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Andrew Gallon savours the views at Warley for this Halifax Cricket League Premier Division match against Blackley.
Having lived in Calderdale between 1973 and 1983, a period spanning the formative ages of eight and 18, I’m a bit biased about the district’s scandalously underrated scenery.
It’s no accident, however, that many cricket enthusiasts believe the Halifax Cricket League boasts some of the prettiest, quirkiest grounds in Yorkshire.
Owing to Calderdale’s rollercoaster topography, the grounds are almost all located either on breezy tops or amid wooded, river-threaded valley floors.
Warley Cricket Club’s splendidly named Paradise Lane ground is one of the former. Warley Town, a small village despite its grand name, is a fair old climb out of central Halifax.
The visitor’s reward is superb views. If you’re planning to watch a game at Warley, set off early enough to continue past the village, following the Mount Tabor road. To the left, the panorama encompassing the Calder Valley and Luddenden Dean is sensational.
The Paradise Lane ground is one of the oddest I’ve been to. With a small pitch that slopes away steeply in all directions from a tiny square, it brings to mind Huddersfield League Hoylandswaine Cricket Club’s similarly idiosyncratic set-up. At each ground, the only level area appears to be the wicket.
So marked are the undulations, looking down the Warley ground from its far end, fielders on the opposite boundary are visible only above the waist.
Given the lack of room, Paradise Lane’s facilities represent a triumph of ingenuity. Necessity, I guess, was the mother of invention.
Warley Cricket Club have somehow managed to shoehorn dressing rooms, a tea hut (with decking), a scoreboard and permanent nets into limited space beyond the boundary.
Mature trees fringe the near end and bottom side. A well struck shot down the slope is likely to end up on the adjacent Cliff Hill Lane. The name says it all!
In full leaf, the trees mask some of the views. What can be glimpsed through gaps is seriously enticing.
The Warley ground is so tight for space, there isn’t any parking. Prompt arrivals will find a spot in the village’s free car park, about 50 yards from the ground’s modest entrance gate. If you’re late, you’ll have to make do with street parking. Try the vicinity of the Maypole Inn, alongside the crossroads at the heart of the village. The inn features an unmissable mural.
Incidentally, don’t be tempted to take your car down Paradise Lane. It’s too narrow! A Victorian notice, carved in gritstone, warns of the perils of “motors” attempting access.
Distinctive gritstone former textiles weavers’ cottages abound in Calderdale. There is an absolutely stunning example – possibly two or more knocked together – at the near end of Warley’s ground.
Given a warm, sunny afternoon was forecast, I figured Warley would be the place to catch a cooling breeze. I wasn’t wrong. To describe it as ‘stiff’ would be an understatement! There cannot be many days on the South Pennine moors when the wind doesn’t blow.
As an invariably neutral spectator, I try to pick games the league table suggests may be close. Warley, sixth in the Halifax Cricket League’s Premier Division, were entertaining Blackley, two places worse off. In the event, Warley won comfortably, by eight wickets.
Star of the show was Warley’s Chris Atkinson
As his team chased Blackley’s 189 off 45 overs, the confident Atkinson took 95 balls to hit an unbeaten 102. Considering fellow opener Gareth Standeven had been removed without a run on the board, Atkinson’s efforts were particularly impressive.
Atkinson, a former professional footballer, teamed up with No 3 Christopher Marsh (78 off 77 balls) to steer Warley to the brink of victory, adding 172 for the second wicket. Marsh was dismissed shortly before the end, but Atkinson, in the 34th over, delivered the coup de grace with a flourish, smashing a six and two fours in consecutive deliveries. 190-2.
These days, Atkinson plays in midfield for Farsley Celtic Football Club, members of National League North. Earlier in his football career, he spent time with the Football League’s Huddersfield Town, Darlington, Chesterfield, Tranmere Rovers and Crewe Alexandra.
Plenty of sporting all-rounders have combined professional careers in football and cricket, although not so many in the modern era. Maybe the football season is now simply too long! From my youth, I recall Chris Balderstone, Jim Cumbes and Ted Hemsley doubling up to good effect.
Earlier in the game at Warley, Blackley, electing to bat, got off to a promising start. Wayne Swift (82 off 90) and Sam Mindham (26) put on 70 for the visitors’ first wicket.
Swift, wearing one of Blackley’s vivid, apple green caps, then got together with Sam Hesmondhalgh (19) to advance the score to 118-2.
But the next six Blackley wickets produced just 34 runs. Tailenders Joseph Murphy (21 not out) and Macaulay Shiel (16), the wicketkeeper, added a useful 37 for the ninth. Ian Shaw claimed 5-52 and Warley captain Greg Keywood 3-37.
The match was preceded by a minute’s silence in memory of David Bates, who gave so much to the Halifax Cricket League. The teams lined up, respectfully, either side of the wicket.
David, who died recently, played for the Bradshaw and Old Crossleyans clubs before turning to umpiring in 2006. He stood at the 2012 Crossley Shield Final.
From 2014, David was secretary of the Halifax Cricket League Association of Cricket Officials (HCLACO). David’s wife, Heather, helped him carry out his secretarial duties.
The tribute, observed immaculately at Warley, was paid at every Halifax Cricket League fixture. I hope David’s family and friends drew comfort from such a lovely gesture.
Many thanks to Andrew and you can read his club cricket series, Miles per Gallon, on the website throughout the summer.
REG NELSON says
Love the way you describe the grounds you visit, Andrew, in almost poetic detail. Having been to most of the grounds you describe in the West Yorkshire area, it gives me a nod to re-visit (if only there was time in such a short season!).
You do `ground-hoppers’ a great service and I commend you.
derek stocker says
Greetings John from Derek in Bulgaria.
May I set you a challenge? No problem if you do not have the time.
I was born and raised in the Derbyshire Peak District. Sheffield was closer than Manchester & Derby was a couple of hours away. My grandad (cricket groundsman & Sheffield Utd supporter) used to say to me,
‘ey up owd lad, dus thee know, from ‘ere we can spit in’t 5 counties.’
I think of my grandad a lot, we were very close, so maybe my challenge is a tribute to Charlie Sherratt, died too young at just 67, the age I turn in October.
By the nature of size Yorkshire has a lot of border. There are going to be grounds maybe touching a border, maybe stradding two. Do these clubs play in Yorkshire leagues or maybe the neighbouring county set ups?
My boyhood club was Birch Vale & Thornsett CC in the Derbyshire & Cheshire league, not quite the closest to the Derbyshire/Cheshire border, that would be New Mills CC.
Following years of adventure in Africa I returned close to my roots and joined a club close to the Cheshire/Derbyshire border, Disley CC. My first years with Disley they were in the now sadly defunct Glossop & District league, Glossop, definitely in Derbyshire but very close to Yorkshire.
When the league disbanded, club committees decided to join either the Cheshire Pyramid system or the Derbyshire and Cheshire league. I think all this plus my Grandads words stoked my interest on ‘Border Cricket Clubs’.
Can you research & pen an article? If not during the season maybe in the winter? It maybe an article that you could sell to a newspaper or magazine.
The Dukes Googly is approaching your crease!
John Fuller says
Hi Derek, always good to hear from you. I have written about border clubs before like Todmorden and up to the Earby region with Lancs. Richard Wells also wrote about Sheffield-based Hollinsend Methodist recently who straddle a few leagues include the Derbyshire County League: https://cricketyorkshire.com/hollinsend-methodist-cricket/
Heather J. Bates says
I have actually only now! just found this! It was actually ‘saved’ for me on my iPad Keep’sakes … So beautiful and unexpected to find and read it all again and see the moving photograph! I’m sure I will have thanked someone at the time… All a haze of ripe grief and pain. So I feel must comment now upon seeing this… The touching ‘minutes silence’ was for David Bates – passed away 6th June 2021 and I’m Heather ~his wife. A year and 2 moths ago now… ( time does tend to stand still in many ways though) However so nice to find this and see it in detail and read it all. Such a precious keepsake and heartfelt thanks to you all…
Hoping this year’s Cricket season has been good for each of you …. almost the close of it!
Heather J. Bates
John Fuller says
Thanks Heather, lovely to hear from you and I’m glad you found the article that mentions David. Very best wishes, John.