Many Somerset supporters who go along and watch championship cricket grew up in an age when many first-class teams played their home matches at a variety of venues round the county away from their headquarters, writes Richard Walsh. 

A look back at the Somerset fixture list of 55 years ago shows that championship cricket was hosted at Bath, Glastonbury, Weston-super-Mare, as well as at Taunton, and with 1969 being the inaugural year of the John Player’s County League, they played Sunday afternoon home matches in Torquay, Yeovil, Glastonbury, Brislington, Bath and Taunton. The only Gillette Cup match, a competition that began in 1963, was played at the County Ground.

For the hosting clubs, a visit from the county team was the highlight of their year and the games at these grounds regularly attracted large crowds, particularly the 40 over fixtures on a Sunday afternoon.

Sadly, financial constraints has led to a number of clubs, like Somerset, hosting all of their matches at their county headquarters, where the facilities provided meet the high standards demanded by both players and spectators and the costs involved of transporting everything to another venue has been removed.

The number of teams who take their matches around the county in the current era has reduced considerably but Lancashire are among those who still do, and in addition to playing at their headquarters Old Trafford, this season they are playing matches at Blackpool, Southport and Sedbergh School.

Being someone who grew up near Tunbridge Wells, my early memories of watching county cricket were when Kent came to the Nevill Ground for the County Cricket Week, during which they hosted two three-day games, one of which was always against local rivals Sussex.

That was the highlight of my cricketing year and for that week the Nevill Ground, tucked away in a quiet leafy corner of the town, took on an air of importance, tents were erected and bench seats installed around the boundary edges, for the large crowds who always attended.

Since then, most of my days at the cricket have been spent watching Somerset and during that time I have seen them play at Brislington, Bath, Glastonbury, Weston-super-Mare and Torquay, as well as, of course, at Taunton.

I have also travelled to watch Somerset play away from home and had already planned to travel to watch them in the championship match against Worcestershire, originally scheduled to be played at New Road, which, next to Taunton, is my favourite ground.

When it was announced that due to the flooding and continued wet weather, New Road would be unfit and the game was to be transferred to Kidderminster CC, far from being disappointed, I was delighted, it gave me a chance to step back in time and relive some of my early cricket experiences.

The Kidderminster ground at Chester Road is situated on the edge of the town and is tree-lined and enclosed by the railway at one end and houses on the others. By the time I arrived play had just begun and I drove in and parked just behind the boundary rope. That was me done for the day and out came the deck chairs, I wrapped up warm and sat back to enjoy the action out on the pitch.

During a break in the match, I perambulated around the ground and was delighted to see so many other Somerset supporters who had made the trip to watch their team on the road.

Dominating the scene is the Pavilion, a half-timbered black and white building, which was moved to its present side when Kidderminster Cricket Club relocated here in 1870. Subsequently, I discovered that former Somerset favourite Arthur Wellard, a fast bowler who once hit five sixes in an over against Kent at Wells, played here as a professional and in 1950 took 10 for 33 against Stourbridge.

Chairs were placed all round the boundary edges, where most of the good-sized crowd, given the freezing cold weather, sat watching attentively and enjoying the additional bonus of another county game at their friendly ‘Kiddy’ ground.

A large tent provided hospitality for members, guests and box holders, while another smaller marquee housed the members of the media and the BBC commentary team had a tent of their own. Polly Rhodes, the Somerset scorer, sat alongside her Worcestershire counterparts and kept an eye on proceedings from the window at the bottom of the main scoreboard.

One of the major problems with out grounds is that if it rains, there are very few places to shelter, as was the case when I arrived on the second day to find the covers in place and the sheets pulled over.

During the course of the morning, the rain got heavier but finally relented and play eventually got underway at 2.50pm and continued until bad light brought it to an early close, after which I headed back down the M5 to Taunton.

My two-day sojourn to Kiddy to watch Somerset play was certainly enjoyable but cold and I did see some good cricket, especially on the opening day when Tom Banton was outstanding, sharing partnerships with Andy Umeed and Migael Pretorius to rescue the first innings.

It was certainly a different experience and reminded me of how Festival Cricket felt at out grounds, where members of the host club rallied round to stage the match and welcome the supporters and members of both teams- and Kidderminster certainly did that very well.