ASHES fever may have gripped the nation, but England's glory has brought misery for members of a North-East sports club.

Children trying to emulate the England team have turned a perfectly manicured bowls lawn into an impromptu cricket wicket.

They have caused hundreds of pounds of damage to the green, at the Dipton Park Bowling Club, in Dipton, near Stanley, County Durham.

Club chairman Ron Smith said: "In the last three months they have broken into the grounds no less than six times - three times in the last three weeks alone.

"Each time they smash the fence to get in, which has cost us up to £900 to repair so far.

"They leave bald patches at the crease and put in their stumps in, which leave big holes in the green. There are also scuff marks caused by the bowlers and they have been scratching their names in the green with sticks."

Mr Smith said he caught them once but they ran away.

He said: "When I asked them why they were spoiling the green one of them replied he would wrap his bat around my neck. They also pelted me with stones and bricks."

Mr Smith said the damage had taken the gloss off the club's successful season when they won the North West Durham league for the first time in 36 years.

Club president and Durham county councillor Reg Ord said: "We have tried to address the situation but it is physically impossible to keep an eye on the place the whole time."

Club secretary Barry New said: "It is the same every time there is a major sporting event.

"When it is Wimbledon they come and play tennis, which doesn't cause too much damage. When it's the World Cup they play football which causes a lot of damage."

Police are investigating.