Buckinghamshire is not renowned as one of the great regions of world cricket. It has plenty of history, with cricket being recorded there as early as 1730, and the County Cricket Club itself actually declined the opportunity to join the County Championship in 1921, over concerns about the standard of their facilities. It has won the Minor Counties championship nine times, and famously beat Somerset in the 1987 NatWest Trophy.
It is also home to possibly the most beautiful cricket ground in England, perhaps even the world.
Set in the rolling hills of Wormsley Park, Sir Paul Getty’s Ground is a monument to the beauty of simplicity. It is a relic of a bygone age – in an era of stadia, it is a true cricket ground. The immaculate playing surface is situated inside a grassy amphitheatre, flanked on one side by a thatched mock-Tudor pavilion, and on the other by an old-style manual scoreboard, behind which the Chiltern Hills slope up towards the clouds. The only sounds are those of the wind, and that of leather on willow. Occasionally, some polite applause. It really is like being in another world.
Getty was a life-devotee to everything English, and a few years after being introduced to the game by Mick Jagger, he had fallen so in love with the game that he decided to build the idyll we see today, loosely based on The Oval. For twenty years it has stood as a shrine to both his philanthropy and to the game he adored so much.
During the course of a match, should you look up the chances are you will see a Red Kite swirling around on the rolling breeze. After having been extinct in England and Scotland for many years, they were reintroduced on Getty’s land in 1989 as part of a project to increase their population, and are now a signature part of the park.
For those lucky enough to visit, there are few places that can match up to the experience of watching cricket at Wormsley. They have played host to many international sides, from Australia, the West Indies, Sri Lanka and South Africa, and of course, they hosted the 2013 Women’s Ashes Test.
That match was my unforgettable experience of Wormsley. As you climb the hill up to pitch level the view awaiting you genuinely takes your breath away. You are consumed by the majesty of the place, and it is easy to see why it is so beloved of players and fans alike.
A lot of grounds draw their lustre from their sense of history and tradition – for example Lord’s, or The Oval. Some are so big that, when full, they produce an experience like no other, such as the MCG or Eden Gardens. Grounds like Wormsley, however, are just stunningly attractive places to watch cricket, and in my view, it is as close to Heaven on Earth as you are likely to find.