Cricket Grounds Of London
Firstly, define London?! If you are thinking the ‘City of London’ which is one square mile, bordered by the north bank of the River Thames from Temple to the Tower, and a weird mapping of streets, lanes, paths, and pebbles somewhere between Aldgate and Australia House on The Strand then this cricket blog post ends here, and we hope you liked it.
If we consider cricket grounds in ‘Greater London’ then there is an inexhaustible supply of lush and dust on which the game is played but where do you draw the line? By ill-definition, London has '6' airports, with a 7th on the way, but there is not a court in Christendom that would adjudicate in favour of London pretexting airports in Southend, Luton, Stansted, or Gatwick by geography alone. Southend on Sea Cricket Club is no more in London than their airport.
So where does London start and end if not the square mile? Anywhere within the M25 ring-road can be considered ‘Greater London’ but you are really pushing the boundaries of a 6732sqkm area. So for this I use the Tube Map to define London that multitudes of specialist fielders use to navigate the greens, parks, palaces, commons, and club houses of the game whose HQ sits on a tilted patch of invaluable land in the easy to reach Zone 2.
Mentioning Cricket HQ, many may think Lord’s Cricket Ground will be at the top of the list, but we are not considering Test venues. If we did, then there is only Lord’s and The Oval and this cricket blog post would be done. It would take longer to write about test venues of Colombo than those of London as Sri Lanka’s capital has three active test venues, and two decommissioned!
For this, we are looking at the little guys that bring unlikely teams together in celebration on the greyest of days. If you are wanting to play cricket in the capital, no matter where you live on the Tube map, there is no shortage of cricket clubs with the most surprising and striking grounds you would never expect to find in congested suburbia.
As special, unique, or nice as these grounds are, these are not ‘the best’. Opinion is subjective so who am I so say one ground is better than the other? Every player, scorer, umpire, and tea lady of each club will rightfully defend their turf for perfectly valid reasons. What I can rightfully say is that I've played on each of these with Nepotists Cricket Club (TGTTWHES) and why they make the list:
Alexandra Park Cricket Club
With famed Alexandra Palace and the radio tower over-looking the park, providing unique backdrops for photos and fours, the two cricket grounds sit at the base of a hill offering one of the nicest views of the game in London. The pavilion sits between the two fields, on top of said hill, so you look down on your teammates with laughter when dismissed by impossibly ‘un-get-out-able balls'. With a large embankment sloping toward both fields, where beyond is more park and woodlands, you can comfortably perch yourself all day on the grass (like an Australian Cricket Tour to South Africa), with an eye on both games, with the pavilion bar closer than the boundary rope! Not an easy ground to find it is nonetheless in an area of north London worth getting lost in.
Barnes Cricket Club
Halfway between Hammersmith and Richmond along the River Thames, if you are looking at the right time, you will fleetingly glance Barnes Sports Club. Back from the road, an unassuming car park adjacent a shitty brick building does not promise the leafy delights beyond the tennis courts and bowling green on which beverages from said ‘shitty brick building’ are consumed post-match. A path between the neighbours and club house leads to the lush field you'd never know was there, if you didn’t play the game. Backdropped by aged oaks along the quiet suburban street, Barnes is one of the more hidden gems of cricket in London, with one of the quirkiest 'local rules' of the suburban game. 'If you hit the ball over the fence and into the neighbouring houses, you are OUT without 6 runs being scored!' #BitHarsh
Brentham Cricket Club
Cruising the A40 west out of London before it becomes the M40 to Birmingham, you'd be excused for doubting one of the most beautiful cricket grounds of London sits behind the industrial mayhem, firs, and fly-tipping of a 3-lane highway. Nestled in the back blocks of Ealing, Brentham Club is home to former England Cricket Captain Mike Brearley & England’s last Wimbledon Champion, Fred Perry. It has one the finest cricket fields I have ever played on and the only suburban field with patterns mown into the grass. The greenery of west London hides a rich history of sporting success and castle-like pavilion of a Club, with a beautiful rooftop bar, whose moniker is very aptly, ‘The Trees’.
Chingford Cricket Club
If ever there was a ground wedged between home and away in a place you’d think was an undeveloped plot too hard to access to warrant being used as landfill, it is Chingford Cricket Club. Making this ground so hard to find is what makes it even more spectacular when you finally make your way through the willows and rocky undulance off Kimberley Way. A perfectly flat field framed by the rarest of rare white picket fence and row of ragged aged oaks highlight the pavilion opposite in the distance as you burst through the uncertainty of your satnav. You wouldn’t dream such beauty would be landfull. Relief for the non-driving player, Chingford Railway Station is just 8mins walk for a 26mins journey back to civilisation!
The Cricketers’ Cricket Club
As ambiguous as the name is common. The Cricketers is positioned perfectly on magnificent Richmond Green, on which its chefs, bar keeps, and patrons play the great game each weekend as 'The Cricketers' Cricket Club'. Though this is cricket grounds of London, Richmond Green isn’t a cricket ground per se. It is the local Common to which thousands flock every sunny day and on which Richmond council curate a pitch for weekend fixtures. 30 mins before play, everyone sunning themselves on the playing field are asked to move to a place less injurious. Stone paths that criss-cross the field are meekly blocked with little signs politely asking people not to criss-cross and eventually play starts for arguably the largest crowd any village cricketer may play to. It doesn’t matter that there are no change rooms or nowhere to sit at the tea break as the event of playing on Richmond Green in front of the mildly-interested, laughing, ignorant, and inebriated crowd is spectacular.
Highgate Cricket Club / Crouch End Cricket Club
Between three of London’s famed parks Hampstead Heath, Highgate Wood, and Alexandra Park, in the bottom of the valley, amidst some of London’s most valuable real estate, at the end of an easily missed drive aptly called ‘Greenways’ you will find not 1, nor 2, or even 3, but 4 cricket clubs separated by boundary ropes and decades of spiteful tradition. If you live local and looking for a choice of clubs without going far from home, set among the weeping willows and lost-ball oak forests of NW London are neighbours Crouch End CC and Highgate CC. Cricketing desires aside, play must Highgate Cricket Club to over-indulge on the 'spoils of tea' created by their Thai chef, and play Crouch End Cricket Club for the Jalfrezi that hampers your running between wickets. Win or lose after play shenanigans long into the evening on their beer terraces is one way to forget your woeful day on the field.
Ickenham Cricket Club
A little further down the A40 past Brentham Cricket Club, at the end of 'Oak Avenue' in uninspiring West Ruislip but inspiring enough to know the majestic Chilterns are a well-run three, plus 4 overthrows away, you will find Ickenham Cricket Club. Whether water flowing off the Chilterns has an effect on the ground and its surrounds can't be proved but passing through the gates you'd be excused for believing in teleportation. Green, green, and more green! Trees, hedges, fields, and foliage. None of their 3 grounds has the smoothest of outfields, but whether you prefer the number one oval with a giant oak backdrop, or the others ringed by woodlands, a golf course and the Chilterns, you will forget that you are in ‘Greater London’. Tranquillity of ‘village cricket’ awaits at this lovely, isolated ground as there is not a noise to be heard bar the sound of the pleasant crack of leather on willow.
Kew Cricket Club
The quaintest of ‘greens’ to play, Kew has enough cultural attraction without throwing Sunday friendlies into the mix, but cricket here is impossible to ignore. Famed Kew Gardens is a well-timed pull shot away, and the ring road of Kew Green on which countless clubs line up to play is a travellator of spectators strolling to or from nearby Kew Bridge Station, the namesake which straddles the River Thames in one of London’s most expensive suburbs. On a beautiful day, Kew will challenge Richmond for spectators that cross the field immune to the dangers of village cricket. St Anne’s Church, The Cricketers, and the ring of oaks detach you from the traffic din plying Kew Bridge. Concentrating on your game or lazing on the green absorbing melanoma, you’d be excused for thinking you were anywhere but London.
Little Missenden Misfits Cricket Club
Though travelling ‘out of London’ per se off the Tube Map, you can still take the Tube to Amersham from where a £4 taxi will get you to Little Missenden and a cricket ground unlike any I’ve played, if you can find it. After snaking through the Village and finding the correct ‘hole in the hedge’ you will find a unique field of dreams. There is a pavilion with no bar, a boundary with no fence, a board with no score, and a giant oak at mid-wicket that has no earthly place in a Buxton hayfield. After healthy summer rains, the field is as lush as ‘10mins more sleep’ and though the pitch may be a little sticky, the after game de-brief at the nearby Red Lion Pub is what makes the day here. When you a play a team whose introduction email reads “We are weak medium (more weak than medium!). How does a 1pm start sound? Longer in the pub after!”, you know you’re in a for a relaxed Sunday afternoon and long-evening. With its lovely local ales, duck pond, steam-engine memorabilia, and beer garden furniture that pays homage to ‘Winnie the Pooh’, you’d be excused for meeting at the pub before play and tossing the coin to simply decide the winner.
Shepperton Cricket Club
Leaving the comfort of the Tube Map, yet remaining within the M25 and just 16km south of London Heathrow Airport, our favourite place in London, there is the exclusive ‘I live in London but don’t’ suburb of Shepperton. If there's a ground where ‘lost ball’ could be called each over depending on the weakness of the bowlers and paradox strength of batting, it is Shepperton Cricket Club; invisible from the street and only found on match days thanks to balloons marking the entrance. Driving through the tunnel of trees, the field appears out of the darkness (spectacular on a sunny day) as does the elevated pavilion set back against the forest that rings the ground. A short boundary fence stops many balls rolling into lost-ball territory, but even big hits on the bounce into the jungles of Shepperton requires many a spare ball, and lots of beer to temper the frustration of spending more time looking for cricket balls than playing with them.
Have you a favourite 'Cricket Ground of London?' Let us know.