Date: 19th June 2012 at 4:10pm
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At the back end of last season you may recall I began a series on upcoming grounds that Arsenal are set to visit. Obviously the summer respite placed the need on a temporary hiatus. However, with Arsenal Ladies still engaged in competitive action over the summer months- most notably this Sunday against Birmingham City- and with Arsenal XI kicking off their pre season schedule at Meadow Park, I thought a write up on Borehamwood`s lodgings may be relevant. Arsenal recently signed a three year extension to the agreement for Arsenal Ladies to use the Conference South`s home ground. The Reserves will play a pre season game there on Saturday, 21st July as part of this agreement. So, to revive the old format?..

Where Next? Meadow Park, Boreham Wood F.C.

Where Are We Seated? Anywhere you like really. For Ladies` games the two turnstiles they open at the Northeast and Southeast ends of the ground rather pincer spectators into the 500 seats in the East Stand, behind the dugout. But if you prefer to stand behind the goals at either end you can do. The West Bank of terracing is only usually open on particularly busy days. The stadium capacity is 4,502, 500 of which are seats- all situated in the East Stand. For the Arsenal XI friendly, I would imagine all four sides of the ground will be open and there will be no segregation. Tickets will be available on the turnstile.

What`s It Like? Your typical charming non league ground. It`s set deep in the terraced streets of suburban Hertfordshire. The ground is enveloped by tall fir trees on the West side, with terraced houses peering over the South Stand. There is a quiet terraced street behind the North Stand too, but a high wall prevents inhabitants from getting a freebie peak of the action. (It doesn`t preclude them from getting the occasional ball in their front garden courtesy of a rushed clearance / wayward striker`s finish). Views from the seats in the East Stand hint at the proximity to the city though with high rise flats visible in the distance.

Like most non league grounds it`s hard to spot until you`re actually there. Once you turn off of Borehamwood High Street, even the floodlights are camouflaged by greenery until you cut through a pay and display car park directly adjacent to the ground. If you enter through the North End turnstile, you do so along a path of immaculately coiffured grass until you see the club car park. Being a non league ground, only one stand has a roof and the ground is rather open to the elements. But given the calendar the Ladies side keep and the timing of the friendly, howling winds and teeming rain, though prevalent in British summer time- shouldn`t be as keenly felt in the months that concern Arsenal at least.

The charm though is in the proximity to the action. Much in the same way that pogoing in the front row of the Astoria, wiping the lead singer`s spit from your eyes is more exhilarating than adjusting your binoculars at Wembley Stadium. Every player utterance to an innocent referee, each barked managerial instruction arrives at you in surround sound. Fan-supporter interaction is a huge attraction as a result. Prepare to either be wryly smiled at or evilly eyeballed as you question the opposing striker`s ability. (That said, a lot of children and families attend these games, so best to leave out the f`s and c`s. Plus, you`re more likely to get chinned by the subject of your abuse if you do that anyway).

What are the facilities like? Being a non league ground, of course they are basic. So if you`re expecting a watercress and rocket baguette at half time or a “hand crafted pie”, prepare to be disappointed. But facilities are by no means ramshackle, just minimal. There is a burger van at either end of the ground serving your usual coronary inducing, calorific snacks. They also serve chips in a polystyrene cone, which is quite magnificent. Like serving spag bol out of a teapot. Toilets are at a premium, which is to be expected since Borehamwood games typically attract around 250 spectators. Seats in the East Stand are decent enough with plenty of legroom. Especially if you sit in the front row where a gap of about 6 feet exists before the perimeter fence. But sit too close to the front in the East Stand and the dugout will occasionally block your view. The next vantage point is probably at the back of the North Terrace, which is the steepest of the stands. Much like Barnet, Borehamwood`s ground has a noticeable incline between its two ends.

What are the home fans like? I`ve never actually attended a fixture in which Boreham Wood have played so it would be hard for me to say. If you`re going along for the friendly, my typical non league experience is that you`ll find good humoured, down to earth sorts. At the risk of sounding like the benevolent aristocrat foisting crumbs down from his table, most recognise the value of a side like Arsenal coming to play them. You may have to put up with the occasional off the cuff remark of reverse snobbery, as I`ve heard at a few Barnet friendlies. But on the whole, you`re on good ground and Arsenal fans will massively outnumber the home contingent for the friendly fixture in any case.

Ladies` games tend to attract a fascinating mixture of families with young children, retired gentlemen that would probably turn up to watch your 5-a-side matches with a thermos flask, curious locals, fanatics and people with just plain nothing better to do. (There are only two of those niches I qualify for and I don`t really want to consider which is more fitting). If you`re game for some light entertainment, in the front row of the East Stand directly adjacent to the dugouts, there sits the moaniest old man on earth.

He regards Ladies` fixtures with an anxiety and fervour which I`ve never seen matched elsewhere. Expect to hear voluminous cries of “you`re getting careless now!” and “These girls aren`t as good as they used to be!” every team the ball takes a stray bounce. The amusing thing is that this guy actually sits right in front of the paddock that seats the players` families. He is either completely oblivious to the fact, or else he really just doesn`t give one solitary sh*t. My money is on the latter.

How to get there? Remarkably easy on public transport. A regular train service runs from St. Pancras International to Elstree and Borehamwood. If you live further south, you can even travel directly from Elephant and Castle, Streatham or Tooting overground stations all the way through to Elstree and Borehamwood. Once you leave the station, you head pretty much straight on, past The Crown pub on your left. Walk straight down the High Street for about 5 minutes, once you see the McDonalds on the roundabout, turn left into Brook Road. If you cut across the car park, you can access the South Stand turnstiles, where you can also access the seats in the East Stand. There is a pay and display car park in Brook Street with ample spaces and it doesn`t charge on a Sunday.

Any historical landmarks in the vicinity? The legendary Elstree film studios are nearby; a large repertoire of blockbuster films from the 1950s to the 1970s used this studio. Christopher Lee`s Dracula, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Superman and Hitchcock`s 1929 film ‘Blackmail` all used the facility to some degree. Nowadays, the blockbuster film industry`s computer driven production means Hollywood don`t come calling as often, but such tat as Dancing on Ice and the Big Brother house claim Elstree as their home, as well as the set of Eastenders. Other than that, it`s a sleepy satellite of London.

Where to drink? Like most city satellites, the soul of Borehamwood`s boozers has been sucked up by identikit, post smoking ban, Orwellian IKEA lite efforts. The smell of freshly painted beige walls and disinfected oak wood tables pollute most of the drinking establishments. The closest pubs to the ground are the Wishing Well and the Hart and Spool, a Wetherspoons directly opposite. Both serve watered down commercial lager and will amputate your souls beyond prosthetic if you spend so much as a minute inside them. The Crown, directly opposite Elstree and Borehamwood station is the most tolerable. That is to say, it has snooker tables, a guest ale or bitter at a decent price and a fair choice of pub grub. It`s the sort of place you`d take your Granddad for a pint of Farmer`s Guff happily enough, but not the type of establishment you`d envisage a lock in with your best pals. If anything though, it is deliciously close to the station. So if it all becomes too much, you can elope the hell away on a high speed train within about 30 seconds of swilling back the dregs of your pint glass. LD.

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