My Inlaws lived in Basildon till recently and they've moved to a village just outside of Derby called West Hallam. Have a look at it on Google maps and you'll get a sense of how small it is in comparison with Basildon or click the link for an overview of the village. The population is around 4900 people as opposed to Basildons 100,000 or so. Yet despite this the cricket facilities in that area are staggering in comparison with Basildon. Within 5 miles of their house I'm aware of at least 5 -6 different cricket pitches and the last time I was there I went out and took a look at them to see how they compare with the facilities in our area.
The closest club to their house is about 400 metres away and it's Nutbrook cricket club. They've got two pitches on the same site as far as I'm aware and quite a nice and new clubhouse. But the thing that amazed me when I first had a look at it last year is the high quality and condition of their nets and the fact that they're open and accessible to everyone.
The shots above were taken at the Nutbrook ground on the 6th April and they were playing despite the cold and very damp conditions and again unlike in our area, the club has roll-away covers that they use on the pitches. You can see the quality of the nets at the club with the all weather surface and a decent extension allowing a run-up for fast bowlers. Not so good for spinners as the height would cause problems. You can see in the background of the shot with the players in, the clubhouse. We asked about membership and my mother and father-in-law can be non-playing members for a year for £10 (Combined) which gives them access to hiring the club as a venue for their own social events for a tenner and they're able to run the bar on the night themselves as far as I could make out.
Not content with one club in a village of just 4900 people, there's another club... "West Hallam White Rose Cricket Club". It was the Nat West cricket force weekend when I visited this ground and I spoke to one of the blokes that was cutting up replacement sections for their 'Picket fencing'. He was saying that over the winter some kids had made a fire in the adjacent woods and had started to use thier picket fencing for the fire.
This clubhouse and ground is relatively new having moved and expanded around 2000. The building went up first and the ground was made usable a few years later. Situated in the dip created by old quarry, they have along one side a row of mature trees, which I always think is a nice feature in a cricket ground. To the left of the clubhouse as you see in the image above they've planted Willows in a damp corner, which in time will again improve the aesthetics of the club.
With regards their nets seen above - no security, open to one and all and again that spongy all-weather surface. I mentioned to the bloke that last summer we'd (Joe, Ben and I) had a bat and a bowl in the nets one evening and whether there was any issue with that? The bloke said... No, if it encourages kids to play cricket that's good. In fact this summer if you want to come alonbg do so as the bar will be open and we've got a lovely patio that faces onto the pitch which catches the sun in the afternoon and evenings.
The White Rose cc, still retain their old ground which is in the town, just across the adjacent field (300 metres away). See below.
The location of the White Rose club is about 2 miles from my In-laws house.
The Rutland Recreation Ground
This next venue is about one to one and half kilometres away from their house and as far as I'm aware is a council run facility. It's a multi-sport facility which includes a cricket ground with a traditional style pavillion and the unusual feature along side the pitch of a concrete stepped stand for the fans! (See image below). Just beyond the concrete steps is a set of nets. This again has the spongy all-weather surface wih a long run-up space and three bays - 3 netted completely and the two on the end perfect for spinners as there's not a netted roof as such. I've used this on a couple of ocassions now when I've been up there and no-one has ever been over to say You need to pay for this mate. There's no signs to say you have to pay and you can just walk in and get on with it.
Unlike the other venues this facility is on the edge of a bigger town with a population of 38,000 and there is some evidence of vandalism, but not enough to stop you from using the facilities, just to make your heart sink a little at the total pointless-ness of it.
The other thing I have to mention about this venue is the sports hall on the righ-hand side of the image. We used it during the Christmas break last year before Joe was run-down on the crossing we turned up at the offices which are situated on the other side of the cricket pitch and a bloke walked us over and unlocked the building and let us in as we were the only people wanting to use it at that time of day (3pm). When we got inside it was amazing! For one it was massive 3 - 4 times bigger than the indoor facilities of Essex County Cricket Clubs Graham Gooch centre. The surface was again that spongy nylong surface and no-where was there a column in the centre of the area - instead the roofing structure using the cantilever support system. If you wanted to ever play indoor cricket with a full size team this was the kind of place you could do it! Inside it was set up for several options, but all of them adaptable... Football, badminton, tennis and cricket nets (I'm fairly sure, but check with them if you intend to use it for that purpose), but I'm fairly certain. Everything was brand new and high-quality and as far as I'm concerned we've got nothing like it here in Basildon, unless you feel like parting with a lot of cash. We had two hours in there and it cost us next to nothing. We played cricket, badmintion, football, it was great. At 5pm other people started to turn up, but for two hours it was empty!
Ockbrook and Borrowash cricket club
This one is far bigger club and the furthest at 6 miles away. Again I spoke to a bloke and said that if we turned up would it be okay if we used the nets and he was okay about it, again saying if it's going to encourage kids to play cricket - why not? Again, open to the elements and with the same features as the other nets and no vandalism.
This club has a big clubhouse and two pitches, again far better facilities than many of the clubs in our area and yet such a sparsely populated part of the country? There's another club a similar distance in Spondon, which again is nothing but a village and again the facilities from what I can glean from the internet are second to none. Here's a shot of their club off the internet...
I can only imagine the factors that relate to the disparity are either the rental/lease arrangements for the grounds and maybe something to do with the fact that a large part of the population of south Essex are people with municipal backgrounds e,g, people that have moved out of the East end and therefore have more of an affinity with Football and that somehow affects the situation? It just makes me wonder why the clubs in the midlands and the councils seem to be far wealthier than those down south?