27-03-2010: Downham Town 0 Ipswich Wanderers 3
(Ridgeons League Division One)
About five miles shy of today’s destination is Oxbrough Hall. Originally built as a manor house it was converted to a brick quadrangular fortress – complete with moat – in the mid 15th century. Although extensively remodeled during the Victorian era the three storey gatehouse and towers on the north face of the hall were unaffected and, it must be said, are quite magnificent . There is pleasant circular walk through the grounds which was taken advantage of by yours truly although I didn’t venture inside having done so on a previous visit many moons ago with the ministering angel of domestic bliss and the two extreme groundhopping sproglets.
As one of the more attractive Fen towns Downham Market is worth a quick stroll too. Charles I, and a group of Dutch engineers, were responsible for getting the drainage of the fens underway in the 1600’s and the influence of the later can be seen in the construction of a number of buildings in the town . While the less than keen eye may miss the Dutch gables you would have to try really hard to overlook the quite distinctive clock tower that sits in the market square , the four faces of which were originally illuminated by gas light.
Half a mile out from the town centre along the old Kings Lynn road are the War Memorial Playing Fields a large green space in the middle of which sits Downham Town FC’s ground. In fitting with the name the area contains a Garden of Remembrance along with a cricket pitch, tennis and squash courts, kids play area and parking. There are plenty of mature trees – several large oak trees sit along one touchline – which, along with the sandstone wall that surrounds the greenery, all makes for a quite pleasant setting. The sunny (though slightly chilly) weather topped this off nicely.
With a wooden fence on just three sides of the ground, and sitting in the middle of a public park as it does, means that the club are unable to charge admission (certainly I wasn’t asked to cough up any cash) so an entire 90 minutes of football was watched for the price of a half-time cup of tea (50p including free scone). This was acquired from the clubhouse that the footballers share with the local cricket and running clubs. The fourth side has just a low retaining rail – which continues along the other three sides – and it was from here, and later from a wooden bench under a large oak tree back towards the road, that I watched the afternoon’s action. On the far side, beneath the aforementioned trees, are the dugouts (nicely painted red – the club colours) and three low stands. The centre one offers seating for around thirty (I would guess) and the two sides ones covered standing. All very civilized.
Founded in 1881, for many years the club competed in junior leagues in the Kings Lynn area before the move into senior league following election to the Peterborough & District League in the late 1940’s. Champions in 1962-63, 1973-74, 1978-79, 1986-87, 1987-88, they joined the Eastern Counties (now Ridgeons) League as founder members of the first division in 1988 and that’s were they’ve remained ever since, with a third place finish in 1999 their best placing so far.
More pictures here.
Well I’m not one for lists but after today’s trip to the Fens I need to visit just five more grounds to complete the set of 39 Ridgeons League venues, details of which can be found in this handy map…