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.