Tuesday 30th November 2021 ko 19:45
Southern Combination “Peter Bentley” Cup 2nd Round
SALTDEAN UNITED 3 (Pamment 2 Allen 6 Shelley 43)
It seems that I’m destined to complete the Southern Combination with a combination of the RUR Cup and the Peter Bentley Cup through those competitions’ midweek fixtures and yes, my ability to reach the grounds in 2 hours after work in Oxford.
Saltdean lies on the edge of Brighton’s eastern suburbs, a village its own right and like neighbour Peacehaven much of its development happened due to entrepreneur Charles Neville’s efforts post World War I. That sense of art deco gentility does pervade here, and as you head for Hill Park from the coastal road, no doubt you’ll see Saltdean Lido, with its tunnel to the beach and Undercliff Walk. The football ground is tucked away, like so many in Sussex, tucked under the South Downs, and it accessed via a bridleway off Saltdean Vale. That fact makes the ground what is it, and why its a must-visit, but also why the club are looking at changes.
Car parking is difficult, the neighbours don’t like football fans outside their homes, and parking at the ground is limited. There’s no turnstile – you pay from your car as you reach the ground, and the changing rooms are one side of the lane from the pitch. But park up, adjust your eyes to the light and just soak up the atmosphere. Then when you can go and climb up to the Second XI pitch and marvel at the view from it. You don’t get to visit places like this very often, and that’s in a county with more than it’s fair share of interesting grounds. And perhaps it goes without saying, that stand cut into the chalk does need a preservation order slapped on it!
But as lovely as it all is, the reality of it all is that Saltdean are top of the Southern Combination and in no way, shape or form is the place suitable for Isthmian League football. So the club have proposed their “Legacy” Project, details here. In simple terms it involves enclosing the ground the pitch side of the bridleway by building a new clubhouse pitchside and repurposing the current buildings. The pitch will be converted to 3G and a new stand built too.
Now the groundhopper will doubtlessly look at this and wince, and I understand that but the club does need to progress. This is the club that discovered and nurtured Millwall legend Paul Ifill and as much as the loss of part of what makes this place unique is difficult to take, it is necessary for the club to progress.
So the message is to enjoy Hill Park in its current form while you can. And as much as I’ve enjoyed watching Alfold’s progress since I visited 6 years ago, Saltdean showed why they’re top by winning this game in the first half. The rain lashed down, and the Bovril was mighty tasty on a cold night.
Even the traffic behaved as we made for home; pleased we’d seen both a friendly and progressive club and a beautiful quirky ground. Just visit Hill Park as soon as you can if you want to see it in its current form.