From 1976 to 2002 Settle boasted a village-level team, the Optimists, which led a parallel but very different life from the town’s distinguished Ribblesdale League side. Its origins lay in the staff team at Settle High School.

Not being a great player, I worked out that the best way to always get a game was to organise and captain the side myself, writes Peter Metcalfe.

Our fixture list quickly blossomed into a full-scale Sunday programme against local villages.

At Bolton-by-Bowland the ground was a small triangle of grazing opposite the church. We had to clear the cows away before each game.They now have a lovely venue down by the Ribble.

Rathmell & Wigglesworth’s old ground had a telegraph pole just backward of square leg, with the wire crossing the pitch. Playing a rare aggressive stroke, I once hit the ball up into the wire, from where it shot straight down into the hands of a startled mid-wicket. After a short pause, their skipper had the wit to say, “I’m afraid that’s out, Peter”. In the same match I clean bowled a player, the ball passing through the stumps without making contact. Not out.

During a gale one night Rathmell’s changing hut blew over a hedge, leaving only the base and a pile of furniture. This caused a move to a new ground at Cappleside, where skipper Chris Weston honoured us with the inaugural match. We were pleased to notice a large tree inside the boundary.

Grindleton’s old ground was on a steep slope where the wicket had recently been relaid in sections. We arrived during a very dry spell which had shrunk the turf, leaving a two-inch gap just short of a length. But their teas were magnificent

As we would always give a good game, we had numerous requests for fixtures and played town sides like Addingham and Ilkley Cavaliers. We were once invited to join the Ribble Valley League. Their rule book was basically a list of fines. Late start £5. No umpire £5. Players not all in whites £5. Changing room to be open an hour before the match. We had no changing room so that was another £5. We worked out we would be about £30 down before any game started.

Our players were a mixture of very keen men and women, playing for enjoyment, with veterans of top league cricket, like Colin Smith and Peter Cook.

The annual dinner was a highlight of the year. Apart from the usual awards for terrible bowling and dropped catches, we had a fund-raiser with a bad taste raffle. Memorable prizes included Spanish raffia donkeys, Pinky and Perky LPs and a catering-size tin of mushy peas.

Over the years, we wandered through Yorkshire and Lancashire to play venues such New Rover (Leeds), Downham, Askrigg, Hawes, Hellifield, Lancaster University, Ingleton, Bentham, Slaidburn and Colne Morris Dancers. We even managed an annual New Year’s Day match against Austwick on the High School all-weather pitch. Treasurer John Haines remains the only Optimists player to be sent off during a match at Hurst Green for wearing shorts while fielding.

At the age of 35 I hit my first ever six at Rimington, only to find later that it had the shortest boundary in Lancashire. My highest score was 49, finally lbw against Airton Bellringers. I was not too upset at forever missing a half-ton as I was told several of my runs were short.

For twenty-seven years we gave hundreds of local people the chance to play Sunday cricket without the bother of league regulations. They still look back on those matches with affection and humour. But In the end we ran out of available players as fewer cricketers were appointed to the staff. Our very last match was in July 2002 against Gregson Institute on Lancaster Grammar’s first team pitch.

While a pupil there I had never been fit to even turn out for the thirds. So it was an emotional moment to be finally playing on that pitch 35 years on, more so as in the last over I was batting with my eleven-year-old son at the other end, playing in his first and last Optimists game. I remain three not out.