“ Address: Clay House / 5 Horninglow Street / Burton-upon-Trent DE14 1NG / Staffordshire „
*N.B - The head office is in Burton-Upon-Trent not the actual ground*
Things that are quintessentially English - tea and scones, fish and chips, bangers and mash, Ant and Dec, rainy days and of course that gentleman/womanly game of cricket. Today, cricket is all getting a bit commercialised with the likes of the IPL and big grounds like Lord's with their massive capacities, music blaring out, floodlights, military trained ground staff...not to mention cheerleaders frolicking about every time a boundary is scored - gone are the days of the gentle pace of village cricket. However, there is at least one ground that remains to this day that can still capture that old fashioned atmosphere of tranquillity with a noticeable absence of silly modern conveniences like floodlights and electronic scoreboards and that is the rather beautiful Wormsley Cricket Ground. Located in the village of Stokenchurch, near High Wycombe in the heart of the stunning Chiltern Hills, this cricket ground sprung to life from the imaginings of Sir Paul Getty, the famous British philanthropist and book collector who discovered a passion for cricket and decided to create a replica of the Oval in his Wormsley Park Estate where it has remained since 1992.
When functioning as a cricket ground, Wormsley hosts a handful of public and private games throughout the cricketing year (i.e. not the winter or during rainy months...oh wait...) including: lots of charity games where many famous cricketers pop by to play such as Darren Gough, Mark Butcher, Devon Malcolm to name but a few; international games e.g. the England Women XI versus the Indian Woman Xi which is the game I went to see; matches between the minor counties like Berkshire, and it also acts as one of many home grounds for the nomadic Unicorns cricket team (a collection of players without full-term contracts to any of the first-class counties). You can check the full events calendar for private and public events at: www.wormsleycricket.co.uk/pages/eventscalendar.html. The private events can only be bought en masse through either Sponsorship or Hospitality options ranging from £1,500 to potentially £10,000 and are clearly corporate events for wining and dining / networking so not for us average Joes.
The public events are much more reasonably priced with a maximum of between £5-£10 if bought in advance (including free parking) or £10-£15 if bought at the gate (having to pay another £5 for parking) with concessions paying half price - oh to be young again. You can also splash out extravagantly if you're feeling monetarily reckless on their hospitality packages where for the measly sum of between £40-£100 you could be entitled to a maximum of "a Champagne & Pimm's drinks reception on arrival, 3 course lunch, afternoon tea, complimentary copy of the Wormsley Yearbook, a tour of the family library, VIP parking and access to a pay bar all day" - good times. You can also buy an annual membership for £50 for adults, £30 for concessions and £125 for a family ticket (2 adults and 2 under 16s) which grants you free access to all public events plus free car parking, a dedicated Members area for refreshments during matches, discounted hospitality and charity tickets, a free copy of the Wormsley Yearbook and, rather excitingly, a free four-ball round of golf at Studley Wood Golf Club.
So, for the ladies' day on the 11th July 2012 my scrooge-like tendencies led me to book online via The Ticket Factory in advance to take advantage of the discount and free parking all for £10 which was outstanding value and my tickets were successfully delivered in the post. Getting to the ground is a doddle either by taxi from High Wycombe train station or from J5 of the M40 especially using SatNav or trusting the website's instructions involving bus laybys and thatched cottages - I was so happy to spot the thatched cottage that I drove straight past the entrance and had to do a U-turn so it does comes sooner than you think. From there you have a rather treacherous mile long journey down a single, winding and bumpy track with a chance of meeting head-on traffic but eventually you will reach the car park aka field for parking which looks like it fills up pretty sharpish so best avoid tardiness. The walk from the car park to the ground is about 30 seconds which is awesome for a lazy person such as myself and the view is obscured at first by some well-placed hillocks but once the ground finally comes in to view it is a stunning sight.
The pitch is set in a shallow bowl with raised grassy areas circumnavigating it providing space for the crowd to plonk themselves down on either blankets or folding chairs (there is no seating so you will need to make your own arrangements) to settle in the for the match - it certainly wasn't too busy when I visited so there was no risk of having an obscured view, but some events may be busier and it is a first come first served basis so again getting there early will guarantee prime location. Once settled you can fully take in the views which are simply divine - the pavilion has a wonderfully quaint thatched style as does the cute scoring hut at the other end which gives the ground such a fabulously old-fashioned feel to it, but the most amazing thing is that everywhere you look is beautiful greenery from the Chiltern Hills, even the car park is mostly obscured so there is nothing to be done but be bowled over (sorry) by the views. One thing I will say though, is the ground is teeming with wildlife and I spent a lot of my day swotting away flies and wasps, and shaking spiders and ants off me so I would advise against bringing open jars of honey. Apparently the ground is also famous for its Red Kites putting on air displays, but unfortunately I didn't spot any on the day so will have to take their word for it.
So the most important question is just how good is the pitch for watching cricket on? It is quite a small ground, but you are very close to the action so it is all very intimate and you are in hearing range of the players cries which adds to the atmosphere, but you are also in range of big 6s so be ready for catches or a cricket ball to land in your tea. On the day that I went it had been very rainy before, surprise surprise, but the ground staff had done an excellent job of getting it ready to start on time and the pitch played very well, with enough to keep the bowlers interested with both spin and seam movement, but plenty of boundaries and quick runs on offer to set up quite an exciting game between the England Women XI and the Indian Women XI. This was actually the finale of a 5 game series that was currently levelled at 2-2, so had a nice atmosphere to it already, and thankfully the England Women began to dominate early on with quick wickets which made for stress free viewing. Rather more unfortunately, the weather was tumultuous throughout the day with burning sunshine followed 10 minutes later by freezing windy conditions, rain then more sunshine on a repeating cycle. Fortunately there were only a few rain delays which the ground staff were great at dealing by getting the covers on quickly, so all in all they were a professional outfit and the cricket was kept fairly fluent throughout so a day of just laying back and relaxing in the "sun" was more than possible. There were not many places to hide however when the heavens opened so you will also have to bring adequate rain protection when coming here.
* Toilets are available at the pavilion and scoreboard ends of the ground, but unfortunately they are in the form of Port-a-Loos so are only as nice as can be expected for this form of public convenience.
* Picnics are welcome which is the option I went for, but you can also buy tea and coffee refreshments in the refreshment tent as well as a selection of hot and cold food to take away from "Jamie Oliver's Fabulous Feasts" menu including such things as breakfast and veggie baps, beef burgers, chicken skewers, Caesar salads and some delicious sounding desserts like chocolate brownies, fruity scones and clotted cream, blueberry muffins and strawberries and cream all reasonably priced at a maximum of £7.50 for any item. Those that opted for the Hospitality packages would get the chance to sit down for their 3 course lunches.
* Wormsley also has several extra sights to see (alas, only available for private events and often by arrangement with the family so a real kafuffle to gain access to) which are firstly the Library made up of Sir Paul Getty's stunning collection including many medieval manuscripts, the first folio of Shakespeare's Comedies, Histories & Tragedies and many other works of great importance , secondly the Walled Garden which is a 2 acre "secret" garden which is undoubtedly beautiful and thirdly their extensive Art Collection with such names as Thomas Gainsborough, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and even Banksy. Information on how to visit these extra attractions is available on the website if any of these really take your fancy but it seems like it has to be part of a private event.
Wormsley Cricket Ground captures that old relaxed spirit of cricket wonderfully - it may not be overloaded with modern conveniences but there is such a peaceful and old-fashioned feel to it with absolutely stunning views all around that is the perfect place for a relaxing day just spent lolloping about enjoying some cricket (assuming it doesn't rain) or from a business perspective it is a create place for a corporate day or charity events. With very reasonable prices for entry and food you more than get your money's worth, even with the hospitality packages, it's just a shame that some of the more historically interesting sights like the library and art collections are only available down the corporate route. From a cricket fan that has been to many a ground, this is easily one of the nicest grounds I've ever been to and I would recommend it as a wonderful experience, even if there aren't many high profile games played here.