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Saturday 15th September 2018 ko 14.00

North Berkshire League Division One

NORTH OXFORD 2 (T Mawema 22 T Mungai 65)

LONG WITTENHAM 4 (Bowler 12 36 Houseman 17 47)

Att 5 at Top Pavilion, Cutteslowe Park, Oxford

As a small boy growing up in Oxford I was fortunate to have a public park at the back of our house. You could say that park, and regular trips to the Manor Ground are the reason you’re reading this. But to the 5-year-old self the real treat was when Mum and I sat on a bus for the entire length of the “Number 2” bus route and spent the day at Cuttleslowe Park.

The municipal park, in North Oxford was created in 1935 when the local council acquired the lands of the former Cutteslowe Manor Farm;  the farm buildings are still in situ and are used as a garden centre and as a base for the city’s parks department.

But 40-odd years ago what I loved was both the space, the park is huge, but also the sheer volume of activities on offer. There was the children’s pool, the aviary, and the crazy golf, but best of all was the miniature railway. Just beyond that is the Top Pavilion which services the cricket pitch one side and a single football pitch the other. Back then I found the first place I could run in and never find a perimeter. These days that’s a little more organised, there’s a regular “Parkrun” here, and a measured “Sri Chinmoy Peace Mile.”

In fact so big is Cutteslowe Park, that you can easily argue that it actually contains two football grounds. North Oxford play at the Top Pavilion, but the Lower Pavilion serves another 3 football pitches, one of which is used by Summertown Stars in the Oxon Senior League. I watched the now defunct Riverside play there 6 years ago, and since there’s a good 200 yards between the two pavilions and you can’t see one pavilion from the other, I’m sure you can think of plenty of stadia closer together!

The way to approach North Oxford’s home is to approach Cutteslowe Park via Harbord Road. There’s a Pay & Display Car Park, and don’t think about street parking, there’s a residents’ parking scheme and the area is patrolled. The parking was an issue when the club applied to move from the Senior League to the North Berks in 2015.

With GroundhopUK’s 7-year stint in the North Berkshire League now over for now, it was good to be back watching fixtures both as a committeeman and a fan. Here the opposition was Long Wittenham, perennial members of Division One, which meant League Chairman Steve Bolton would be running the line- this isn’t a league for those with inflated egos, if you’re there, you muck in and help.

Inevitably I pondered how on earth we’d have held a hop game here, I suppose we’d have looked to how Caerphilly Athletic managed it, but I do wonder whether the difficulties of doing so would have outweighed the benefits. In the end it was good to just watch a game with friends.

The game was a good advert for the league. Long Wittenham blasted into a 3 -1  lead  but were rather stymied by both of their goalscorers picking up injuries soon afterwards. Even so, it looked like that would be enough to take the 3 points, but when North Oxford pulled a goal back, it made for a nervous last few minutes for the visitors.

In the end the right side won, but instead of heading back to the car straightaway I went for a walk round the park and to call in on a friend who works at the garden centre. I was away from the Top Pavilion for less than half a hour, but when I walked past it was if game had never taken place. And you know what? I rather like it that way, and even after all these years, the park still seems huge. It was a shame though that little railway was closed I think I’d have had to have a go on it if it were open!