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NatWest CricketForce hits Witham

Laura Marsh, Steven Finn & Charlotte Edwards

England cricketers Laura Marsh, Steven Finn and Charlotte Edwards, front row, left to right, were among the willing volunteers at Witham

The 2011 NatWest CricketForce event got underway today, with over 300 volunteers - including England stars Steven Finn, Charlotte Edwards and Laura Marsh - helping to transform Witham CC in Essex.

CricketForce encourages cricket supporters, their friends and families to give something back to their local community cricket club by volunteering to undertake major renovations to clubhouses and grounds, typically over a special weekend before the start of the cricket season.

Witham are one of three showcase clubs this year - along with Bognor Regis CC in Sussex and Sawley & Long Eaton Park CC in Derbyshire - and chairman John Chick expressed his delight at the level of support the club have received.

He told “We’ve had a fantastic day. We’ve had about 300 people here and they have been shingling drives, painting sightscreens, stripping back.

"We’ve got two pavilions and they have both been rubbed down and painted inside and out. A whole mound of earth has been shifted around, all our hedging has been cut and that’s just some of what we’ve done.”

“When you have 300 people around you who are looking to do things it’s amazing how quickly things get done. Our drive is 212 metres and we thought that would take the best part of a day as it’s all being done by hand, we’ve got no machinery. But we put a few people on it and an hour and a half later it was done.”

Laura Marsh, Steven Finn & Charlotte Edwards

Club chairman John Chick expects Witham's CC new scoreboard to be "the envy of the league" and added: "We've had a fantastic day"

“People have been fantastic, we have got 180 schoolchildren here; people from the ECB, Essex, and a whole load of people from the local community have come out to help us. It’s also been a beautiful sunny day.”

The appearance of Ashes-winning paceman Finn attracted particular attention.

“It’s been great, especially with the Ashes having just finished and him playing quite a major part in that," Chick added. "It’s fantastic for them to see a real-life hero almost, and the England girls as well.

“Mike Gatting (the ECB’s managing director of cricket partnerships) is also here and he’s worked tirelessly since he arrived at half past nine. Both Essex and the ECB have been very supportive in what we are trying to do.”

Witham’s first team play in Division Two of the Two Counties Cricket Championship and Chick expects their opponents to be impressed by the extensive development that has taken place.

“The facilities are certainly a darn sight better than they were at six o’clock this morning and we’ve got a brand new scorebox which will certainly be the envy of the league,” he said.