Reminders of a once-great civilization in Australia. And in England…

“Abandoned cricket pitches” is what it says on the lid: an Instagram archive of more than 200 cricket pitches, mainly in Western Australia, where stumps has been called permanently. A handful are surprisingly spruce, as though the players have just adjourned, and a bit of weeding would allow play to resume; most are in decay; a few are all but reclaimed by the landscape.

Over and out_ stumps called on abandoned outback cricket pitches

Abandoned cricket pitch at North Baandee, WA. Picture: Les Everett

 

Abandoned cricket pitch at Big Bell, a ghost town in WA’s Murchison region. Picture: Les Everett

Old pitch at Bobalong, in the Great Southern region of WA. Picture: Les Everett

Abandoned cricket pitch at Sandstone, in WA’s Mid West. Picture: Les Everett

Congelin, in WA’s Wheatbelt. Picture: Les Everett

AND BACK WHERE IT STARTED

And That Will be England Gone is part memoir, part sports book, part essay. In tone it’s a strange thing: a level-headed lament. Given that this may be a summer without leather and willow, and that coughing has become taboo, Henderson’s book provides a much-needed literary-cricketing alternative: a beautiful clearing of the throat.

The deserted village green

The title alludes to Philip Larkin’s poem ‘Going, Going’, and the last summer was 2019, when Henderson, sportswriter and cultural critic, took a journey around the cricket grounds of his past.

The international summer was glorious: England won the World Cup at Lord’s (on a typically incomprehensible technicality) and drew a thrilling Ashes series. But now the sport is on the brink of a defining moment. 

ELEVEN BEAUTIFUL ENGLISH VILLAGE PITCHES  Green and pleasant!

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63 Responses to Reminders of a once-great civilization in Australia. And in England…

  1. Fred says:

    It’s just evidence of the reduction in manpower required for farming and mining.

    The internal combustion engine has a lot to answer for.

  2. Rafe Champion says:

    Yes the number of small towns in country NSW where the pub has a photo on the wall of the rugby league side that won the comp decades ago but the club folded some time since the 1970s.

  3. herodotus says:

    Backyard cricket was so good! Particularly as we had a huge block and the extended rough back section (euphemistically called The Orchard) gave room for some big hits.
    Being just me and a mate (this was in primary school) we were always bowling or batting, so no boring stuff.

  4. Dianeh says:

    Same with tennis courts. Abandoned all through the country areas.

  5. Rafe Champion says:

    There is a theory that Australian tennis bloomed on the back of backyard tennis courts in the affluent suburbs of Sydney. Then the game was spoiled by Scandanavians who practiced all day and didn’t go on the piss on the eve of grand slam finals. That is a reference to a Lew Hoad story about a grand slam where he was seeing two balls in the first set, then he settled down and won the match.

  6. Rockdoctor says:

    Fred has nailed it. Most places I drive through and have worked in rural areas are dying, you can tell some of these areas were once very vibrant by the buildings. Some towns especially in mining areas are their own worst enemies in this regard and other purely due to industries less reliant on labour.

    Governments want to push people into the country and I don’t think it is a bad idea but with no infrastructure and industry what are these people to do? Slightly off topic but one thing I noticed on a recent foray into Queensland was the amount of Victorians on the move again. I would say the last vestiges of the old Australia are deserting the garden state and leaving the spoils to Dan’s multi culti dream…

  7. Fred says:

    It’s also the case that people have fewer children. I was out in Gippsland a few months ago and many football and cricket clubs in small towns just don’t exist anymore. 100 years ago a family might have had 5 boys, now they have 1 or 2.

  8. Zyconoclast says:

    Most small country towns are inhabited by almost exclusively old people.

    They are like free range retirement villages just waiting for the lights to go out permanently.

  9. Petros says:

    Many family farms don’t make any reasonable profit, particularly given the work put in, so the kids leave for the big smoke or at least for far easier work in town. Maybe if there were fewer jobs in the red and green tape sectors then things might change.

  10. Zulu Kilo Two Alpha says:

    It’s just evidence of the reduction in manpower required for farming and mining.

    The internal combustion engine has a lot to answer for.

    It’s not helped by a mindset, among Gen Snowflake, that running a farm involves living in the middle of nowhere and owing the bank a lot of money, or farmers wives declaring that “No son of mine is ever going FARMING!”

  11. Dot says:

    The bush can be revitalised, if we don’t tax or regulate primary industries into a death spiral.

  12. Peter S says:

    Rafe,
    This is one way to bypass Zuckerberg’s silly gamesmanship, which makes it impossible to link to you posts in FB.

    Just create a tweet containing the link you want to share and post that on FB. It is a strategy that if formalised could make Zuckerberg’s bans a complete farce.

    https://twitter.com/lillilmur/status/1363099688937742336?s=21

  13. H B Bear says:

    Going the way of the candlestick makers.

  14. Mick Gold Coast QLD says:

    Oh well done Rafe, a fine effort that.

    The photos, Haigh’s account and the “Over and out” attachment – it all reminds me of my fascination with Drysdale’s “The cricketers” and it’s recording of days long past.

  15. BorisG says:

    Gosh! Australian cricket is alive and well, judging by prominence given to Aussies in the game’s biggest league. But cricket is less popular with the youth because it is a niche thing with less relevance in the globalized world. And not a great TV entertainment either.

    Attitudes add tastes change all the time. That is hardly news.

  16. Herodotus says:

    There are a lot of rural towns in NSW that still look healthy. Goulburn, Orange, Dubbo, Mudgee, Parkes/Forbes, Wagga, Glen Innes, Armidale – but certainly some that are pretty quiet.

  17. sfw says:

    Not just rural, all around Melbourne there’s many parks that once had footy ovals and clubs, sometimes several, most of them now just parks but if you look carefully you can see where the oval was.
    More than a few golf course are now housing estates and tennis well not sure in the metro areas but dying in the bush.

  18. Dot says:

    Cricket is the second most popular sport in the world after soccer.

    It’s too bloody hot to play cricket.

    I’d play if I lived in Tassie. But alas, no.

  19. mundi says:

    I’m gonna say it: It used to be frowned on to be overweight. Now it is considered socially normal and acceptable to not only be overweight, but have overweight kids, who never play any sports.

    Parents have to live at fringe of city and commute long distances to work, no time for sports.

    I’ve seen a rapid decrease in numbers just at things like little athletics, even though population in area has boomed.

  20. Ed Case says:

    *** Slightly off topic but one thing I noticed on a recent foray into Queensland was the amount of Victorians on the move again. ***
    People from the Southern States get a surprise in Queensland, we don’t have Predator Police cruising round looking for victims at all hours. The only thing they’re strict about is protecting their right to direct Traffic when the lights are out, which is an issue between them and State Government rather than Joe Blow.
    As a matter of fact, you’re flat out seeing a Police car from one week to the next, so plenty never go back to the cold.

  21. Fair Shake says:

    I have observed in my area cricket is rising in popularity. People are playing it summer and winter. However whilst play is underway you may have trouble getting a medical appointment, your IT fixed, Uber delivery or a taxi.

  22. Forester says:

    Rockdoctor at 9:54 pm

    Slightly off topic but one thing I noticed on a recent foray into Queensland was the amount of Victorians on the move again. I would say the last vestiges of the old Australia are deserting the garden state and leaving the spoils to Dan’s multi culti dream…

    There was a report in yesterday’s Rupert that 3,000 a month are leaving Melbourne.

  23. H B Bear says:

    It’s just evidence of the reduction in manpower required for farming and mining.
    The internal combustion engine has a lot to answer for.

    Yes. Who doesn’t want to walk up and down behind a horse or cow in the field all day? Well me for a start. I’m pretty happy using my car to get places too.

  24. Rafe Champion says:

    Herodotus, there is a clear pattern of movement from outlying towns to the major centres that you named due to the contraction of the farm workforce. That has aggravated a lot of problems like drug and alcohol abuse in those big towns.

  25. H B Bear says:

    Cricket and golf are for time rich people. Not many of them left around nowadays. How many men with families let golf club memberships go because they are lucky if they play enough rounds in a year to even maintain their handicap? Fair enough really I s’pose.

  26. H B Bear says:

    That should be time-rich just to be clear.

  27. Entropy says:

    There was a report in yesterday’s Rupert that 3,000 a month are leaving Melbourne.

    unfortunately the Melbourne People bring their politics with them. There should be a 10 year residency before we allow them to vote.

  28. H B Bear says:

    Race – life in the country has always been mythologised. It’s not for everyone. They can keep it as far as I’m concerned. I’ve met some great people in the country and what probably passes for the outback (station country outside Port Hedland) and a few dickheads too. Give me a city any day. Even Melbournibad.

  29. H B Bear says:

    The future of cricket is brown. And chucking. Brown chuckers. Better get used to it.

  30. theleftfootkick says:

    Passed through Tarcutta last Friday, and thinking about how Tony Roche spend his childhood years in this place,( and although nothing much has changed over all the years that I have gone through this place), did he take up tennis out of sheer boredom? Perhaps not back in 1950’s it was probably a thriving country town community, like so many where back in the time.

  31. Ed Case says:

    Old Reefer Jacket Jeff poisoned the well for the Liberals in Victoria.
    He didn’t do anything for Cricket in Victoria either, as I recall.

  32. theleftfootkick says:

    All those old cricket pitch slabs, I imagine the only useful purpose they have now days, is the make good sunbaking platforms for the local snake population.

  33. H B Bear says:

    Sport plays a different role in the bush. Possibly more important than in the city.

    I didn’t play much sport. Played junior footy as a kid (badly) and met a variety of people. Not something you could say about private school footy.

  34. theleftfootkick says:

    I recently passed through the ‘outback’ town of Iron Knob in SA, now there is a place that would inspire you. Actually it often makes me wonder driving through many of these quite towns all over the country, what do these people, who obviously have lived in them for years, do? Some of the homes are beautifully kept, home proud types, and them you see the real dumpy ones, with all the collected junk about the place. The common link is that the younger ones have shot through, and you see why, where is the future in these towns? It at time puzzles me as to why they keep going at all. The old traditional style of the family farm is becoming a thing of the past with more properties become managed under a corporate farm business management, (and one of the reason why kangaroo numbers have exploded, no one there to keep the numbesr in check.)

  35. theleftfootkick says:

    The crazy greens, that want to decarbonize the economy and have got it in for the farms big time, they want to get rid of livestock full stop! Net-zero carbon emissions, is that an oxymoron?

  36. JohnJJJ says:

    Centrelink, the hospital, the cemetery. The three main ‘industries’ in many country towns. They survive by retirees selling up in the ACT and buying the house in Gundagai, Wagga, or such like , go on a cruise, and the rest in the super or bank. They then spend their time ( all of it spare) greening the town by stopping any logging, dams, mining or industry of any kind.
    The new coffee shop and ‘arts centre’ is the basis of life and they now plan the “Writers Festival” that will bring fabulous wealth and fame through the magic of ‘tourism’.
    The new Indian doctor, who is doing well in the town, looks forlornly at the decaying cricket pitch.

  37. Rafe Champion says:

    H B Bear, I know the story, I came from a farmhouse a mile off the Lower Scotchtown road from Smithton to Edith Creek. Irishtown was the nearest place with a football team, a railway station, post office, garage, haberdashery and two general stores. By the time I finished uni and left the state Irishtown was down to the Post Office and a corner shop. It was only six miles from Smithton, population 10,000 (half of Circular Head) and all the services are there. I think the Area School at Edith Creek survives, it is probably a primary school now, it was established as a part of a sensible Tasmanian program to set up schools in the country to take kids to year 9, then if they had any academic aspirations they went to High Schools in the towns.

    Hospitals have become medical centres in a lot of country towns, quite sensibly, complex cases go to the places with more facilities and more specialized staff.

  38. Professor Fred Lenin says:

    I lived in gippsland ten years ago ,I used to drive from town 8miles to s small village ,along the road were nine abandoned tennis courts ,seems in the 1950s every second farm ha one .
    In fa east Gippsland Genoa Malacoota there had been a league of six footy and cricket teams before the second war there were lots of small subsistence farms ,now there are none ,bigdepopulation there .

  39. H B Bear says:

    Hospitals have become medical centres in a lot of country towns, quite sensibly, complex cases go to the places with more facilities and more specialized staff.

    My Old Man was a doctor in various places in the Pilbara from the late 1960s. Over time he did less and less surgery and babies locally. People developed an expectation that they would go to Perth and think they were getting lower quality care if they didn’t.

    That said, nothing like being a short drive from a major teaching tertiary hospital when things don’t go according to plan. Including routine procedures that see you in ICU for a week, as I experienced a couple of years ago.

  40. Ed Case says:

    Girls head to the big smoke after finishing High School the last 50+ years, families never get formed, weeds take over the pitches and courts.
    Even in the Cities, the generation born between 1941 and 1970 didn’t turn up for the future.

  41. HD says:

    If you have an intellect and want to develop and use it, rural centres and rural Australia are not the place for you. State and Federal government attitudes to science, technology and innovation initiatives don’t help. That is to say the attitude that all technology and industry activities are better centralised in hubs closer to metropolitan centres. What has happened across NSW in the last ten years with the former Department of Primary Industries and CSIRO are examples of this. All the private-public venture associated investment/activity and positions that went with them. Dramatic downsizing and outright closure of facilities that had previously had around forty staff each and near a hundred years of presence. Amalgamation of everybody not made redundant into super agencies such as the Dept of Industry which is effectively a headless chicken run by career grifters and charlatans with connections in Sydney. Who become upset at any coworkers and/or employees who make fellow staff look and feel inadequate, by undertaking “work” in between arrival at the workplace, break times and departing for the day of an evening.

    Even basic regional pest management activities like fruit fly baiting have been lumped onto farmers. What fills the gap left by professional state agriculture and R&D officers- the emergence of a parasitic Private industry flogging all kinds of over priced and useless non-specific pesticides and fungicides that are of little use in managing and mitigating the emerging resilience of broad-acre and irrigated pests, in particular of soil. Neglecting to advise and foster integrated cultural on site management practices that are demonstrably far easier and cheaper to implement.

    Even the local hospital where I am from, now lacks specialist doctors previously resident at the hospital. Such as a mortician ( as in no more post mortems) and chemical pathologist- the majority of pathology is sent off at least several hundred kilometres away for analysis.

    There should be a greater focus and incentives such as through tax concessions to encourage whatever can be relocated outside of metropolitan centres that brings higher skilled and possibly technology jobs along. I believe plenty of that has been done in the US and Europe. If The Federal and State Governments want rural centres and areas to grow and flourish then what is needed is skilled opportunities in a higher skilled workforce to facilitate higher tech industries and sectors relevant to the 21st century. Firstly the previous jobs have to return under public funds and secondly be multiplied somehow with private monies. With a clear intent to identify, develop and grow demand and market share. Locally and internationally. In some kind of medium-long term plan with a bit more vision and desire than is fostered and implemented within the short terms of elected governments.

    Either something materialises, develops, is trailed and enacted in the veins and spirit of the above or Australia will continue to perpetuate a brain drain of local and emerging talent, skill and intellect away from anywhere that is not a state capital. Further reinforcing and developing a more pronounced situation such as in the US mid-west.

  42. Ed Case says:

    What you describe is Thatcherism.
    Close down and demolish everything that isn’t turning a profit, even though those things are public services.
    It rolled through the UK Industrial areas in the 1980s, Howard kicked it off in Australia.

  43. Baa Humbug says:

    Classic case of the slow inevitable, accelerated by bad policy.
    Bill Gates has been buying farmland like crazy. He is now the biggest farmland owner in the US. He’s not doing it to be a farmer, he is doing it to lock up the land (and probably claim millions in carbon credits).
    What happens to towns nearby? They rust much quicker than otherwise and get to a stage of ‘never to return’ so that any policies that might have helped (tax credits etc) become useless.

    Didn’t a mega rich Aussie tech bloke buy one of the biggest cattle farms in the NT about a decade ago and turn it into a carbon sink? There went all the jackaroo jobs for the black fellas.

  44. Rockkdoctor:

    Governments want to push people into the country and I don’t think it is a bad idea but with no infrastructure and industry what are these people to do? Slightly off topic but one thing I noticed on a recent foray into Queensland was the amount of Victorians on the move again. I would say the last vestiges of the old Australia are deserting the garden state and leaving the spoils to Dan’s multi culti dream…

    Just back from a trip to Coffs Harbour from Barcy.
    Governments do not want people in the country. That is bloody obvious from the infrastructure I’ve passed in the last 3643 km. Just 50% of the money spent on landscaping down the SEQuarter would do a lot to fix the roads.
    Rockdoctor, the projects only get built when the people who allocate fundings get the opportunity to an opening ceremony and a plaque.

  45. H B Bear says:

    Gargooglery even for a troll you are an irredeemable idiot.

  46. H B Bear says:

    Maggie went around personally pulling the plug. I saw her Transit van. We had a cup of tea in a lay-by on the M5.

  47. Rex Mango says:

    Sad story but true. Smaller families, smaller houses & more skateboards. Cricket/tennis suffer.

  48. What part did Tony Abbott have in this?

  49. Ed Case says:

    Tony Abbott displayed absolutely no interest in Cricket, I don’t remember him turning up for Tests and id he ever did, it was just for the photo op.
    It’s inverted Snobbery. Have a look at all the long serving PMs, Ming, Hawke, JWH, they went out of their way to promote Cricket.
    Yeah, Howard bowled that Double Wide in Afghanistan, but he’d just got off a plane.

  50. H B Bear says:

    Governments want to push people into the country …

    What business is it of governments where people choose to live? Whether in an apartment or a house? A friend tried to sell a modest post-war house in what could best be described as a middle ring suburb. The sort of place many of us probably grew up in. Zoning presently allows a 6 storey block on the boundary which got buyers attention. Probably won’t happen for 20 or 30 years but that is the future. I’m pleased I am unlikely to play much part in it.

  51. Ed Case says:

    Just remembered, Abbott did a Cricket photo op once, he went out of his way to assure everyone watching that he had no interest or background in Cricket.
    Cringe inducing stuff to listen to, though the only thing he was any good at.
    Makes you wonder, did he deduce his unique people skills from watching old Norman Wisdom movies on the ABC back in the 1960s?

  52. Ed Case says:

    Infill unit development such as been happening under the Liberal Admins in Brisbane for 15 years will make country towns more desirable places for families to live, eventually.

  53. Nob says:

    What everybody else said.

    They then spend their time ( all of it spare) greening the town by stopping any logging, dams, mining or industry of any kind.

    SE NSW is particularly polluted with that kind.
    They add no value and obstruct everything.

    Gippsland is full of pensioners and dole bludgers on mobility scooters taking advantage of the cheaper housing and social services in once flourishing towns around the Latrobe Valley. Everyone’s a greenie and thinks there oughta be a law for … whatever.

  54. JohnJJJ says:

    Nob
    #3762732, posted on February 21, 2021 at 12:04 pm
    SE NSW is particularly polluted with that kind.
    They add no value and obstruct everything

    .
    So, let us forecast. We have the parameters and the variables and it is linear. My prediction, the towns will gradually decay. No money to fix roads and other local infrastructure. The retired Gov employees who are well connected and live in the village (as we now call it) will lose relevance very quickly as their old contacts cark-it in the ACT. The new Australians and the Asians have zero interest in going back to the village and have no interest in middle class, doctor’s wives festivals.
    In 12 years these will be the towns of the near dead. Dust, potholes, occasional sound of sirens and a torn yellowing poster of the 2027 Gundagi Organic Wine and Food Festival on the Council’s “What’s ON in Gundagi” noticeboard.
    An old bent Chinaman hobbles down the main street mumbling about his father’s empty restaurant, The Golden Pearl. Once the pride of Gundagi.

  55. Fair Shake says:

    So ….there are plenty of facilities available for the trans gend mob to play on.

  56. Knuckle Dragger says:

    Smaller families. Yep.

    I played most of my junior and emerging crikkit in the southern Mallee, wheat and sheep country.

    One of the towns in our league, about 20 minutes north (or 10 in Al Zanker’s Torry) had nine of the eleven with the same surname.

  57. herodotus says:

    Howard kicked it off in Australia.
    No, it was Keating’s major opus, while Hawke did the PR.
    They called it “micro-economic reform”, so it sounded better.

  58. herodotus says:

    Herodotus, there is a clear pattern of movement from outlying towns to the major centres that you named due to the contraction of the farm workforce. That has aggravated a lot of problems like drug and alcohol abuse in those big towns.
    Globalisation to blame?

  59. Nob says:

    JohnJJJ

    Don’t forget all the old “Save the Murrumbidgee! Stop (any genuine enterprise that might give young folk a reason to stay)!” posters.

  60. Dot says:

    herodotus
    #3763094, posted on February 21, 2021 at 7:32 pm
    Howard kicked it off in Australia.
    No, it was Keating’s major opus, while Hawke did the PR.
    They called it “micro-economic reform”, so it sounded better.

    Loopy stuff.

    Australia couldn’t export before then.

  61. Dot says:

    “couldn’t”

    Exports and imports grew immensely since the mid 1980s, for at least 20 years. Much greater than GDP growth.

  62. The Sheriff says:

    Ed Case
    #3762642, posted on February 21, 2021 at 10:17 am
    Girls head to the big smoke after finishing High School the last 50+ years, families never get formed, weeds take over the pitches and courts.
    Even in the Cities, the generation born between 1941 and 1970 didn’t turn up for the future.

    Rural women who head to the city are so often the worst when it comes to being indoctrinated by leftist crap. Usually not outstanding intellects but average to slighlty above average so when some city professor tells them about gender theory, queerphobia they lap it up and this causes them to feel superior to their rural compatriots.

  63. theleftfootkick says:

    Sounds like the Omeo football club, only about 2 surnames in the whole team!

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