“ Address: Arundel / West Sussex / BN18 9LH „
I seem to have picked up the habit of visiting small, south easterly cricket grounds in recent months to watch the England Women XI play. First there was Wormsley, which I considered the prettiest ground I'd yet visited in all my cricket watching years, which I soon followed up with Arundel Castle Cricket Ground (attempting to usurp the crown for most attractive ground) which was unsurprisingly located in Arundel, but disappointingly not in an actual castle. I think playing indoors with lots of chandeliers, suits of armour, priceless antiques and stained glass windows as targets would be a great way to play cricket, but that's a story for another time. Anyway, my visit took place at the beginning of autumn just before the weather turned to a deluge of precipitation and it was on a mildly warm, yet sun-free day that I was able to watch the England Women take on the West Indies Women in the last of their 5 game series (which England were languishing 4-0 up in) and also their final warm up before the World Twenty20 tournament got underway in Sri Lanka. Unbeaten in their last 19 international Twenty20 games I had high hopes...
Arundel Castle Cricket Ground, Arundel, West Sussex, BN18 9LH
Telephone: 01903 882462
==How to get there==
The ground is located near the A27 between Chichester and Worthing and there are pretty easy brown tourist signs to follow, also if you enter the ground name itself (not just the postcode) into a SatNav it should take you right to its entrance with no problems. There is parking at the ground, with some weaving around trees required, which at the most will cost you £10 but some games, including the one I attended, will give you free entry. However, be warned, you will have to drive on a road populated by pedestrians that takes you past the pavilion itself, thus the potential for cricketers / match officials to come flying out is high so great care is essential if you want to avoid ruining the match before it starts by taking out some of the players by vehicular menace. I don't think there is any other particularly convenient parking in the vicinity so parking at the ground is your best bet - get there early for prime location.
If you are travelling by train the best station to come in at is Arundel station which is a mere 10 minute walk away (assuming you initially set off in the right direction).
Coaches/buses will drop you off in Arundel - the Coastliner service no. 315 Eastbourne to Falmouth and Stagecoach service no. 702 Brighton to Chichester are the best services to use if you live in the area.
==History of the Ground==
The ground, spanning 3.5 acres with an attractive amphitheatre design allowing for raised viewing, was first built way back in 1895 by the 15th Duke of Norfolk and entertained cricketers of all skills. When the Duke's son Bernard died in 1975, his wife wanted to keep alive the tradition of cricket being played at Arundel Castle and by 1986 the Friends of Arundel Castle Cricket Club (with the catchy named acronym F.A.C.C.C which sounds a bit like a stuttering Spaniard) charity was up and running and had expanded greatly by 1989 when the now renowned Indoor Cricket School was developed which had the great privilege of being opened by none other than H.R.H The Prince of Wales in 1991. The charity's main area of focus is on youth education and they run many programmes such as "The London Schools Community Project", "The Prince's Trust Trophy Final", ""The Outreach Programme" and "The Special Needs Project" all of which allow kids with disabilities or financial difficulties to have the chance to stay in the area and take part in cricket training or matches.
==Prices and Membership==
The variety of games played at Arundel include such matches as: junior league cricket; deaf, blind or visually impaired cricket; the occasional County Championship or CB40 Sussex match, as well as any nomadic international one day matches, for example the England Women XI and the prices vary accordingly but from what I can tell you are never looking at more than £15 for an adult ticket with kids tickets being much cheaper, and I in fact only paid £5 for mine with free parking which was an extraordinary bargain.
If you wish to sign up for membership and gain entry to all yearly matches then it will cost you £70 as an adult or £105 for 2 if you join up with a second adult, £25 for juniors, £130 for the family package (2 adults + 2 juniors) or £500 for a life membership - all going to a good cause.
So, arriving nice and early I managed to get a pretty decent parking spot located near a tree for easy location recognition and vehicle retrieval and then was able to leisurely take in the surroundings. Getting there early also meant I was able to set up camp pretty much wherever I wanted so I opted to stay on higher ground to get a birds-eye view of the action and hopefully be a bit further away from the threat of having a cricket ball flying at my head, but if you wanted to you could pop yourself on the playing level near the boundary ropes to get up close and personal. This also gave me the advantage of being close to my car for a speedy getaway. Having learnt from previous smaller grounds, this time I had also remembered to bring my own folding chair to avoid the bum-numbing effects of sitting on the ground all day as there is no real seating available at the ground (other than a few plastic chairs which are mainly for the members) so it would be an idea to plan in advance what you will need to make for a comfortable visit.
The playing area was indeed in the dip of the amphitheatre design with the raised pavilion at one end and a steep drop with spectacular tree views the other end just luring cricket balls to be lost in. One end was called the Park End, the other the Castle End. It seemed obvious to me that the area with all the trees and parkland would be the Park End...but no...it was naturally the other way around. The ground itself was of a relatively small size, it could certainly be considered little compared to the bigger test grounds, but I'd say it was on a par with such other grounds that I've visited like Wormsley and Guildford, and is probably only a bit smaller than Somerset's ground in Taunton but is certainly more than adequate for the type of matches played on it. Having said that, with the boundary ropes in a bit I was hoping for a boundary fest and maybe even the chance to scream girlishly if the ball came flashing my way. To perhaps give you some further indication of the playing dimensions, I suspect that if it were the England XI versus the West Indies XI playing here, Chris Gayle would put every single car in danger and they could run out of balls.
* Here is a quick match rundown if you're interested - if not look away now...
The West Indies won the toss and decided to bowl, so out came England sporting a severely tinkered line up and missing a few of their star players, with captain and long term opener Charlotte Edwards batting at 11. Hmmm...experimenting before the World Cup, just my luck. They started slowly, but progressed nicely enough without setting off too many fireworks with a distinct lack of boundaries, yet kept the scoreboard ticking over only to be hindered by losing wickets at crucial times thus preventing a brilliant score. With contributions from Sarah Taylor (ranked #1 in women's Twenty20) and Katherine Brunt they stumbled their way to a respectable but not unassailable 139. On past experiences, I was feeling pretty confident, and the ladies actually managed to keep the West Indies in check for the first 10 overs or so, until Deandra Dottin decided to throw a spanner in the works and started taking the game away from us. Would it be just my luck to witness the end of their incredible streak? With a brilliant 62 off 34 balls including five 6s (with England having only managed one 6) it looked to be all over, but a strong fight back from England / mini implosion from the West Indies took it down to the last over only for England to be heartbreakingly defeated on the last ball in what was a well deserved victory for the West Indies. Still, despite indeed witnessing the end of an impressive streak it was an amazingly close and entertaining match - a fine day out.
*and it is safe to start reading again...
So, in my opinion this is a particularly lovely ground to come and watch cricket at with an extremely peaceful atmosphere with tree-lined surroundings (although there are no naturally occurring wind-breakers given the open expanse so conditions can get chilly without the sun) and a green pitch with a well kept wicket that seemed to behave itself (at least on the day I went) and assuming the teams were playing well you should expect decent matches to be played here with high scoring potential given the small size. The women's match, going down to the last ball speaks for itself. The match was also well covered over the tannoy with each new bowler/batsman introduced (albeit with a couple of corrections required) so it was easy to keep track of what was going on however, even though the electronic scoreboard was updated quickly it only had basic information and was a bit small if you were at the opposite end of the ground so in that respect it may be easy to miss what the exact score was and how many balls to go etc...of course for those not anti-exercise this could be easily rectified with a quick stroll in its general direction.
The capacity is supposedly 6,000 according to espncricinfo.com but I reckon that would be seriously uncomfortable and parking would be a nightmare if it was ever maximised and perhaps the day I went was under-populated by normal standards, but I found there was plenty of space to leisurely stretch out and soak in the cricket without feeling squashed in like you do at major grounds on those horrible, plastic seats designed to fit posteriors that have not yet been invented. In fact, the family friendly nature of this ground means you can get away from the often rowdy and raucous atmosphere of the bigger grounds after a sufficient number of pints have been consumed to simply enjoy the cricket with no distractions and these small, intimate type of grounds that allow you to get much closer to the action are fast becoming my favourite way to watch live cricket. I think Wormsley is still the most attractive ground I've visited, but Arundel comes in a close second and is the ideal place to watch a rousing game of cricket.
However, despite all the advantages, the pitfalls of being a small ground is often the facilities are on the more basic side, and Arundel Castle Cricket Ground is no exception. At the Pavilion you can book what they describe as "delicious lunches" in advance but there is also a cute little tea-hut which serves hot and cold drinks in proper cups which they also let you take away under the express desire that you bring them back when done which is way nicer than disposable cups, as well as a selection of sandwiches and hot rolls / sausage rolls all for £3 which isn't bad value really, though they are only really light refreshments without much variety. I went down the picnic route which was easy enough with lots of available space to spread out and really helped to make the day even more relaxing and, given the car was so close, it made disposing of the rubbish and extra picnic gear a doddle.
Toilets are essential if you're hanging around somewhere for anywhere between 3-7 hours after a long drive and these came in the format of portakabins hidden cunningly in amongst some large hedgerows. Interestingly the first sign you come to says the ladies' are to the left, and the gentlemen's are to the right, but the toilets on the right distinctively had the female form adorned on the door - go figure! Despite being dark and dingy looking with only 3 cubicles, loose toilet roll, soap coming in the form of Sainsbury's bottled hand-wash and with paper towels to dry your hands, they were clean and not too unpleasant to use. Though if the ground ever reached its full capacity, the queues could be horrendous / a British dream.