Around the Grounds. Nos. 3-7: five trips to Hertfordshire in under a year

Garden Walk, the home of Royston Town FC

Garden Walk, the home of Royston Town FC - Credit: Archant

Football writer Carl Marston dons his anorak to visit clubs in the region (and beyond) in his quest for good football and a good cup of tea. He has found both in Herts

The stand at Royston's Town Garden Walk, which houses the press box. Picture: CARL MARSTON

The stand at Royston's Town Garden Walk, which houses the press box. Picture: CARL MARSTON - Credit: Archant

Something a little different this week. I was at Royston Town’s Garden Walk a couple of weeks ago, to report on a seven-goal thriller, which ended in a rip-roaring 5-2 away win for Leiston.

Lovely though Garden Walk is, especially in late summer, I thought it would be over-kill to devote this whole column to a midweek jaunt across the border into Hertfordshire.

As ‘luck’ would have it, though, Royston has not been my only Herts destination of recent times.

In fact, at the last time of counting, it was up to five trips in the last eight months.

The main entarnce to Hertingfordbury Park, the home of Hertford Town FC. Pictrue: CARL MARSTON

The main entarnce to Hertingfordbury Park, the home of Hertford Town FC. Pictrue: CARL MARSTON - Credit: Archant


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Garden Walk

Club: Royston Town

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Founded: 1875

The West Highland Terrier who took a fancy to Carl Marston's biscuits in the press area at Hertingfo

The West Highland Terrier who took a fancy to Carl Marston's biscuits in the press area at Hertingfordbury Park. Picture: CARL MARSTON - Credit: Archant

Carl’s visit: Nicknamed the Crows – something I don’t like to shout about – Royston Town are the second oldest football club in Hertfordshire, after Hitchin Town.

It’s a friendly place. There’s plenty of parking at the nearby Royston Town Council, and a fine clubhouse behind the near goal, alongside the dressing rooms.

- Around the Grounds No.1: Framlingham’s Badingham Road

There’s a cemetery across the road (I tend to like this kind of detail about football grounds – my ‘favourite’ is the cemetery next to Bury FC’s Gigg Lane, which you can see from the press box).

While Glenn Driver’s Leiston were doing the business on the pitch, I had the pleasure of sitting next to Andrew Abbott, secretary of the East Anglian Premier Cricket League, who was the only other occupant of the press box.

Talk was mostly of Sudbury CCC’s EAPL title chances, and Bury CCC’s chances of avoiding relegation. Well, it was August and so was still the cricket season!

Hertingfordbury Park

Club: Hertford

Founded: 1901

Carl’s visit: Some games you forget in a hurry, but not this one.

On the pitch, Heybridge Swifts coasted to a 3-0 win to boost their Bostik North play-off challenge, on a midweek visit in mid-April. A fine result, but not particularly memorable.

However, off the pitch, I had an interesting duel with a very mischievous West Highland White Terrier.

- Around the Grounds No.2: Needham Market’s Bloomfields

This young Westie was stationed just outside the press area and, unbeknown to his owner, had eyes only for my half-time biscuits, not the Bostik League action unfolding in front of us.

Every time I took my eye off the ball (or rather my eye off the Westie!) he would shift a little closer to the Digestives. It was a tense evening!

Theobalds Lane

Club: Cheshunt

Founded: 1946

Carl’s visit: Another midweek excursion to Hertfordshire, for another Heybridge Swifts away victory last spring.

Situated just a stone’s throw from the A10, Theobalds Lane has one of the least glamorous histories of all football ground sites.

It started out life as a gravel pit, and was then transformed into a local rubbish tip from the 1930s, before eventually being cleared and (roughly) levelled to make way for a new life as a football pitch.

Apparently, during those early days there was no power in the dressing rooms, no hot water and no telephone line. Players had to change and then embark on a long walk up a track to the pitch.

If that wasn’t enough, the ‘stadium’ was abandoned before the end of the 1949-50 season, due to drainage problems, and a return was short-lived due to the dreadful playing surface.

However, eventually the bulldozers arrived, the surface was flattened to a good standard, and since then a clubhouse has been built, floodlights installed, and new stands erected.

I am happy to report that I didn’t have to work in the dark, or at an angle, and I didn’t get flooded, on my visit.

Wodson Park

Club: Ware

Founded: 1892

Carl’s visit: The tea in the director’s lounge was the highlight of a midweek away with Jody Brown’s Heybridge Swifts, this time on January 30. The game was a fairly dreary 0-0 draw, but I was impressed with the facilities.

There is another football club, Wodson Park FC, who ply their trade in the Spartan South Midland League Division One, and play at Wodson Park Sports & Leisure Centre, which is surrounded by an athletics track .

That’s next-door to Wodson Park, the home of Ware FC.

Confused? Well, I think I went to the right ground.

Parkfield

Club: Potters Bar Town

Founded: 1960

Carl’s visit: This was always going to be an educational visit – the club used to be named Mount Grace Old Scholars, and are still nicknamed the Scholars.

One of its claims to fame is that the current turnstiles came from the old Wembley Stadium. The turnstiles arrived in 2005, when the club joined the Southern League. An outside toilet block was also built at that time. I can report that both are still in full working order.

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