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In 1970 Tom Beaven, then the landlord of The Waggon & Horses in Chesham encouraged a group of his regulars to start up a cricket team. He offered to provide the equipment if they could find a ground. A brief search of the local area quickly produced the green at Ballinger.
Ballinger Cricket Club 1949-50
Cricket was played at Ballinger prior to and after the second world war. We believe that only one person in the above picture is still alive after Norman Richardson and Len Haddock died in 2009 and 2010 respectively . They built a 'pavilion' that was used for changing only and for storing the solitary mower. Teas were held in the Memorial Hall, which backs onto the green. This team continued until the late 50s after which, except for a brief use by Hyde Heath CC, the cricket pitch went into disuse.
Having found a venue The Wagon & Horses CC set about improving the ground, finding some 'proper' cricketers and organising a fixture list. They were helped in their search for cricketers by having the Pheasant right opposite the ground. The opportunity to drink in a pub in this lovely part of the Chilterns attracted people for all around the area. Landlords Jan & Fred Vandome made all welcome and when Tom Beaven retired the Pheasant became the home of the Club.
It was then felt that as the Club was now playing in the village, and was using the village pub, its name ought more to reflect that, so in 1976 the Club’s name was changed to Ballinger Waggoners CC. Thus answering the oft asked question of why Waggoners? At this stage only one team was playing, with regular fixtures on Sundays. This meant there was a small membership, which also meant limited funds. Therefore social functions were the lifeblood of the Club and, happily, having the wonderful Memorial Hall on the doorstep helped when organising dances or barbecues. These were always well supported, and hopefully enjoyed, by the residents of Ballinger & South Heath. As the quality of fixtures improved the demand for better facilities grew, and although the 'white hut' had provided sterling service, the lack of light meant that changing, at the end of the autumn games, made for much amusement as players struggled to find whose trousers they were putting their leg in.
Eventually it was decided that a new pavilion was required. Many plans were made and then discarded as the costs were established. Finally, thanks to a substantial anonymous donation from a village resident, a generous grant from the District Council and security of tenure agreed by the Parish council, a plan was approved. In July 1989 a lorry arrived carrying lots of bits of wood. By the end of the day this had been converted into the new pavilion. With a water supply connected and electricity in place a flurry of activity by the members turned the empty shell into what was then considered the height of luxury, with showers, toilets, two changing rooms and a kitchen.
Like many village sides Ballinger was struggling for members. As the current team still included many of the founder members and they weren't getting any younger, it was decided that the Club needed a junior section. This was started in 1992 and it soon became an important part of the Club. It wasn't long before the juniors were demanding to play adult cricket so the decision was made to play some friendlies on Saturday. This side was very much made up of the ancient and modern with 12 years old playing alongside 60 years old. It was a resounding success and certainly advanced the careers of some of the juniors involved and extended those of the ancients.
At the same time league cricket was being animatedly discussed with many wanting to retain the 'Corinthian' approach and others needing the heat of competition. Finally the Club bit the bullet and applied to join the Mid-Bucks League. Starting in division 2 in 1995 the club were promoted as runners-up in 1996 to division 1 and then were promoted to the Premier division in 2001, again as runners-up.
Ballinger Waggoners Cricket Club 2001
After a few years of finding their feet the league side, led by Matt Riley, failed narrowly to win the league in 2003, finishing runners up yet again. During the succeeding 12 years we have maintained our status in the Premier Division, albeit with some narrow escapes from relegation!
A club like Ballinger Waggoners needs continuity and the current members can be thankful for the contributions made by founder members like Bill McGowan, whose efforts, as Groundsman & Treasurer were immeasurable. Current President Gerry Hunting joined in 1974 and for many of the last forty- two years has been Chairman or Secretary and, for some time, both. In mentioning Presidents it should be noted that there have only been three in the history of the Club. Tom Beavan, Saxon Riley and now Gerry Hunting. Other long time servants have been Dave Cox and Rick Brockett, both of whom looked after the club’s machinery and kept the Ground in first class order, and their efforts have been carried on, and indeed surpassed, by current ground supremo Jamie Kellock. Much of the credit for the development of the Club’s junior section, and for the raising of its profile in general is due to past chairman Nigel Kerry, to whom the Club owes a great debt.
Over the years the Club has been looked after very well by the local hostelries. Following the move from the Waggon & Horses to the Pheasant, the club had to move to the Barley Mow when, in the late 1970s Jan & Fred retired, and the Pheasant closed down for a while. This lasted until the Barley Mow landlord Dennis also decided to retire. A brief flirtation with the Cock & Rabbit was followed by the successful move to the Old Swan where we are still drinking, and well looked after.
'If you stand still you will go backwards' is a common refrain amongst marketing gurus. The Club has acknowledged this and every effort has been made to ensure that it stays abreast of current trends. One area the Club is very active in is junior cricket. As mentioned before the junior section was started in1992 and had 12 boys. Now, with nearly 200 boys and girls on the role and 20 coaches at various levels, the club has been very active in the development of cricket in the local area. The Club also has active links with local schools in particular Great Missenden junior school, The Gateway .In 2006 the club achieved the coveted ECB Club Mark accreditation and is recognized by the Bucks Cricket Board as one of its 25 Focus clubs.
With the ground now in constant use during the summer season, the decision was taken in 2015 to invest in a major upgrade to facilities, and a committee led by chairman Andy Thompson was set up to push this through before the start of the 2016 season. In spite of dreadful winter weather, they and our contractor, Scotts, delivered on time. Our 1989 wooden pavilion has been replaced by a splendid more spacious successor; a new all-weather wicket has been laid; the square and playing area have been extended; and new nets have been built. Not bad for a “pub" side, now 45 years old!
Cricket in this pretty part of the Chilterns is secure for some time to come.