Work to start on flood scheme at Bettyhill football pitch
A £17,000 scheme to improve a flood-prone, north coast football pitch is under way.
Work started at Easter to sort out long-standing drainage problems at the 53-year-old Bull Park in Bettyhill, which was originally “built on a bog”.
The park – next to Farr High School – is used not just by the school but also by Bettyhill Football Club.
It was formed in the early 1960s – at the same time as the high school was constructed.
Former head teacher Jim Johnston, who has a long association with Bettyhill Football Club, has the explanation for the field’s unusual name.
He said: “It was known as Bull Park because of its former use as grazing for the Board of Agriculture bull.”
According to Mr Johnston, the site for the playing field was not ideal with ribs of rock interspersed with pools of clay. A small burn also ran across the area.
He said: “Turning Bull park in a playing field took effort, but with two layers of drainage one above the other, it was ready for action when the school opened in 1964.”
Bettyhill Football Club undertook to help maintain the pitch in exchange for free use of it for their home games.
The field saw a great deal of activity in the next 30 years with three local teams Melvich, Tongue and Bettyhill using it every Saturday during the season.
But by the 1990s it was beginning to show the strain with occasional flooding and a pond forming in its centre each winter.
An approach by the school and the football club to secure backing from Sports Scotland for a £100,000 upgrade of the playing field, failed.
Mr Johnston said: “Following that setback, a self-help scheme was embarked on with local labour, including a couple of days of stone gathering by volunteer pupils.
“The park was resurfaced and the main problem of the burn across the pitch was addressed.”
However, in recent years the drainage and flooding problems have resurfaced with the pitch unplayable at times.
It was agreed that a comprehensive drainage scheme was needed in order to safeguard the playing field for the future. SSE awarded £16,000 towards the work and a further £1000 was granted from the Bettyhill Renewables Community Fund which is administered by Bettyhill, Strathnaver and Altnaharra Community Council.
Football Club members Murdo Gordon and Alan Matheson planned and coordinated the scheme with Cowan Plant of Strathy awarded the contract for the work which is ongoing.
Mr Gordon said: “The playing field was built on a bog and has never properly drained over the years.
“While the pitch will never be drained to a professional standard – a premier league club standard – the work going on is extensive and should make a difference.
“It will hopefully make the pitch playable most of the year.”
Work is expected to be completed this week and the pitch will be playable in around three weeks.