: “One of our coaches will work alongside one of theirs to welcome players of all ages and abilities to come in and play cricket every Tuesday night. Wiltshire Cricket is working with a number of special schools and we are looking forward to becoming a truly accessible club.

“When I go down to training I see a group of people with happy faces because they are out and about and seeing people they haven’t seen for six or 12 months,” he said. “A lot of people weren’t able to play last season even when it was on because they had medical conditions or they had family members who were at high risk.

To donate to the Wiltshire and Swindon Coronavirus Response and Recovery Fund or to find out how to apply for a grant, go to