As with most of these pages - if you're looking in 2017 around October, there's not going to be a lot of content as it's all got to be transferred from the other blogs - bear with me and check again over the coming weeks and months. In the short term his a taster of what the paddock is...
Double click on the image and have a look at the other Paddock videos
The Paddock What's the story?
This is a unusual story and probably a lot of people will think is slightly odd. The estate that I live on is part council houses, part private. The majority of the houses are private these days, but the layout of the estate is fairly typical of a council estate apart from the fact that it's adjacent to a big wood. On the estate there a series of grass verges and small greens, some of which are kitted out with swings and climbing frames and the like.
One of these small areas of grass is across the road from my house and for the most part even when it had a set of goal posts in it was virtually unused.
When my kids were little we'd try and play cricket on the football pitch at C and never even considered using the paddock because it was so rough and unkempt, covered in rubbish and dog crap. Despite the fact that back then it had goal posts in it, it was hardly used because the local dog owners used it as toilet for their dogs, kids would smash glass against the goal posts and the fences behind the goals were pretty much non-existent.
One summer I cut a little wicket in the middle of the football pitch at the end of the season and got all the kids on the estate playing cricket. The following summer the field was left to grow and no-one cut it and we had to look around for somewhere else to practice. A couple of times I looked at the paddock and dismissed it because it was so rough and uneven.
Around 2009 looking for somewhere to practice for myself I had another look and identified a flattish area I could bowl onto just to practice my length and accuracy. I had a rotary mower and cut a small experimental area in the grass to see how flat it was and it was okay and I practiced on it over the summer, but had my eye on another area that ran along side the fence and decided that as the summer ended I'd look at flattening it out and seeding it to improve it with a view to batting on it as well.
Since then I've maintained a wicket either along side the fence as in the video above, or more recently diagonally across the middle of the paddock. Around the time of the Dale Farm evictions travelers parked on the paddock a couple of times in their pick-up trucks and checked it out, but never used the space. Over the August bank holiday just before the Dale Farm riots, all the chain link fencing was removed alongside the road leaving just the posts. I reckon that the fencing was removed by the Traveler's or their supporters to make their barricades for the riots/siege. But as a result we couldn't set up our nets in the same way that we'd done so for a few years...
Double click the image below for video
I contacted the local council and told them about the lack of fence and the fact that we used the space and they came along and visited the space to look at whether they'd replace the fence like for like or something better. In the end they opted for an anti-traveler style fence to keep them from gaining access, but no use to use as a means of preventing the ball from being hit out of the area. What was interesting about the meeting was that I established the status of the space. The bloke from the council said that it was an 'Un-designated space' and that the council had no obligation to look after it or maintain it'. He'd looked at the goal posts and said that they would have to be removed because they were a H&S issue. Unfortunately, when the contractor came some months later he read his instructions to remove the fence posts and he did virtually the whole area except the sections that were massively over-grown with trees and brambles. These other sections of fence were useful as they were behind the stumps.
This meant that we now had to put nets up behind the stumps and could no longer play cover-drives into the chain link fence that ran parallel to the road. Additionally, when this fence was put in during late October after a lot of rain, the contractor drove onto the paddock along what had been the wicket and created long ruts in the grass that rendered it useless for fast bowling. With the goal posts now removed and in the middle of the economic down-turn and councils cutting back on their budgets, the only maintenance the council did thereafter was cutting the grass.
Over the following 2 summers we didn't use it that much because it was a lot of effort putting up nets and it could only be used for spin bowling because the length for a fast bowler was unusable because of the ruts caused by the contractors truck. Another thing I noticed was that every-time the grass was cut over these two summers the bushes and trees that were not being cut back were cut around and the area being cut quickly disappearing...
Down the road from the paddock there was another open space that I've watched since living here get mown 6-8 times a year which had some small bushes in. Over the 20 years these bushes have grown, and bit by bit the grass areas get smaller and now, there is no grass and the area is just amalgamated into the woods and I reckon this is what will happen to the paddock if it is not utilised.
A couple of years ago we gave up on preparing the fence-side wicket and noted that there was an option of cutting the wicket diagonally. Looking around in the bushes and brambles we noticed that some of the fencing had been left intact where the contractor obviously couldn't be bothered to cut down the fence and remove the posts. (All the posts and fences were just chucked in the woods rather than be taken away by the contractor). The diagonal wicket option was viable as the batting end had some remnants of fencing behind it if we cut the bushes and brambles back.
Above - This is how it looked last Spring (2018).
Above this is 2016 when we first started to use it.
Because it gets used and we cut a wicket in it the local dog owners for the most part no longer let their dog crap in it. Little kids use it with their Mum's and Dad's to play on the cut strip because it's a fairly nice bit of short grass - older kids sit in there when its sunny and we use it for other things like Photography...
My sons are 18 and 21 this summer, the older one Ben no longer plays. Joe the younger one does still and he'll occasionally join me in the paddock for a knock about. In the hot summer of 2018 two kids down the road from me who are about 9-11 years old came over with their Dad and played cricket in the paddock, so I'm hopeful these two lads will continue this summer and join our local club and the paddock may still see the development of cricket players for next few years? In which case I'll keep mowing and maintaining the space.
Click here to see multiple posts from my old blog with the paddock wickets over the years.