Set in North Devon’s Valley of Rocks, with its extraordinary castellated hill turrets, the home of Lynton & Lynmouth CC is known as the ‘Queen of English cricket grounds’.
While the odd raincloud is inevitable in this beautiful corner of west Exmoor a boundary fence provided with help from Exmoor National Park Authority has ensured interruptions in play are at least limited to the weather. Long-standing club members fondly recall how the Valley’s herd of wild goats would occasionally stray onto the Pavilion End outfield, allowing gleeful visiting scorers to add a note that ‘goats stopped play’.
The club is now a registered charity and relies heavily on local volunteer helpers – particularly its magnificent band of tea-makers. Thanks to the backing of long-time Patron, Sir Christopher Ondaatje, O.C., C.B.E., together with our sponsor and after-match hosts The Crown Hotel, our landlord Lynton and Lynmouth Town Council and many loyal supporters, our future is secure. The club committee is dedicated to promoting the summer game in the Valley among all ages, genders and abilities and, so far as possible, tries to ensure anyone wanting a game here gets the opportunity.
The club’s history dates back to August 1876 when it was formed by one Captain Hume to cater ‘for the welfare of the young men of the neighbourhood’. Sadly, many old records and photographs were destroyed during a fire at the pavilion in 1998 but we’re gradually pulling together items of interest that families of former players may still have ‘somewhere in the loft’.
For now we rely on the memories of current members to fill in a few historical gaps. And who better than our long-serving president Eddie Dymond, who in 2021 is marking his 30th year in the job. Eddie is a stalwart of the Devon and Somerset cricket scene. He’s president of the Devon Association of Cricket Officials and on the general committee of Somerset County Cricket Club. Here are some of his reflections on more than half-a-century as an L&LCC player, member and administrator.
Welcoming the World
By Club President, Eddie Dymond
When you think about all the cricketers from across the world who have graced the Valley Ground, both professionals and club players, it really is mind-blowing. But there’s no doubt that our centenary in 1976 was a vintage year because on Sunday 13th June, with help from the MCC, Gloucestershire C.C.C. brought a team down to play us.
Even though this was the middle of a busy season we welcomed a breathtaking line-up of stars who had clearly heard of our club and wanted to play at the Valley. They included the South African Mike Proctor who, but for his country’s apartheid policy, would surely have become one of Test cricket’s greatest all-rounders. Then there was his countryman, the majestic Barry Richards, with more than 28,000 first class runs to his name, bowler Jack Davey (who the previous year had taken 64 wickets for Gloucestershire at an average of 26.26) and Tony Brown, Gloucestershire’s captain.
Also in that team was the inimitable David Sheppard, an iconic figure proud of his North Devon roots. David scored over 10,000 first class runs and later umpired in 92 test matches – more than any other English umpire. All in all it was a memorable day and reflected the club’s reputation for welcoming cricketers the world over. Other notable guests have included an Australian state side and a Canadian representative team along with countless overseas clubs – including at least one from the United States.
But cricket is so much more than the game itself. At Lynton & Lynmouth we have been blessed with some true characters – not least the comedian Dave Allen who lived nearby at Hunters Inn and used to watch us on Sunday afternoons – always stationing himself by the field gate inside the boundary fence. Many was the time he would join us for tea between innings and he would base characters in his sketches on people he met at the club.
One of these was our resident umpire Frank Hobbs, a fearsome despatcher of any batsman who flirted with the lbw rule. If the ball so much as brushed your leg, Frank believed, you shouldn’t have let it. Up would go the dreaded finger and off the player would trudge. It’s not clear whether Frank was personally involved in the dismissal of legendary West Indian all-rounder Sir Leary Constantine, who in 1951 was trapped lbw first ball while guesting in a local derby match. But it’s possible. Truly, bowlers loved Frank.
Other former players include Trevor Jordan, the husband of singer Elkie Brooks (they lived just down the road), and numerous cricketers staying or working at the nearby Lee Abbey Christian community. These include Chris Edmondson, the former Bishop of Bolton, and Edmund Newell, a former Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral.
Lynton & Lynmouth CC has featured regularly on TV since our small screen debut in 1981 when John Noakes, presenter of the children’s TV programme Blue Peter, played in a friendly here. I had two jobs that day; one was to look after his faithful collie, Shep. The other was to tell Shep, with the cameras running, that his master had hit a six. I’m not sure that this actually happened but it no doubt impressed the viewers.
Much of our long history has sadly been forgotten. But with the help of our loyal band of players, volunteers and supporters – and the hundreds of visiting cricketers who help make our club what it is – you can be sure we’ll be writing plenty more in future.