Category Archives: Cricket Grounds

Grounds 2023 (Sussex)

Hove, Arundel, Eastbourne and Horsham.

Hove in 1978, a small number of mainly seniors watching a slow moving game; no future in that they said. Championship cricket in 2023: some deckchairs still, the tree alas gone, hospitality cabins and the Sharks stand in view at the other end. The PA  referred to the stadium, that way in some corners maybe although to this visitor it feels more like a ground still.

Arundel, timeless, beautiful with its easy aristocratic charm. Southern Vipers v Thunder  below in a September  heatwave, and  for spectators a hose-pipe refilling water containers, which  personally was a first. The last trip I made was for a T20 match in 2007, although its ambience if not everything else, feels more suited to the long(er) forms of the game.

Eastbourne, Sussex returned here before covid after an extended gap with three ODC games. Twinned in a rather particular way with St Helen’s Swansea, two grounds where records were made during the era of dominant WI cricketers; bats different  but not the biggest of boundaries either.  In 2023, essentially, if not entirely, club cricket.

Horsham, as second XI games go a well-supported T20 fixture v Hants, one of three played here this summer. As with Arundel, and Eastbourne for watchers very little changed over the decades, bar an electronic scoreboard. Why would it have done?

Upgraded facilities, hospitality important at the centre, outgrounds used less and no more is a common denominator with other counties. Yet with increased ECB monies from The 100 and the ‘development’ ODC played in August this direction of (non) travel could change, at least to an extent. Question is, will it?

Grounds 2023(Kent)

Beckenham, Dartford, Gravesend.

Apart from Canterbury past excursions  to Kent  meant Folkestone, in 1985, when a Malcolm Marshall resistant playing surface dented Hants title hopes, Maidstone, for a Sunday League game,  and Tunbridge Wells when Shane Warne was a very big star. Good days out at the cricket, prompting the curiosity  to return last year to what now feel like vacated English idylls.

The cricket map of the 1971 season shows just how local county cricket was at one time, diverse folks watching in diverse places. In Kent seven outgrounds in a home  season of 53 days, even ‘nomadic’ Essex played at just four that year. The cathedral county a power in English cricket during that decade was also among the most local: in 1971 the first game was at Gravesend against Leicestershire, four of the Ashes’ winners three months earlier on the scorecard.

In 2023 37 of the 39 men’s home days are at Canterbury, although credit the fact Kent do have a second ground at Beckenham, one they are committed to:  two ODC matches and a base for the South-East Stars this season. Big, almost farmland big to one side, to this visitor it fell between being a major stadium and the appeal of many outgrounds, a place for others to watch their cricket. The immediate environs are very leafy suburb, which might be one clue to the future  of diversity in Kent cricket.

Hesketh Park, Dartford, on a non-matchday the cricket ground was tranquility itself,  an oasis of sorts given the urban nature of the approach to it from the railway station. It’s on a scale more sympathetic to traditional supporters with a taste for outgrounds, in the years when Kent played here the largest attendance was 3,750.

Gravesend, historic is a good word to characterise the The Bat and Ball Ground,  first-class games played here according to Cricket Archive between 1849-1971. In past the pub of the same name in 2023 a functional nature, but still atmospheric, with club cricket strong enough for a midweek afternoon fixture.


Grounds 2023 (Essex)

Colchester, Ilford, Leyton and Westcliff.

Sunday League days  included a trip to Castle Park, Colchester, which Stephen Chalke in Summer’s Crown understandably describes  as the most attractive of Essex’s former outgrounds.  If Cheltenham and Chesterfield work as places for cricket festivals in 2023, the ground, a stage for 2nd XI games currently, looked under-used to this visitor.

Valentines Park, Ilford; last time in 1986 when Allan Border was the overseas player for Essex, Malcolm Marshall for Hants, all seemed quite normal at the time.  On a second look the cricket ground is strikingly small, the outfield, as public parks tend to be, no bowling green.  But no doubting the fun of the those playing who were very amiable towards this passing perambulator.

Leyton, a ground with a storied history that dates back to the 19th century: a blue plaque  on the pavilion records Holmes and Sutcliffe 555 partnership in 1932. If the building  is looking a bit weather-worn now, it is still a dominating feature. Rat Pack  v Noak Hill Stars   this month.

Chalkwell Park, Westcliff, one of three grounds that were used by Essex CCC within about 5 miles of one another. Like Leyton a stage until the 1970s, but coming to it from the railway station is more like Maidstone or Tunbridge Wells, roads with large detached houses. Essex reached  diverse places  when nomadic. A home ground to  Trevor Bailey, who was born here and Barry Richards made one of his highest scores in England here.

Scyld Berry suggests that Essex have become the New Zealand of county cricket;  well-earthed and good at what they do. The appeal of a success story built from local roots obvious: in 2022 their players were drawn from state schools in the county and east London as much as elsewhere, which does help give  meaning to being a county side.

Grounds 2023 (Hampshire Outgrounds)

Dean Park, May’s Bounty, United Services Ground.

In the history of Hampshire cricket about a half of its home Championship fixtures have been played at these three outgrounds, even on a count  to 2023; the club expanding its reach in the early 20c, contracting again towards the end of it, now the Rose Bowl.  So what got left behind? Scyld Berry in  Disappearing World expresses a  reasonable preference for grounds that are a part of somewhere: convenient to access and  places with some character, a common denominator with these three.

Dean Park: out of the station, round Cavendish Road and the first sound of bat on ball as players knocked-up before the start. A  ground to bear comparison with say, Tunbridge Wells, no rhododendrons that I remember, but a fine late 19c pavilion; public transport, then 10 minutes on foot.  A long time now since Hampshire days; in 2023 the BCP conurbation has a population in excess of 500,000, Hants departure a bit like ‘withdrawing from Somerset’  in terms of the game’s reach.

Basingstoke this month, the most recently used by Hants in 2010, and very recognisable now from decades past; just add marquees and spectators, and a player’s benefit year. A club where the county connection was evident during the later-stages of the one-day cups in the 20c, with a BNHCC banner cum flag on its travels, akin to those used by England football supporters.

Portsmouth, alight from a  Grade II listed building, pass the Guildhall, over the footbridge and then on to Burnaby Road; 25 and more years after the last time, the footbridge is no more, USG cricket still, but behind lock and smart card, a place for the military. Better perhaps to remember halcyon days when the Sunday League captured imaginations, prompting as it does the the question how many now head to the station, and alight at Hedge End for the Rose Bowl?




The south-east map of f-c county cricket in 1971, 6 counties 24 grounds; across the game that year 74.  A different world half a century ago, but one in which cricket was accessible to folks from the sort of backgrounds the sport struggles to reach now, in many cases just doesn’t; the professional game being nowhere near them a part of it.

It being how things  were when first taking to cricket I have taste for outgrounds.  This season the counties play Championship fixtures at   seven of them, some places to feed the soul of traditional supporters still:   Chesterfield, Cheltenham and Scarborough going strong and Lancashire have games at both Blackpool and Southport on their schedule, but by comparison with 2019, the last full season before The 100, there has been a very noticeable drop from the 19  grounds used that year.

Au revoir then to Arundel, Colwyn Bay, Swansea, Tunbridge Wells, Liverpool among others as stages for the 4-day game?  Maybe so, certainly the payouts from The 100 don’t seem to be doing all that much to help the cause of outgrounds,  the opposite if anything. Not helping them to promote the long-form of the game, but not the shortest either: Blast games there were at Blackpool and Chesterfield and Middlesex, moving away from Lord’s, in 2023 played games at Merchant Taylors’ School and Radlett, but that’s it.

Perhaps county managers were or are anticipating reductions in the playing schedule or have developed likings for The 100, and become more centralised in their views. But whatever lies behind the decisions taken, outground cricket, at least in terms of the number of places played is increasingly the ODC; some discretionary decisions to take games away from the centres, some not.

The recent equity report on cricket made very little of the game’s geography, but the chance for kids of all ages to watch the pros and play on the outfield during the intervals is one of the game’s better customs, still practised by some counties and worthy of  spreading back to places that cricket seems to be leaving behind.


Grounds May 2023

Old Deer Park, Preston Park (Brighton), Guildford

ODP as seen from the Kew Pagoda, a SET20 fixture going on down below. An  oasis of sorts, even in leafy Richmond; and one with good access:  a bus stop  outside and railway station  nearby. A bit posh? A bit, a sign round the corner  directed  those wanting to give Archery a go, but the pavilion is a friendly place and gives the venue  hearth, in part thanks to its history with London Welsh RFC.

Preston Park,  home to St Peter’s CC, a club that has been going since the 1800s, and the rather unusual feature of cricket being played  within a velodrome, the country’s oldest.  Atmospheric.

One previous visit to Guildford in 1997, Sunday League days and an innings of 203 from pinch hitter Ali Brown against a visibly shell-shocked Hants attack. A modern pavilion in 2023, but otherwise recognisably similar although what once seemed like (very) short boundaries side-on not so much so now. A county game between Surrey and Middlesex women in progress.

Grounds August-September 2022

The Oval, Horsham, Folkestone and Hove

The One-Day Cup was in situ as a Sunday League fixture last month and it was just like some old times for spectators, the power of the outfield as remarked on twitter. Good job the Surrey ground staff and management.

Sussex Martlets v The Forty Club at Cricket Field Road, Horsham.  A county List A game was last scheduled for 2020, so perhaps Sussex will return  in the not too distant future.  Very pleasant.

Cheriton Road, Folkestone, Kent 2nd XI v Hants 2nd XI and  37 years to the day since one previous visit. A half bowl and still a fine view from where the old pavilion was (now no more), 30 minutes there good for the equilibrium.

Hove, season’s end at a ground that makes me want to return.

Grounds July 2022

Tunbridge Wells, Luton and Worthing

From some angles the Nevill Ground could almost be Dean Park, known for Kapil Dev’s big innings in the 1983 World Cup (‘carnage among the rhododendrons’), Shane Warne was playing for Hants on my  one previous visit. Kent have a long history of playing here and, hopefully, a future as well to go with it.

Wardown Park (‘Luton’s Jewel’), the upper ground in particular, home to Luton Town and Indians CC. The pavilion has a  modest-looking exterior, but otherwise much greenery and a feel to it that is not so very different to  Tunbridge Wells, which was a bit surprising. Perhaps it shouldn’t have been. Northamptonshire played a Gillette Cup tie here in 1967, Bedfordshire a game as recently as 2019 but in truth it is an urban area the professional game has left behind.

Art Deco in Worthing; Sussex first played here in 1935 and cricket weeks were staged post WWII until 1964. A large enough playing area  for two games, although it is really the pavilion that makes the Manor Sports Ground, with its lines and symmetries: as to the cricket in front of it this month a leg-slip and mid-on would  have completed the picture.


Grounds June 2022

Chichester, Bath and Kew.

Priory Park, Chichester and the pleasure of  visiting somewhere new. With the Park Tavern nearby, it is as atmospheric as it is photogenic; if some grounds are usually photographed from one angle, this one looks good all the way round it.

Bath: the rec., a venue for first-class cricket from the visit of the Gentlemen of Philadelphia in 1897 to Somerset’s departure in 2006. In 2022 the Grade II listed pavilion remains, as do memories of sitting in front it, but alas there was  no sign of a pitch the day the photo was taken.

Bath CC: North Parade, on the other side of the road. In recent times Gloucestershire 2nd XI have played here, surprisingly maybe given the historical association of the area with their rivals. Perhaps county first XI’s will return at some point.

Kew Green, which has a rather intimate feel to it, despite the main road over the bridge to the left and the royal entrance  to the gardens to the right. Personally as familiar as any, it makes a picture, particularly in high summer.




Grounds May 2022

Leyton, Lord’s, Eastbourne, Maidstone

A bit weatherworn and in need some of tlc but the pavilion at the old county ground, Leyton, still makes a picture. Put on the wider cricket map by Holmes and Sutcliffe with their record breaking partnership of 555, it attracts visitors to go by the groundsman who volunteered info on where the commemorative blue plaque was; cheerfully he was also preparing four strips.

Lord’s, £5 for the 4th day of a County Championship fixture, a fair offer I think;  personally, two hours in  high church on a near perfect Sunday morning.  A two-ball cameo from Ben Stokes, well caught by Sam Robson off the bowling of Toby Roland-Jones, was one up for Division II. The MCC do get things right, although the cricket with a Jeroboam (£)370 coming along in the schedule is for others.

The Saffrons, Eastbourne,  well-maintained,  genteel…croquet was in progress away to the left.  Sussex last used the ground for an ODC match as recently as 2019 and in times past Gordon Greenidge made his career HS of 273no here, 202 of them in boundaries. As a trip revisiting the 1980s it was really quite recognisable.

Mote Park, Maidstone, pleasant, a secluded feel to it now. Kent days with 5,000 in attendance an increasingly distant past but a ground fondly remembered on social  media: Aravinda de Silva made a big 200 here in 1995. Some years before a Hillman Imp ensemble set off from Dean Park and saw Hants do well on a Sunday afternoon.