The latest in our journey around the non league grounds of the UK takes us to Buckinghamshire courtesy of Mike Innes from the twitter account FootballMK.
Mike’s account @footballmk covers United Counties League, Spartan South Midlands League and North Bucks & District League football in Milton Keynes and North Buckinghamshire. We’ve previously had submissions from our correspondents in Kent, Hampshire, Northamptonshire, Gloucestershire, Essex, Teesside and last time Sussex as we look to compile a list of some of the best venues to visit in the country.
The pictures for Mike’s submission have been supplied courtesy of Sports Shots and Laurence Reade. Here’s Mike’s top five:
Stratford Fields – Buckingham Athletic
On a sunny afternoon there are few places in north Bucks more pleasant to watch football than Stratford Fields, home of Spartan South Midlands League Division 1 side Buckingham Athletic.
Approaching from the ground from across the River Great Ouse, a wall of conifers frames the neat stand and a garden shed — sorry, media nerve centre — in which the Ath’s PA system is accommodated.
A stroll along the path by the river affords a fine view of the pitch from behind the dugouts, enabling dogwalkers to pause and catch ten minutes of the second half.
The clubhouse is clean and comfortable, with an area of decking from which the game can be watched accompanied by a pint of Rebellion. The wall round the back of the clubhouse also features one of the most intriguing pieces of graffiti in the area. I shall leave the detail to your imagination and sense of adventure.
Ostlers Lane – Stony Stratford Town
In his 1929 novel The Good Companions, JB Priestley describes attending a football match and “[pushing] your way through a turnstile into another and altogether more splendid kind of life.”
Stony Stratford Town’s Ostlers Lane may not have a turnstile, but it does present a sense of anticipation Priestley would have recognised, in its arched entrance, surrounding hedgerows and 200-yard march from the clubhouse.
Ostlers Lane, or the Ancell Trust Sports Ground to give it its more formal name, is a classic example of municipal provision of sports facilities enabled by funds bequeathed for the benefit of local people.
Located behind the town’s High Street, the sports ground is extensive, with tennis courts, bowling and croquet greens, a cricket pitch and not one but two football pitches.
The main ground features floodlights and a small standing-room-only stand, providing a home to Stony in the North Bucks & District League Division 1 — local football perhaps, as JB Priestley went on to say, “hurtling with Conflict and yet passionate and beautiful in its Art.”
The Recreation Ground – New Bradwell St Peter & Loughton Manor
New Bradwell St Peter moved into the Recreation Ground (pictured top), Bradville, in the years after World War 2. The club took the first half of its name from the small Edwardian town that had been built mainly to house workers at the nearby Wolverton engine works and the second half from the church of St Peter, Stanton Low, the remains of which stand isolated in open fields between the Great Ouse and the Grand Union Canal.
Very sadly the Peters folded last summer, but in January, as a result of problems with their previous accommodation, Spartan South Midlands League Division 2 club Loughton Manor moved in to the Recreation Ground.
This is good news not only for Loughton Manor but for grassroots football in Milton Keynes, as it means one of the best facilities in the area is once again being used properly. The Recreation Ground features a distinctly homemade stand, floodlights and a decent, albeit sloping, pitch with good drainage, meaning postponements are rare even on the unforgiving heavy clay soil of north Bucks.
What sets it apart, though, is the presence at the edge of the ground of Bradwell Windmill, a fully-restored 19th century structure used to make flour which was then transported to London via the adjacent Grand Union Canal. This adds an unexpectedly bucolic air to a built-up corner of MK.
Station Road – Mursley United
First things first – Station Road? Surely Mursley, a village just beyond the western fringes of Milton Keynes, doesn’t have a railway station? Well, of course it doesn’t anymore, but the name harks back to a period in the history of public transport and urban development when Mursley was but a hop and a step from being on the Metropolitan Line.
In his 1973 film Metro-Land, John Betjeman speaks of the landscape in these parts as one of “flat fields with huge elms and distant blue hills” and the view from the far touchline at Mursley United is not dissimilar even 45 years later.
Located on the road to Little Horwood, underneath the striking water tower that features on the Mursley United club badge, the ground provides an object lesson in staging Step 7 football as a component of community life.
On matchday, as the players run through their coaching drills prior to kick-off, kids in green and white Mursley kit buzz around while their parents drink mugs of tea in the covered area by the small but tidy, modern clubhouse.
As part of Mursley United’s three-year plan, there’s talk of the installation of floodlights at Station Road.
Manor Fields – Buckingham Town & Unite MK
Manor Fields may not be a contender in any football ground beauty contest, but it deserves a place on this list for its role in the post-war history of the local game. As the home ground of Bletchley Town, for instance, Manor Fields hosted West Ham United teams in the Metropolitan League.
For the 2017/18 season it has crossed boundaries by playing host both to Buckingham Town in the United Counties League Division 1 and to Spartan South Midlands League Division 2 side Unite MK.
Uniquely on the north Bucks non-league scene Manor Fields features two seated stands, one of which runs the whole length of the pitch. There are views over Watling Street of Brickhill and the northeastern-most folds of the Chilterns, while red kites can often be seen circling hopefully over the midfield.
Local facilities include the real ale-friendly Red Lion by the canal, among the best (and certainly the cheapest) local Italian cafe in Gino’s on Fenny Stratford High Street and the Pink Punters nightclub.
For more information on non league away days, from clubs you should visit to costs involved visit our Away Days section here. And if you would like to submit five grounds from your area then please email [email protected]
All photos in this article copyright and provided by www.sportsshots.org.uk and Laurence Reade.
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