Amol Rajan: The loveliest place to play the game

Rajan's Wrong 'Un

Half a lifetime ago, when I played there for London Schools, I was convinced that Arundel was the most beautiful ground in all England.

The home of the Duke of Norfolk's XI is what you might show a Martian who was looking for England and had a spaceship to catch. Set near the castle, this bowl-shaped amphitheatre looks like it was designed by some celestial giant who, having scooped three and a half acres out of the Sussex countryside, felt guilty about the scar and so covered it with the most beautiful thing he could imagine.

There are trees all around, giving a feeling of seclusion – almost privacy – except for one side, where a large gap unveils the most glorious view of the Weald. No shortage of visiting batsmen have made a mistress of this horizon, fancying their chances of dispatching some trundler for a huge maximum, only to find their stumps flying.

The 15th Duke of Norfolk built the ground in 1895. His daughter-in-law, Lavinia, responded to the death of her husband Bernard, the 16th Duke, by setting up the Friends of Arundel Castle Cricket Club. They completed an indoor school in 1990.

This triumvirate – aesthetic beauty, glimmering heritage, and investment in the future – always made Arundel seem to me unsurpassed among the hundreds of cricket grounds I have seen over the years. And yet, over the past year – and yesterday specifically – I've become convinced that there is a ground in England which surpasses even Arundel for sheer visual enchantment.

Wormsley is a name that conjures Kenneth Grahame or Lewis Carroll; and when the late Paul Getty conjured this ground two decades ago, there was something childish and make-believe about his vision. Just past the road to Stokenchurch, it sits high above sea-level in the unspeakably beautiful undulations of Buckinghamshire – a view shared by the red kites who duck and weave high above.

What strikes you is a majestic simplicity; carved into the rolling hills, the view from the pavilion is split-level, a green surface under an alternately blue or grey sky. One end is known as the Dibley end, because it's just a few fields from where they filmed "The Vicar of Dibley". The pitch itself is at a sunken level, creating an embankment where hundreds of spectators can gather, and often do. A large, thatched pavilion is adorned with images of the greats who scored hundreds here, Brian Lara among them.

I played here for the first time last year. My side, Authors CC, were up against the always Tory-heavy Lords and Commoners XI, and as we drove in yesterday for this year's fixture, the ground seemed yet more exquisite and unimprovable than I remembered. Tim Munton and Mark Foster have done a superb job in maintaining it, preserving an isolated spot of Arcadian beauty in just the manner Getty would have wanted.

I realise that describing Arundel and Wormsley as two of England's most beautiful grounds is hardly original. But the point is that all cricket fans have their favourite grounds, dramatic spots with a special claim on their affections. And unlike Arundel and Wormsley, most of those are completely unknown to the wider public.

Avorians CC near Cobham in Surrey, for instance, is a stunning, tranquil place – and yet most fans have never heard of it. Lynton and Lynmouth in Devon, Frogmore in Berkshire and Armadillos CC's ground at Sheffield Park all could claim to be among England's most beautiful grounds.

And where else? If you think you've seen a contender for the title of England's most beautiful cricket ground let me know via Twitter and I'll report back in a few weeks.

twitter.com/amolrajan

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test