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Cricket trust gets children active and in touch with the countryside

Melton Sports has adopted the Belvoir Castle Cricket & Countryside Trust as its charity. We’ve got a quality second hand sports book sale in the shop and are organising a quiz night at Melton Royal British Legion Club on Friday, May 1 (teams of four, £7.50pp to include a Ploughman’s Supper, pop in or call 01664 668191 to book).


The Belvoir Castle Cricket & Countryside Trust, a registered charity, provides sporting and educational opportunities to around 2,500 primary and special needs children living within a 25-mile radius of the castle every year and here director and ex-professional cricketer Darren Bicknell explains how it all came about.

What’s your background and how did the Belvoir Castle Cricket & Countryside Trust begin life?
​I was a professional cricketer with Surrey (1987-1999) and Nottinghamshire (2000-2006). After retiring from cricket I took on a job at a sporting complex in Mansfield running a charitable trust. During my time there I ​​had a meeting with Phil O’Brien who was working with the Duke and Duchess at Belvoir Castle​ on business development. They had an idea to set up something charitable at Belvoir but were not sure what. From our discussions the idea came about. Shortly afterwards I was made redundant and called Phil to say I was available! It’s fair to say we were not ready to start but we took the plunge. Phil kindly backed us with his own money and we started some pilot projects which were a success and the rest is history. After year two we paid Phil back.

Working from Belvoir Castle sounds great. What projects do you deliver from there?
​We have an office in the castle which is quite surreal and we deliver our cricket and countryside days and Belvoir Bees Friday night sessions at the Knipton Cricket ground. Our other projects, including the Belvoir Bees, Teach Cricket and Special Needs project, are delivered off site.

Darren and Sherard

That’s quite some commitment. Who helps you deliver all these sporting and educational opportunities? Do have have any celebrity backers?
​Any organisation is only as good as the people involved and I’m very fortunate to have a fantastic and supportive chairman ​in Phil O’Brien and am hugely well supported by my assistant director Neil Atkins. Without them life would be very tough. I have a great set of Trustees and a great number of volunteers. I would like to name them all but there is not the space. It also helps to have one or two well-known people around to spread the word​ and we are very fortunate to have my ex-cricketing buddy Graeme Swann and Strictly Come Dancing star Anton Du Beke as Ambassadors.

In a typical year how many children do you engage with and what makes the work of the charity so special?
We are fairly consistent with our delivery numbers which are in the region of 2,500 children each year and that takes some doing I can tell you. I think our work inspires children into playing sport, educating them about our wonderful countryside and making the best of themselves and gets the whole community involved.​

What exciting plans does the Trust have for 2015?​
Our cricket and countryside days and other kwik cricket sessions are filling up fast and we hope to raise our numbers further. We have some pretty exciting fundraising events through the year from golf days, dinners, 6-a-side cricket events, details of which can be found at and the success of these are vital in our survival.​

darren and table cricket

How much money does the charity have to raise each year to deliver its programmes? How can readers support the Trust’s work?
We need in the region of £95-£100k each year to survive and deliver our projects and there are a number of ways to help us from supporting our fundraising events or becoming a ‘Friend’ of the Trust where they can make a small donation each month. Just taking an interest in our work is also very important to us. If anyone would like to chat through our work I’m always happy to do so.

What are your long-term ambitions for the Trust?
​Long-term we want to continue to increase our numbers and we also have an ambition to develop an education/cricket centre where we can deliver our projects all year around. This is a bit of a dream but I do think we can make it happen. It would be nice to think that we could also replicate the Trust’s work in other parts of the country.

Michael Cooke, owner of Melton Sports, is a fundraiser for the Trust. If you’d like to help the charity in any way please call 01664 668191 or 07982 471118 or email

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