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 Smallest club in the county has stuck with the old values


Stamford AFC Club Shop


by Bob Feetham

 

 

• Tolethorpe Park seen ahead of their recent Rev. Wright Cup match against Stamford School Old Boys.

 


 

Just a few paces from the busy road which rushes endless traffic through picturesque Little Casterton, nestles the delightful home of Tolethorpe Park Cricket Club.

 

Unnoticed by many, the ground curves gently down to the winding River Gwash on the far boundary - a beautiful home for what chairman Andy Bullimore fondly describes as the 'smallest county's smallest cricket club.'

 

Launched nearly 100 years ago, in 1921, it retains a sense of history and tradition going back to the early days when the club played in the park and teas were taken up at the house, Tolethorpe Hall, now famous as the home of Shakespeare Company presentations. 

 

When the estate broke up and was sold off, the club moved, in 1961, to the neighbouring field then owned by the Church. That was bought by current president and Tolethorpe farmer Arthur Hinch - and continues to this day as home of the cricket club. 

 

Tolethorpe, having competed robustly in local cup competitions, and won the Burghley Sixes in 1964,  flirted unsuccessfully with Rutland League cricket in the 90s, a time when they sought new players locally via a leaflet drop.

 

 Happy relationship with Burghley Sixes

 

Tolethorpe - Burghley Sixes team 1954

 

• Tolethorpe Park Burghley Sixes winners of 1964 are seen here, from left: L Burt, B Tomblin, J Duncan, J Rollings, F Hinch, J Glitherow and P Kettle.

 


 

They decided league cricket wasn't the Tolethorpe way - and have since stuck very successfully with friendlies, 23 booked this season.  

 

Their relationship with the Sixes had been a happy one. Along with beating Duddington and Tixover to win the now coveted title - sweet revenge having lost to the same opponents 12 months previous - they were also runners up in the same decade against Empingham and Ketton.

 

The final at that time was a two innings affair and John Rollings played a key role in Tolethorpe's success with scores of 33 not out and 17. It was reported that John:

 

'Enthralled the crowd with his batting, took a wonder catch on the boundary and clean bowled Duddington dangerman Mick Spires.' John was truly one of that era's great sportsmen.

 

Since then, Tolethorpe's 'friendly only' approach has created a real family feel with no less than eight father and son combinations appearing for the Park.

 

There is also a dad and daughter duo - Andy and Lauren Bullimore, the latter a cricketing volunteer at the Bristol County Ground where eight of this year's Women's Cricket World Cup fixtures are being staged, including England v Australia last Sunday (July 9).

 

Away from cricket, Lauren is at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre doing a BA in professional stage management.  

 

The father/sons include: skipper Martyn Davies and son Harry, Des Parr and sons Andrew and Richard, Mark Bolton and son Henry, Simon Chapman and son Josh, Niall McQuitty and sons Alex and Henry, Sean Enright and son Will, Mike Blissett and son Peter, Craig Durrans and son Tom, Bill Sewell and sons Jon and James, Frank Norton and son Tim.

 

 Age is no barrier

  

• Des Parr (left) and chairman Andy Bullimore discuss who's who on an old team picture 

Age is no barrier as proved by the two men I met recently at Tolethorpe one sweltering afternoon - Andy Bullimore, 64, boss of Ketton based ARBprint, and 67-year-old groundsman Des Parr who remains a wily all-rounder.  

 

Andy has been with the club for 52 years, numbering, among other duties he has previously fulfilled, those of captain and groundsman. Other skippers have included Chris Wallace who led the side for an extraordinary 20 years plus.

 

Recalllng his first game at Yarwell as a 12-year-old. Andrew recounted: "I was friendly with Tim Norton, who was later to keep wicket at Tolethorpe for a long time, and it was his dad, Frank, a batsman, who took us to away games.

 

"That day we were short and I got to play because I was two years the elder! Think I ended up with nought not out."

 

A right handed, middle order bat, Andrew certainly developed from there and has a top score of 88 - made against Yorkshire tourists Bretton. 

 

 Little Urn came calling for annual Rev Wright match

 

Yorkshire Tea - Little Urn

 

ABOVE LEFT: Andy Bullimore enjoys a Little Urn cuppa.

ABOVE RIGHT: Little Urn proved a welcome guest at Tolethorpe.

 

 

Tolethorpe has a great relationship with Stamford School and play a friendly, alternatively home and away, against Old Stamfordians every year. It is in memory of the Rev Tommy Wright, who was both a Stamford School master and Vicar of Little Casterton, along with being a cricket lover.

 

Tolethorpe won this year's match, played at the School recently, and it prompted memories of an encounter between the two five years ago at Tolethorpe when Little Urn, a converted ice cream van, came to call!

 

Little Urn was the promotional brainchild of Yorkshire Tea and had toured America extolling the virtues of their delightful brew before returning to England where they embarked on an eight match tour of the country.

 

That took in clubs from as far apart as the Wirral in Cheshire down to Sidmouth in Devon. It was rare, however, for them to take in a club as small as Tolethorpe so it was quite a coup.

 

Yorkshire Tea were intrigued by Andy's smallest county, smallest club description, and brought along Little Urn to that 2012 fixture, serving copious amounts of tea, plus goodie bags.

 

It proved quite an occasion with Little Casterton village staging a picnic to the accompaniment of music and steel drums. 

 

 A unique and quite extraordinary roller

 

The Tolethorpe Roller

• ABOVE: Des Parr stands up to manoeuvre the roller.

• INSET: The Tolethorpe roller – a close up of the works.

Little Urn was unique but Tolethorpe can boast an even more extraordinary piece of equipment - their roller. A jumble of bits and pieces, and built to operate three garden rollers, it is surely unique across the planet. A sort of friendly Frankenstein!

 

Lovingly tended by joint groundsman Des Parr, it was built in the late 50s by ingenuous Great Casterton farmer Ron Knight, who also launched Knight Engineering.

 

Totting up the components, we find that the roller is run by a diesel engine, incorporated from a DUMPER TRUCK, having started life with a petrol engine seconded from a FORD VAN.

 

The rear axle and gearbox came from a JEEP, the big cog from a BALE BINDER - and there are various bits of TRACTOR 'gluing' it all together.

 

Starting can be a problem - Des taking great care as he swings the starting handle. When he gave me a demo, heat induced sweat beginning to glisten as he swung the handle a couple  of times, there was a muffled grunt and accompanying plume of smoke as our monster machine erupted into life.

 

"Can be just as difficult to stop!" declared Des who, as out picture shows, has to stand up in the absence of a seat!

 

Never one to shirk its duties on an excellent square, the roller is yet another example of how Tolethorpe Park has maintained cricketing traditions in a quiet corner of Rutland. Long may that continue.

 

 

 

Tolethorpe Cricket club of yester year

 


• An old shot of Tolethorpe Park includes back row, left to right: Les Naylor, Andy Bullimore, Chris Wallace (capt), Nigel Smith, Paul Harrington, Phil Steans, Mick Wallace; front - unknown, Jon Morley, Tim Norton, Alan Wade and Steve Smith (scorer).


Published: 13/07/2017





 
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