By BRUCE TALBOT
DIRECTIONS: (Satnav - BN3 3AN) Pick up the A27 westbound at the bottom of the A23 on the outskirts of Brighton. Take the first exit (signposted Hove) and pick up the yellow AA direction signs on the second exit signposted for Hove on Dyke Road. The ground is approx. 2 miles from here. Public transport from station - trains from London Victoria on the Sussex Coast line stop at Hove. The ground is ten minutes’ walk from the station. Turn right out of the station entrance and follow the road round. At the junction turn right into The Drive. Walk towards the sea to the traffic lights and turn left into Eaton Road. Ground is approx. 200 yards on your left. Car parking: Best to ring the club's helpful media man Sam Keir 07733 078904 to book a place, particularly for big matches such as T20 Blast games where places will be limited and you may end up in the underground car park under Ashdown Flats. Sussex’s charming gateman Sam will always try and squeeze in polite reporters - he has even been known to park journalists' vehicles for them. On Championship days you can normally park behind the South Stand, where the media centre is but if you are leaving your car overnight at the ground make sure you get a visitors' pass from Sam Keir as there are paid-for parking bays at the ground now which are warden-patrolled.
FACILITIES: The media centre at the Sea End is named after the doyen of the Hove press corps, the late Jack Arlidge and also honours Christopher Martin-Jenkins. There are separate areas for TV, radio and written media with a kitchen where you can make a hot drink. Vouchers for a meal in Greig’s café at the back of the South Stand are provided by the club. The fare on offer is pretty basic, but free. There is usually a decent cake at tea from the club’s own caterers, so you won't starve. The view on top of the South Stand is superb. It's up a flight of stairs up from the press box, accessed by a security door. Sam will give you the key code as this area is reserved for life members and you may need to show your accreditation pass. Access to Blast games, when they are sold out, is not allowed. There is always a friendly welcome for working journalists. Ask for Bruce Talbot (ECB Reporters Network) if you need any assistance while the club's press officer Sam Keir is always around to help. If you want decent coffee, Small Batch Coffee Roasters in Wilbury Road, a ten-minute walk away is recommended, even the Sussex players go there. Local boozers – The Sussex Cricketer at the entrance closed in March 2020 ahead of a major redevelopment to that part of the ground. But no not despair. There are loads of good pubs in Brighton and Hove. Paul Weaver of the Guardian is a frequent visitor to the press box (and many of the local hostelries) and can offer plenty of recommendations. The local press will be using Hove Place, where the Harvey’s is excellent, for their post-match boozing for the time being.
ACCOMMODATION: Outside London, Brighton has one of the biggest concentrations of hotels, guest houses and B&Bs in the country so take your pick - the choice is endless. Most of the seafront 'chain' hotels get pretty good reports and all have gyms and swimming pools. The nearest hotel to the ground is The Courtlands in Third Avenue. It's clean and comfortable, offers free Wi-Fi and is a five-minute stroll from the ground. Smaller boutique hotels are popular and the budget hotels, if booked in advance, are all within easy reach. With the ground relatively easy to access by public transport you are not limited to Brighton or Hove. Lewes, the home of Harvey’s ale, and places towards the west of Sussex are popular places to stay.
LEISURE: The same applies to entertainment and food. There are restaurants to suit all tastes and pockets on nearby Church Road - the main drag in Hove - while a short hop on the bus or a cab will get you into Brighton and the Laines, its seafront and as many restaurants, pubs, cinemas and bars you could shake a stump at. Take your pick.
Sussex now have three regular out-grounds. Eastbourne returned to the rota in 2020 and Horsham, after a four-year gap, in 2016.
At Arundel, there is a press marquee at the Park End, with car parking in the field opposite which you enter through the stables. Sussex provide refreshments and Wi-Fi dongles in recent years as the only permanent connection is the club office, and the signal is pretty weak. The radio ISDN line is in front of the main score box at the Park End and commentators normally occupy a gazebo next to it. The Norfolk Arms is the main hotel in Arundel but tends to get booked up quickly. Chichester or Littlehampton are alternative places to base yourself and are easily accessible to Arundel by train, although it is a 30-minute walk (mostly uphill) from the station to the ground. A couple of miles away in the tiny hamlet of Houghton is The George and Dragon which offers decent ales, good food and fabulous views across the South Downs. This is where visiting journalists tend to end up for at least one night of the Festival. That or The Black Rabbit next to the Arun but a good two-mile (downhill) walk from the ground. A lot closer is The Gate which is directly in front of you as you leave (or even arrive) at the Arundel Castle entrance.
Parking is no problem at Horsham, which has a big playing area adjoining the main field. Access is via Cricketfield Road. It is a 25-minute walk from the station to the ground mostly through the town centre, accessing through the Causeway. For a long time, the press box was situated in a room at the far end of the pavilion square to the wicket and the ISDN line is still here so radio commentary may continue from this vantage point. In recent years the press have been housed in a marquee, usually at the Railway End. Again, Sussex normally provide dongles in the absence of a strong Wi-Fi connection in the ground. As with Arundel, sandwiches are laid on and there are tea and coffee making facilities in the press tent and cake at tea. Horsham CC normally have a refreshments tent and their offerings tend to be home made and cheaper than anything you might buy in the town. Horsham has some decent boozers 10-15 minutes’ walk away and lots of good restaurants. Hotels are a bit more limited, but the Premier Inn opposite the station has accommodated many umpires in the past. Teams tend to stay as far away as Hove and Crawley because of the absence of a large hotel.
The Saffrons at Eastbourne returned to the fixture list after a gap of nearly 20 years in 2017 and is much improved since the days when the press were accommodated in the groundsman’s shed (usually sitting next to the air rifle he used to shoot pigeons). Since its return, Eastbourne CC have laid on a press marquee at the croquet lawn end. Tea and coffee are provided but not a lot else and it does get quite busy, so the advice is to arrive early. There is no press Wi-fi or permanent ISDN line so expect to use your dongle or phone. Parking at the ground is available and it is a 15-minute walk from Eastbourne station. There is plenty of accommodation to suit all tastes and pockets in the town itself, and the usual selection of restaurants and pubs.
One word of advice to anyone coming to a Sussex out-ground. Even in the height (and heat) of summer the marquees are usually situated in the coolest parts of the ground so always bring an extra layer or two, just in case.