Friday 17th July found me back on the mainland heading for the final stages of the Cheltenham cricket festival. I had spent the night at Salisbury and was heading north on a fast dual carriageway between Swindon and Cirencester when suddenly the traffic all came to an abrupt halt. Obviously something rather serious had happened not too far ahead with police cars, ambulances and even an air ambulance appearing. Nothing moved for nearly two hours and the only information which I got on my phone was that a serious accident involving a lorry and a cyclist had occurred.
So about an hour late arriving at Cheltenham College with day three of the Championship game between Gloucestershire and Leicester well under way. On the first two days the first innings totals were almost identical, Gloucester 218 and Leicester 215. The Australian Klinger was batting well when I arrived, but fell caught behind for 60. Enter a new name to me, Kieran Noema-Barnett no less, a 28 year old New Zealand all rounder, who bats left handed and bowls right. He joined Benny Howell, a former Hampshire player born in Bordeaux and this unlikely partnership not only steadied the ship but put Gloucester very much in control.
After a slow start the New Zealander started playing his shots to the surprise of some of the rather sceptical locals, before being caught off the persevering Shreck, who finished with 5-82. Howell in turn looked very confident and reached his first ever century after hitting twelve fours and a six. A fine innings and a good quiz question - when did a Frenchman score a century for Gloucester? The home side eventually all out shortly before lunch for 321, which looked like a winning score.
Benny Howell celebrates his century
Even more so when Leicester lost Robson clean bowled by Miles for 6 and then Eckersley next ball caught by Klinger at slip. The other opener Boyce was given out lbw to Noema-Barnett and when Australian captain Cosgrove was lbw to Howell, the game seemed as good as over and I felt able to commence my Saturday afternoon tour of neighbouring league cricket grounds. Apparently only Ali with 41 put up much resistance and Gloucester won comfortably by 155 runs with time to spare.
One strange phenomenon of the festival,with a large crowd there on the Friday and sponsors tents bursting at the seams with guests, very few people turned up on Saturday morning to see the home side win and two sides of the ground were almost empty as the sponsors tents were all closed and no one to be seen.
Empty seats on last day at Cheltenham
The rest of the day was spent in a circular tour of Cheltenham and Gloucester, followed by the Forest of Dean area, visiting local club grounds and taking photographs of them all before reaching Ross-on-Wye my resting place for the night.
Suffice to say I visited Hatherley and Reddings on the outskirts of Cheltenham, in the past used for county second XI games, and their junior ground just down the road where their fourth team were in the process of scoring 400-1 in 45 overs!
Hatherley and Reddings pavilion
Then onto the Spa Ground in Gloucester, where Gloucester Winget were playing Frenchay in the upper echelons of the West of England premier league, and their third team were in action at the old Wagon Works ground once used by Gloucester for county matches, including one with Yorkshire which I attended in the days of Courtney Walsh.
The Wagon Works ground Gloucester
Following the other side of the Severn I called in at Westbury on Severn, then Lydney another former first class ground (home of Steve James), Parkend a real Forest of Dean village ground, Cinderford ( in the middle of an industrial estate) and finally Ross on Wye founded in 1837 and with an historic pavilion built in 1887.
Lydney cricket ground
Parkend, Forest of Dean
Ross on Wye
A fascinating day perhaps following in the footsteps of the wonderful cricket writer Nico Craven, who lived in Cumbria but was a Gloucester member and keen devotee not only of the Cheltenham festival but village cricket in Gloucestershire too. I was lucky enough to find five of his paper back books on sale at Cheltenham and have much entertaining reading to do.