With no sport being played on the West Country’s pitches right now, two green-fingered groundskeepers have kept busy with a show of thanks to our National Health Service.
Both Plymouth Argyle’s Home Park and Shaldon Optimists Cricket Club’s Hazeldown Oval have been given a trim with a difference, as both now sport the NHS logo cut into the grass, as a sign of support for the industry in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Although both grounds can be found in Devon, the two cuts were completed independent of each other and can be best seen from above.
Speaking to The Independent, Argyle CEO, Andrew Parkinson, said: “We have handed over a large part of the stadium so the NHS can carry out some routine services that they would have done at Derriford Hospital.
“It has gone really well. Lots of people have been able to attend. As an extension of that, like everybody, we are very thankful for the NHS and other support services.
“We are a club that is very much part of the community and have NHS staff that come and watch games and are season ticket holders etc. This is a small gesture in terms of thanking them for all the hard work they are doing on behalf of everybody.
“It was a bit spur of the moment from our groundsman, Chris Ralph and his guys. It is a thank you but being able to do it in a different way.”
Shaldon groundsman Charlie Woolnough, meanwhile, is also known as the deputy estates manager at Exeter City’s St James Park, the lifeboat operation manager at RNLI Teignmouth and can even be seen occasionally racking up the runs for Optimists.
His daughter, meanwhile, is a Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital Trust nurse, and it was while atop his tractor that Woolnough came up with the idea.
“We have a field that we traditionally use in the summer as car parking, but we also cut it for the local primary school as a space for the kids to play on,” he told The Independent. “I had cut all the other grass and I looked at this area and thought ‘let’s see what I can do’.
“My daughter is a nurse at Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital and, being a father, it’s quite emotional with your little girl going into work everyday and putting her life on the line.
“You can see the letters from the ground, but the hope was that an air ambulance would see it from above and be a little uplifted by it. You’ve also got the kids at the school, the ones still there are likely to be kids of key workers within NHS, so it gives them something nice to play on and a chance to feel proud for what their family are doing.
“We’re all hugely grateful for the sacrifice these guys are making.”
Today (Sunday) would have been the first time Optimists took to the pitch this year, for a pre-season friendly with Clyst St George.
However, all recreational cricket has been suspended indefinitely on advice from the England and Wales Cricket Board.
Argyle, meanwhile, would have been gearing up for their final League Two fixture of the season, at home to Port Vale next Saturday (April 25) although, similar to the cricket season, their campaign has been put on hold too.