DAMAGE has been caused to a New Forest cricket ground after a group of travellers set up camp on the pitch.

On Tuesday at around 3pm, an unauthorised encampment was set up at Ellingham Cricket Ground in Picket Post, Ringwood.

Police were made aware of the encampment as well as reports of anti-social behaviour and visited the site whilst working with Forestry England and New Forest District Council.

The group have since moved off the site but now damage has been caused to the pitch including holes being dug in the turf, litter being dropped, and damage to the ground where it appears “doughnuts” have been done around the square.

Daily Echo: Damage caused to ground at Ellingham Cricket Club.

Officers say they have now made arrangements with Forestry England to take appropriate action in regards to any environmental impact on the site.

Inspector Mike Minnock said: “We will always ensure that we balance the needs and rights of all our communities with actions that are proportionate, lawful and necessary.

“I hope this swift action to move the travellers on from locations that were unsuitable will convey to all sections of the community that a robust approach will be taken against encampments within legal parameters.

“We will continue to work closely with partner agencies and private landowners to manage unauthorised encampments and identify repeat locations where there has been criminality or disorder in order to target harden these sites.”

Daily Echo: Damage caused to ground at Ellingham Cricket Club.

A game was planned to be played on the pitch tonight, but now the club is being forced to look at other options and depending on the level of damage, may have to play away instead of at home until repairs can be made.

Lee Penycate, the chairman of Ellingham Cricket Club, claimed the group broke the padlock on the gate to enter the ground and added: “It’s going to have a massive impact on our club.

“The outfield looks okay but the problem is they’ve moved our railings around the square and they’ve parked on the square. That’s the most important bit of the pitch.

“It’s the bit that we have railings around to protect it from animals in the forest, so we don’t really want hoof prints on there and the last thing we need is a bunch of caravans, quad bikes, kids, holes being dug up.”

The club play midweek games as well as matches on Saturday’s and have to reuse pitches throughout the course of the season as there are not enough for one per match.

Lee added: “There’s a lot of work for the groundsman to do. It may take a few weeks to repair, it may be that there’s a couple of pitches that are untouched that can be used.”

A Forestry England spokesperson said: “This morning Forestry England staff worked closely with Hampshire Police and the local authority to respond to this unauthorised encampment by a group of travellers.

“Our staff are still on site assessing any damage and removing a substantial amount of litter and discarded waste.”