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With the football season over prematurely due to the Coronavirus Pandemic I’m in the unusual position of actually having this blog up to date! So to keep the content coming, and for something to do, I’ll do some old grounds and games where there’s a story to tell.

Saturday 19th February 2011 ko 15.00

Midland Combination Division Two


LEAMINGTON HIBERNIAN 1 (Jahmal Clarke 47p)

Att 52

Free Entry

Now if you were to ask a less experienced groundhopper where Cadbury Athletic play they’d probably tell you at the Triplex Sports & Social Club, Kings Norton in Birmingham. You’d be technically correct but it certainly isn’t the club’s spiritual home- but ticking off the Bournville Recreation does tend to polarise the brethren of the groundhoppers.

You could do happily set yourself a groundhopping project to do the model villages set up by Quaker families. There’s the now demolished Fry Club, in Somerdale near Keynsham and its replacement nearby, or Titus Salt’s Saltaire, or Robert Owen’s New Lanark, but for me George Cadbury’s Bourneville is the most intriguing of them.

In the 19th Century the Industrial Revolution saw rapid expansion and industrialisation. In other places that led to dreadful working and living conditions but in Birmingham George Cadbury created Bournville to – ‘Alleviate the evils of modern cramped living conditions’. By 1900, the estate included 313 cottages and houses set on 330 acres (1.3 km2) of land.

Quaker model villages seem to have two things in common, firstly that being teetotallers alcohol was banned, and over a century later there are still no pubs in Bourneville.  There was also a onus on the health-giving properties of fresh air and exercise so sports grounds were laid out and they tended to be rather good, and Cadbury is superb.

At this point I should recommend you visit Cadbury World next door, and at this point I’m sure my wife Robyn is now eyeing up what you could call the “Chocolate Double.” I didn’t try it, but I suspect it would be straightforward enough.

The Bourneville Recreation Ground dates from 1896 and the pavilion, originally for cricket, from 1902.  It was gift to Bournville Cricket Club to commemorate the coronation of King Edward VII, and is a Grade II listed building. And therein lies Cadbury Athletic’s problem with the place.

The ground is neither fully enclosed nor floodlit and it never can be, so from 2004 the first XI have played at either Alvechurch’s Lye Meadow or at Triplex. The latter became Cadbury’s first XI’s home permanently soon after Pilkington XXX folded in 2016.

So if you want to see a game in Bourneville you either wait for a County Cup game or you watch the reserves. To be honest watching reserves doesn’t worry me, as child I grew up watching Oxford United’s reserves- Dad couldn’t afford to get me into first team games. But when one very well-known groundhopper found out what I was he got rather hot under the collar about it!

So what is it like? In a word magical, and yes, even on a drizzly day the smell of chocolate lingers everywhere. I’ve heard it said that chocolate is addictive, so perhaps that’s why I fancied a hot chocolate at half time. To my surprise and amusement they didn’t stock the stuff. Perhaps they’d had enough chocolate to last a lifetime!

These days Cadbury Athletic Reserves play in the Midland League’s Reserve League, you may remember Robyn and I watching them play in a final at the Birmingham FA Ground in 2016. Home games are still played though in Bourneville in this wonderful slice of British social, industrial and sporting history. I can’t recommend the place highly enough.