Visiting every county cricket ground #4: New Road, Worcester

I awoke early today, in time to see the cat slink in ashamed from his nocturnal adventures.

It was time for some escapades of my own. After a hiatus from my cricket ground adventures due to Brighton Fringe duties, I had both the means and the time to visit somewhere new.

I checked the fixtures, then checked where I was: in Oxford, apparently [1].

Worcestershire seemed the most geographically sane, and cheapest, option.

I made my way to the station via the Thames, or Isis, named in honour of the girlfriend of the landlady of a Brighton dive bar. Or so they say.

All was coming together. Assuming, of course, the ground wasn’t underwater.

Towards Folly Bridge.

Striding along the towpath, I feared water. New Road is infamous for its tendency to flood – the Severn being only a few strokes away from silly mid-off.

A message from Geoff pops up on WhatsApp:

“Worcester Twitter is reporting the sun is out and the gates are open. And a pair of swans are gliding gracefully across the square*.

“* Joking”


The train to Worcester brings back fond memories [2]. It’s a beautiful journey, and I had a carriage to myself.

“Everyone else is packed into the first two carriages for some reason”, explained the guard, checking my ticket. “This is nine coaches, it’s usually five”, further explained the wielder of the refreshments trolley, tempting me with tea and UHT milk.

The approach is lovely, first through the rolling Cotswolds, then the train curving its way around the edge of town, with views of the cathedral down in the valley below.

Worcester is a pretty market town, gone slightly to seed, as have most places in England after so many years of austerity. The station is pleasingly central, but one is greeted by a local council sign vilifying homeless people as criminals.

I passed the usual jumble of familiar brands – Greggs, McDonald’s, the old hotel now a ‘spoons – alongside boy racers and a delightful art deco cafe.

The clouds parted as I crossed the river, and was headed to the ground, directed by a steward past the entrance to a Premier Inn which now overlooks the ground.

The turnstiles sit in the basement of this new building, these old entry points much narrower than the wide concrete corridor which now overwhelm them; and easily circumnavigated by the distracted, until one is called back by the friendly staff.

I had forgotten how much I loved the accent ‘round these parts. It’s a kind of borderland Brummie: gentler, and mildly more eccentric, from my East Midlands vantage point.

Where I’m from, everyone calls everyone duck. Here it appears to be love, but a soft love compared to the love of the north.

Another tea? Thanks, love.

I arrived half an hour into the morning session, with a pretty decent turnout and the visitors, Leicestershire, batting.

E popular in Worcester.

I made my way around to the D’Oliveira stand, as it seemed to offer the best protection from the sun, for those ginger inclined, and was closest to the river. I was rewarded with birdsong, bees buzzing around my head, and Joe Leach inducing an early edge to first slip.

County cricket is a place where you can pay as much or as little attention as you like. No-one judges you and barely anyone notices you.

I would estimate that 95% of the crowd here, as with previous grounds, consists of solitary men. It’s impossible to know how many here are happy with this state of affairs, and who are battling more complex fires. [3]

But if you’re going to be alone, I can’t think of anywhere else better to be.

I spent the rest of the morning session applying for jobs on my iPad, and reading about James I’s early weeks in power [4]. All the while cricket kept happening near me, with occasional guttural encouragement from fielders.

Worcester kept chipping away, and went into the luncheon interval (as cricket folk are insistent and anachronistic in calling “lunch”) on top, with Leicestershire three wickets down already.

As at Hove, but not at Lord’s or The Oval, the field was open to punters during the break, “if you would like to stretch your legs or other parts of your anatomy”, as explained the tannoy.

Many took advantage, pulled, as if by magnets, towards the playing square. Kept at bay by high vis stewards, they stared and took photos, as if this was a crashed alien spacecraft, not a strip of grass tended to by a couple of groundsmen with a roller and a brush.

I decided to explore the cafe and shop at the other side of the ground, next to the Graeme Hick pavillion and a rather charming old hut festooned in bunting. [5]

It’s a lovely cafe, with framed old posters and fresh pasties for those that way inclined.[6]

Back to my seat, with tea and a card to write. And back to my book, and a sardonic description of early 17th century London:

“Come to London, plaguy London, a place full of danger and vanity and vice.” [7]

I would. But I’m busy at the moment.

The afternoon session sees wickets fall regularly. As a wasp feigns interest in my Brie and grape baguette, Mulder goes to a splendid diving catch by D’Oliveira, a presumed scion of the one my stand is named after.

Then England’s teenage sensation Rehan Ahmed comes and goes, fending tamely to slip. We shall be seeing more of him.

These are the potential sleepy times in the insistent afternoon sun. To stay awake, I focus on banal things around the ground as Colin Ackermann attempts to dig in amid Leicestershire’s lower order. A mobility scooter moves smoothly into position. A corporate jolly in a tent sponsored by Uber Eats. A younger man removes his baseball cap to toy nervously with his bald spot.

Leicestershire are all out by tea, for 170-odd – more than seemed likely at one stage. On the Guardian’s county blog, the token Worcestershire fan is nervous. He uses a word I have never read before to describe the thinness of his team’s batting: diaphanous.

Whether jinx or augur, Guardian commenter Mr Llyod – excellent username – is not wrong. I leave with his team five down already, including two in two balls out to veteran seamer Chris Wright, and assorted others plundered by on-loan Somerset yeoman Josh Davey, so new to the county that he doesn’t even have a number upon his shirt.

I am ushered out via the car park, and as I cross the bridge into town I see a rower pursued by two dozen swans.

By the time I reach the station, another two are gone. By the time I am back in Oxford, Leicestershire are batting again.

[1] Catsitting.

[2] The first gay wedding I was honoured to attend was in a barn on its outskirts. Two brides, both in traditional whites. And a searing, political speech about rights and how hard they are won and how easily lost.

[3] We live in a loneliness crisis, our lives increasingly atomised by late capitalism and techno-dystopianism.

I was listening to a podcast about union organising in the hospitality sector, and the rep was explaining how so much of the work of people at places like the local pub or fast food joint is stuff that would have been sorted by social services pre-neoliberalism. When you apply for a job at McDonald’s, knowing and advising about local charities, shelters and food banks, and conflict de-escalation are not part of the job description. But perhaps it should be.

[4] London and the 17th Century: The Making of the World’s Greatest City by Margarette Lincoln. Picked up in Oxford’s Oxfam bookshop, despite the approving quotes from Times and Spectator critics on the back.

[5] New band / side project name: “Bunting for Communism”

[6] As the tannoy – that local oracle – commands us at tea, “if you go through the magic doors you will find something beyond your imagination”.

[7] The poet John Dunne.


  1. Always a pleasure to read anything you write, James!

    I’ve not seen a ‘Visiting every Wimpy’ update for a while. Have I missed them?

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