By MARK PENNELL
The leafy vistas at St Lawrence, Kent's headquarters since the 1840s, have changed dramatically since 2010 and the start of a £10m redevelopment plan.
The new Pavilion has been remodelled along the lines of the Lord’s Long Room, the Les Ames Stand has been refurbished to include a dining area and new hospitality boxes, while the old offices are replaced by a fit for purpose new block near the Old Dover Road entrance. The 1970s eyesore tacked between the Pavilion and Annexe (now the Knott and Underwood Stand) to provide dressing rooms have also made way for up-to-date areas that include physiotherapy suites and ice baths.
Ground rent from a small Sainsbury’s store and the additional income from the new Lime Tree Café has helped to fund the project which is due for completion in the summer of 2017 when phase four, the building of a McCarthy & Stone retirement complex, is scheduled for completion. The flats will ultimately have an impact on parking at the ground, but building will not be permitted during hours of play.
Though several IT sponsors have done their best to resolve Wi-Fi issues, the system still has its occasional glitches but plans are afoot to restore the in-house television coverage of the action out in the middle which, with its slight time delay, allowed the next best thing to action replays.
DIRECTIONS: (Satnav - CT1 3NZ) Sign-posted from the city centre ring road (A290 Rheims Way) take the Old Dover Road or the New Dover Road (A2040) for a mile and turn right off either one to find the St Lawrence main drive. The ground is 1.5 miles from Canterbury West Station and £5 by taxi (depending on congestion) and one mile from Canterbury East and £3.50 by cab. Drivers will be shown to a modest press car park in the bat and ball field (to the right of the main drive) near the cherry trees in the top corner.
FACILITIES: The refurbished press box is accessed via the first set of metal steps leading to the rear of The Knott & Underwood Stand top floor (The first major building on the left-hand side of the main drive). The radio box is found at the top of The Pavilion accessed via new internal stairs on the second floor. Both boxes are situated in wooden stands, so smoking is strictly forbidden in both areas, and there is no telephone line for hire in either box. Please introduce yourself to local freelance Mark Pennell and Thomas Brown, the club’s media officer to receive your scorecard and lunch voucher, which journalists can redeemed for complementary hot food or sandwiches and a drink in the Cornwallis Room, situated on the first floor of the Colin Cowdrey stand. Complementary tea and coffee is available all day.
Contact Thomas Brown on 01227 456886 for one-off media passes. The clubs chief executive Jamie Clifford will also field media issues (on the same number) and can be contacted through his personal assistant, Tanya Nicholls.
Marketing, general ground or parking matters, contact commercial director Emma Santer or Thomas Brown.
ACCOMMODATION: If you are staying in the city overnight then I would recommend the Ebury Hotel on New Dover Road, a five-minute walk from the press box, which has a reasonable restaurant and is the pick of a generally modest bunch. Others I have stayed at The County, The Chaucer and The Abbots Barton, but gave mixed reviews. Details follow: Ebury Hotel, 65-67, New Dover Road, Canterbury, CT1 3DX. Phone: 01227-768433. Abbots Barton Hotel (Best Western chain). 36 New Dover Road, Canterbury, Kent, CT1 3DU. Phone: 01227-760341. Falstaff Hotel. St. Dunstans Street, Canterbury, CT2 8AF. Phone: 01227-462138. Holiday Inn Express, Canterbury. 2, Upper Harbledown, Canterbury, CT2 9HX. Phone: 01227-865000. The Bat and Ball (01227-766015), the recognised watering hole for umpires, journalists and occasionally the players, is no more than a stagger from main gates. Licensee Tony Saxby has four rooms available for those with modest budgets and willing to take turns for a communal bathroom. Prices start from £20 per night including breakfast.
LEISURE:The Bat also serves very affordable 'chips with everything' food generally in huge portions, but for more refined cuisine I can recommend the following: Restaurants: Café des Amis (Ace Mexican food) 93-95 St Dunstans Street. Phone: 01227-464390. Kudos (The best Chinese in town, but pricey) 52 Dover Street. Phone: 01227-764062. Crab & Winkle Seafood Restaurant in Whitstable Harbour (excellent seafood) Phone: 01227-779377, Dunkerleys in Deal (finest seafood and fish on the Kent coast) on the seafront. Phone: 01304-375016, Skippers, High Street, Bridge (expensive but huge portions) 10 mins ground. Phone: 01227-830788 and finally if you like fish, the Whitstable Oyster Fishery Company, again in Whitstable, is worth a visit. Phone: 01227-276856.
DIRECTIONS: The delightful ground is tucked away on the side of a hill half a mile south of the Town centre. Usually sign-posted for cricket week, follow signs for the Hastings Road (A26) and/or The Pantiles then, at mini round about, take Frant Road (A267) then first left into Warwick Road (With Thorins wine bar on the corner). Go up the hill for a mile and half and left into Warwick Place for the main gates.
CAR PARKING: is restricted behind the sightscreens, so it is recommended to get there early. Tunbridge Wells' station is a mile away and a stiff up-hill walk, a taxi will only set you back £3.50.
FACILITIES: The newly re-furbished main pavilion has lost its spiral staircase, but access to the box is via two flights of stairs at the back of the main building. A steward may ask to see your accreditation at this point. The bijou box seats eight at a squeeze, so again, best get there early to secure a seat with an unrestricted view. There are no telephone lines available and radio broadcasters have to sit outside at ground level to the side of the sightscreens, which is far from ideal in poor weather. The match office (01892-614900) is in the first floor of the pavilion adjacent to the players' dining area, which writers also use for their complimentary lunch once the players have vacated.
ACCOMMODATION AND LEISURE: Thirst things first - the nearest place for a gargle is The Spread Eagle, 119 Forest Rd, Tunbridge Wells TN2 5BT. Phone: 01892 525414. Turn left out of the gates to the T-junction at the top of the hill and left again, you'll come across it 500 yards on the right-hand side. Decent pub grub, London Pride and IPA. Fuggles Beer Café, 28 Grosvenor Rd, Royal Tunbridge Wells, Tunbridge Wells, Kent TN1 2AP. Phone: 01892 457739. Hotels: Royal Wells Hotel, Mount Ephraim, Tunbridge Wells, TN4 8BE. Phone: 01892-511188. Ramada Jarvis Tunbridge Wells, 8 Tonbridge Road, Pembury, Tunbridge Wells, TN2 4QL. Phone: 01892-823567. Spa Hotel, Mount Ephraim, Tunbridge Wells, TN4 8XJ. Phone: 01892-520331. The Tunbridge Wells Hotel, 58, The Pantiles, Tunbridge Wells TN2 5TD. Phone: 01892 530501. Restaurants: Bottle House Phone: 01892-870306 and Signor Franco Phone: 01892-549199 are both good too.
The New County Ground in Worsley Bridge Road is, as the name suggests, the latest addition to Kent's out-ground roster. Formerly the Lloyds TSB Sports and Social Club Ground, it was bought by Bromley Property Developers Leander, from whom Kent rent the facilities on a 10-year, roll-over lease. The county resumed playing at Beckenham in 2003 following a 49-year break from their previous championship matches there, a rain-ruined draw against Gloucestershire. After refurbishment in 2014/15 it now includes bigger dressing rooms, a new seating area, permanent toilet facilities and an indoor school which acts as Kent’s Cricket Academy for the metropolitan region.
Press facilities are to be found on a scaffolding platform and under the cover of a marquee behind the arm at the Crystal Palace End.
DIRECTIONS: From Bromley take A2015 Beckenham Hill Road, turn right into Braeside, left into Overbrae then right into Worsley Bridge Road.
CAR PARKING: is adjacent to the players' car park. The ground is ¾ mile from New Beckenham station from Charing Cross or a mile and half from Beckenham junction for trains to Victoria. Buses LRT 351, 252 and 356 pass the ground.
FACILITIES: The new pavilion and match office (020-8650-8655) is functional, but too small to incorporate press facilities, which are marquee-based almost behind the arm to the left of the pavilion. No telephone points are available, but the club, try to ensure a mains electricity supply.
ACCOMMODATION AND LEISURE: There are no pubs within walking distance of the ground worth paying a visit, but central Beckenham has a lively O'Neill's bar at 9, High Street (020-8663-10010) which is virtually opposite Beckenham Station. Just a few yards away is Rob Key's favourite watering hole Patrick's Bar at 5, High Street (020-8658-8336) and both places serve decent food. Beckenham has no major hotels to speak of, so teams and journalist usually stay at one of two hotels in Bromley. Hotels: Bromley Court Hotel, Coniston Road, Bromley, BR1 4JD. Phone: 020-8461-8600. Bickley Manor Hotel, Thornet Wood Road, Bromley, BR1 2LW. Phone: 020-8467-3851.