Sussex have been going to Horsham for a week of cricket since as far back as 1908.
There have been years since then when there was no game there and this year’s festival, which starts on Monday with a four-day game against Warwickshire and concludes on July 27 when Sussex play Nottinghamshire in the Royal London Cup, only went ahead after an anonymous benefactor stumped up £15,000 to help cover the running costs.
At times the cricket was been breathtaking. Steve Magoffin’s performance last year, when he took 12 for 31 in the two-day win over Somerset, was just the latest in a long line of stellar performances with bat or ball at Cricketfield Road where the wicket and small outfield lends itself to exciting cricket.
It might not be as scenic as Arundel, but the walk from the back of the ground and over the river into Horsham is a stroll always worth taking. To make it you go past the whitewashed cottage in the corner of the ground where Alfred Oakes, who was groundsman at Horsham for 47 years either side of the War, lived. His son Charlie once struck a six into his dad’s own back garden during a match against Surrey.
Horsham tends to produce curious events, as John Boorman’s excellent history book of the festival chronicles. In 1933 local palmist Madam Zelda apologised that she was unable to see all of the clients queuing at her tent.
Boris Karloff was once spotted among the spectators and Field Marshall Montgomery paid a visit to the ground when Sussex played Glamorgan in 1946.
There have some impressive displays of hitting too. The tennis courts at the Town End regularly get peppered but in a Championship match a few years ago Ottis Gibson, the Durham tail-ender, cleared them and the ball landed in the river beyond. A remarkable feat, especially as the great Mushtaq Ahmed was the bowler.
Sussex all-rounder Garth Le Roux once cleared the oak tree at cow corner and, legend has it, his ball landed on the railway that snakes past the ground. It would have to have been some hit but Le Roux, who could certainly tonk the ball a long way, was more than capable.
More than at any time, perhaps, Horsham needs supporting by the Sussex public. Make sure you pay a visit next week to enjoy what is sure to be good cricket and atmospheric and picturesque surroundings.