Browse all Meandering around ( and beyond ) Middlesex articles
Last winter, you may recall, I ‘virtually’ traversed the length of the River Lea/Lee from its meeting point with the Thames to Tottenham – with detours round Hackney and Leyton. The river, in part canalised, is the traditional boundary between proper Middlesex and Essex. It is convenient for a returning wanderer to re-commence a walk around the ancient border of Middlesex beyond Tottenham at Enfield Lock in the north-eastern corner of the county and head westwards to follow its boundary with Hertfordshire. This particular rambler is of course investigating cricket matters and especially links with Yorkshire cricket. There will I am sure be much to discover concerning the white rose though not immediately. Nevertheless there is always something to discover in this ancient shire.
It is obvious that the walker has a major obstacle in strolling along the ancient northern border of Middlesex, namely the M25 - which for much of the way around here is remarkably close and noisy. Nobody wishes to criss-cross the motorway and there is a much pleasanter alternative wending south-westwards deeper into proper Middlesex on a section of the London Loop - a series of pathways which have been linked together to form one continuous walkway around the metropolis. It is a wonderful idea and takes the perambulator through rural and semi-rural land, parks as well as urban areas.
Enfield Lock itself is a place of historical interest - having been the home of the Royal Small Arms Factory - and its frontage remains despite a large development for housing as does a row of workers cottages by the canalised Lee. But the wayfarers face is turned virtually south-westwards as the route chosen by the loop goes around urban Enfield before leading to quieter parts, Forty Hall Estate - where Sir Walter Raleigh is reputed to have lain down his cloak for Queen Elizabeth I - and up Turkey Brook Valley, skirting a golf course and Hilly Fields Park with its charming bandstand, at one point crossing the Hertfordshire Chain Walk at Clay Hill (though we are still in Middlesex!). The terrain is undulating and at times hilly as befitting a barrier between two counties but it is certainly not the Pennines.
I improvised the route so that it would pass by two cricket grounds, at North Enfield and the curiously named Botany Bay. North Enfield CC is adjacent the Hertfordshire Chain Walk but we are in Middlesex and the ground’s postal address is Strayfield Road, Enfield, Middlesex. However, the club plays in the Hertfordshire League, presumably for the convenience of travelling to similar sized clubs, and are therefore members of the Herts Cricket Board. There is no reference to them having a secondary membership with Middlesex to which they are entitled. I made contact with two very helpful club members one of whom, the chairman James Scott, told me that most of the members are Middlesex supporters and that North Enfield will be taking out membership with Middlesex CCC next season whilst the club will also be linking with them to try and achieve ‘Clubmark’ status.
It is only right that such links are made for this is the home club of Mike Smith - the former Middlesex opening batsman - who actually staged a benefit match on the ground as did John Emburey. Indeed the Smith family have been closely involved with the club over a number of years. The area was also the home of the Bosanquet family and it is conjectured that the original leg-spinner B.J.T.Bosanquet (hence the Australia phrase 'bosey') may have played for the club but there is no tangible proof.
The ground is pleasant, being tree and hedge lined with a notable feature, an oak tree - which is the club's badge - growing 50 yards from the edge of the square and 10 yards inside the boundary. James Scott also informed me when the ball hits any part of the tree, its trunk or branches or leaves, then play continues on as ‘normal’. So if the ball scrapes the upper branches and leaves then lands over the boundary it is a six or – should it hit the ground first – a four. Batsmen can continue to run and of course fieldsmen can attempt run outs after the ball has hit the tree but any catch made off re-bound or a ball dropping out of the branches would not count!
Neither James nor my other contact, fixture secretary Dave Malleson, recall a batsman actually hitting the ball over the highest part of the tree but shots have scraped the upper branches and gone for six. Dave does ruefully told me about a long Sunday afternoon in the field just a few seasons ago when an under-strength home side were put to the sword by a very strong Uxbridge X1 who included a West Indian with first-class experience. The visitors made about 450 from their 40 overs and the overseas star hit several shots over higher parts of the tree though not the highest itself.
The ground is apparently owned by Enfield Council and I have read that a right of way passes across the playing field but of course as a sort of cricket person I would not want to take advantage of that. Imagine weekend or evening ramblers claiming that right and constantly interrupting matches! Actually James also told me that walkers do use the right of way but sensibly go round the boundary.
North Enfield CC have strong playing links with nearby Botany Bay CC which is a one and a half mile walk away, though most of the route is by the A1005. The hamlet of Botany Bay was presumably so named centuries ago due to its isolated situation adjacent to the woodlands of Enfield Chase. (There are also places of the same name in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire.) I suppose we have some sort of Yorkshire link here as Captain James Cook of Marton by Middlesbrough discovered and named the original Botany Bay!
Botany Bay is also in traditional Middlesex but like North Enfield the club plays in the Hertfordshire League and are members of the Herts CB. Despite the proximity of the A1005 the ground itself is in an attractive rural setting and a recent advert by the club for new players referred to this but claimed it was one of the loveliest grounds in Hertfordshire! However, the club does continue to have links with their traditional county through their junior sides which play in the Middlesex Colts Association. (North Enfield have a juniors section but they do not seem to play competitively). Another club, Hadley Wood Green CC, also use Botany Bay's excellent facilities. They play at a lower level in the recently formed Middlesex and Essex Invitation League and are members of the Middlesex CB.
I should end this piece on a note of optimism as would befit the start of a journey but I have to report that there is a terrible air of sadness hanging over cricket in the area. This is because the Botany Bay 2nd X1 captain recently lost his life in a motor bike accident shortly after his side had won promotion. There seems to be a bond between local clubs whilst their websites refer themselves as being family orientated. This was clearly proved when Botany Bay and North Enfield came together at short notice to play a seven a-side event in memory of the late cricketer at seasons’s end.
It makes me recall a marvellous man I played with at my first club, Cottingham CC near Hull. Ken Banyard was the father of a friend of mine and a stalwart of the club. He was playing when I made my debut in 1972 in a Sunday 'friendly' at Withernsea. Ken was always kindness itself especially on that day. Two years later he died after collapsing at the crease batting for a Hull civil service side. We will all have recollections of team-mates gone, probably before their time, and that is mine.
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