Dear Members, here follows a short account of MCC Clotted Cream Tour to Devon and Somerset,
taking in some of the most glorious grounds available to play at.
It all started on the 2nd June 2023 when, amid train strikes various MCC members gathered to
meet at the McDonalds, Gatwick. Here a 17 seater minibus awaited with yours truly at the wheel.
Punctuality was key and once all were boarded the merry band headed off to get acquainted with
the accommodation in Bampton. A pitstop was made at the Somerset County Cricket ground,
Taunton where shops were visited and people who were “Definitely were not going to buy
As you can see, Wonham House was a scruffy affair. Built as a politicians private hunting lodge in
the mid-1800’s, it contains just 9 bedrooms, a massive dining room complete with grand piano, a
heated outdoor pool, games room (Inc. pool table and table tennis) and its own cinema with bar.
As it happened, the cinema room and bar were little used, along with the two reception rooms, as
the weather gods had smiled on us. Nobody wanted to miss the stunning views across the Ex
valley or a dip in the pool. Sound horrible? It was a tough week and I could have done a second.
Like magic, our pre-ordered groceries were delivered as we arrived and stowed away. Rooms were
allocated, based largely on who was first up the stairs. All seemed happy with their lot.
No sooner had we glanced around the house than we were off about our business. The minibus
was re-boarded and off we set for an evening T20 versus Plymtree CC.
Ex-first team skipper, now living in Oregon – Ankit was captain for the day, ably supported by
current first team wicket-taker extraordinaire, Neeraj as VC. Ankit called correctly and elected to
Plymtree is a tiny little village with a gorgeously rustic ground. The wooden pavilion is reminiscent
of those I grew up with. Dimly lit and with a uniquely evocative aroma consisting of warm dust and
sunbaked wood. The steps down to the boundary were a stud-worn diary of all the incoming and
outgoing batsmen who had passed over them.
You can read the scorebook for yourselves, so I won’t be going overboard with every moment of
every game, suffice to say that MCC skillfully allowed a potent mixture of runs and wickets to occur
and were set a healthy 158 to chase.
Batters were to retire on 25 and as various MCCers came and went the chase boiled down to the
very last over. It was made even more mouthwatering when Club Captain, Jonty Altmann stood his
ground (Stuart Broad style) having lost half his bat nicking it to the keeper. Umpire Mervyn Jones
was not having it and in walked Adrian Breeds (#Moose) needing three from three balls. Moose
slapped the first ball (As moose are prone to do) for a very matter-of-fact four over the covers and
it was time to retire to the pub for a very hearty BBQ, beer and social banter.
An excellent evening was had by all with invitations made on behalf of both sides for return
fixtures, both home and away. A club tie was awarded to their top-scorer and we retired back to our
miserable hovel to explore it further.
Day two was to be a rest day as all of the local clubs play league games on a Saturday. However,
a surprise was in store. Moose had risen early (As moose do) and had prepared a fine cooked breakfast for all. The household was woken to the smell of bacon, eggs, sausages, mushrooms, beans and the tones of “Good Mornin’!” being blasted out around the house via bluetooth speaker.
Bleary people began to gather in the massive dining room where they were treated to a piano
recital, performed by local talent – 11 year old Calvin.
It had taken a little additional searching to find Calvin, but it was well worth the effort. Calvin had
asked his parents for piano lessons during lockdown, having played nothing before. The fact that
the lessons were online and that they didn’t actually posses a piano did not stunt Calvins progress
and three years into his life as a pianist, he has won a music scholarship at a local school. His father was rightfully proud of him. We were all blown away by his overall demeanour and professionalism.
This set the day up beautifully. Except for Ankit and Argha, who returned to Taunton to collect the
freshly prepared Millichamp & Hall bat Ankit had fallen in love with the day before…(More on this
later), nobody felt the need to leave the house. We had a marvellous day doing whatever the hell
we wanted on a blissful day.
Sunday 4th June 2023. Cullompton CC – 40 over match.
Some players had been quite taken with Plymtree. It is after all a traditional village setting,
surrounded by fields and the ground is perfectly proportioned. Collumpton, however is a step up in
terms of ground maintenance. As we arrived, Groundsman, Chairman and player, Richard was
lovingly putting the finishing touches to the strip. It was a good opportunity for some of the team to
hear a little on what it takes to keep a pristine square. In short, Richard is lucky to still be married.
The square is immaculate and his wife’s eyebrow lifts slightly when you compliment him on it.
You can read more about the club and see Richard, along with my old mate and Head Coach,
Merv (Who helped organise this tour) here https://cullomptoncricketclub.org.uk/about/
It is fair to say that Cullompton have plenty of players to choose from and their Firsts play a high
level of cricket. For us, they had a smorgasbord selection from every facet of the club, including
some super-keen youths.
Captain-for-the-day Craig (Cassandra) Barrett did the sensible thing and lost the toss, Cullompton
elected to bowl. MCC got off to a good start, despite Argha being C&B early in the piece. Jonty
looked nailed on for a gift-wrapped fifty, when he received a delicious long-hop to put away on 46
only to find a pair of safe hands.
Now, Dear Readers, it is time for those of you of a delicate disposition to look away as the next
scenes are quite openly explicit, brazen and downright lewd.
Ankit took to the crease with his newly acquired mistress from Taunton. His wife must never be told
of course, as bats from Millichamp and Hall are not the cheapest. What followed was simply a
salacious orgy of run scoring. Not just your normal hacking about, but some of the more
deliberately placed stroke making you could ever witness. Thankfully, having reached his fifty the
caressing and stroking was over and he was forced by etiquette to retire. The whole sordid affair
was over. For now…
Owen and The Moose, made healthy contributions in the 30’s and Cassandra weighed in with a 43
N.O. to get the side to a healthy 205 all out in exactly 40 overs.
Teas were splendiferous and we took the field, labouring only mildly from overindulgence.
The opposition reply began as a steady tick of runs with a healthy dose of wickets falling, but the
sting was in the tail. Cullompton had saved the best ’til last. 96 for 9 went to 166 for 9 in very short
order and the improbable run chase was looking all too probable when finally the main protagonist
was snaffled on 69 from 40 balls.
The bowling figures are there to see, but it would be fair to say that Argha had played a good part
in taking some of the vital wickets.
We hung out at the ground with BBQ and beverages on offer and decided upon the various
awards. The format was this. Nominations were made for: Best Player, Best Moment and Dick of
the Day. Successful nominees were Moose, Phil Milton and “Student” Andy. More on Andy later.
What we did learn is that Andy can skull a pint. Breeders (AKA Moose) was driving the bus and
was given special dispensation to launch his pint over his shoulder. This just left Phil Milton (Aka
Milfhouse). Milfy’s reward for coming last was to don a costume. In this case, a stunning dirndl
befitting a much bustier specimen. See images if you dare.
There came a point when we all realised that Phil may be enjoying his costume far more than was
intended. We stopped to pick up provisions half way home and he leapt from the van, strode
across the car park and into the shop, drawing looks and plenty of comment. Staff and shoppers
were highly amused as Phil maintained the demeanour of someone who thought this perfectly
normal and acted as if nothing were astray!
Then home, to more drudgery.
Monday 5th June – Rest day.
Like all top athletes, the touring side recognised the importance of having rest days. Apart from the
exertions of the match, it may be that not all of the fluids imbibed had been entirely life enhancing.
Fines had been given in the form of “cocktails”, concocted by the youngest member of the tour,
Andrew Muir. Andrew had joined the tour the 11th hour, when Dave Carr had been forced to drop
out due to covid. A student at Notts Uni, Andrew had missed his vocation in not choosing
Chemistry and was making up for it, somewhat gleefully as the self-appointed distributor of woe.
After the delights of breakfast, a trip to the seaside was in order. The victorian beach resort of
Lyme Regis the destination. Fish and Chips on the beach, fossil hunting (like we needed any
more!), swimming and a little boat trip later, we returned to the bus to find we had been fined for
exceeding the length of vehicle permitted to park in the bays. It was a beast of a bus and we
couldn’t have done without it. Onwards!
The bus does need another mention. Not only did it house all twelve of us, plus guests, but it also
handled the extremely narrow lanes of Devon and Somerset. If you have never experienced these
lanes then it’s like a toboggan run, just greener. The scenery of the area is stunning. Many a happy
moment was had on the bus. Make of that what you will.
Tuesday 6th June – MCC v Bridgetown CC 40 over match
Say what you like about Phil Milton, but he knows how to pick a fixture. In organising this tour, Milfy
was a massive help. He knows the area and he recommended Bridgetown as a super little spot to
play. Boy was he right! It has recently been voted the best ground in Somerset.
I now know that the ground at Windsor Castle is not too shabby (who’d have guessed!?) But for
sheer rural beauty, this place can’t be bettered. Surely?
After Cullompton, some members felt that the ground could not be bettered. Then we rocked up
here. To get to the ground you have to cross over the River Exe via a sturdy wooden foot bridge.
Then up the slope to the thatched pavilion that looks like it might house Bilbo Baggins. Perched on
the highest part of the ground, it makes the perfect spectator viewpoint. There really can’t be many
grounds to rival it for beauty. Everyone agreed that this was the most beautiful ground they had
ever played on.
Given his associations with the club, Phil was given the honour of skippering the MCC and duly
went for a toss. Shortly after a coin was used to decide who would be batting first. In winning the
toss, Milfy recognised that in true West Country style, Bridgetown had left him little choice but to let
them bat first, as only 8 of their players had arrived on time. A cunning ploy?
Owen Davies had opened the batting at Plymtree and got us off to a flying start. Today he was
opening the bowling with his version of leg-spin. There have been days when this has provoked
numerous letters of complaint from companies with satellites orbiting the planet, but this was not
one of those days. Owen bowled with dexterous control, leading to a wonderful caught and bowled
to remove the opening bat. This was a steepling ball which required a full 180 degree turn, run, a
balletic spin to match the swirl of the ball and finally a full length dive to take the ball an inch from
the ground. No doubt Owen would have put in just as much effort had this not been off his own
In all, MCC utilised no less than ten bowlers that day and a good all-round performance saw
Bridgetown dismissed for 202. The only regret was that one D Milton did not hang around a little
longer so that his son could bowl at him.
I’m operating on collective memory here, as one page of the scorebook was photographed twice.
Half the data is missing as I type. But to summarise – It was bloody good fun!
During their innings the ball had to be retrieved from the Exe a couple of times, once by the most
expendable person on the team – Lufthansa pilot, Gorgeous George and later on by a willing dog.
Not that George wasn’t willing, but perhaps less so than the dog.
Teas were magically conjured up from somewhere within the hobbit pavilion before MCC went out
to bat. I will never tire of a clotted cream tea.
Two battle-worn members of the side were sent out to face the music. The Moose had a strike rate
of 400 at this point in the tour and standing at the other end, I realised he had no intention of
reducing that. Bat-speed got him off the mark with a boundary but it wasn’t to last and the opening
bowler got his reward shortly after.
I’d managed to turn up on tour with an injured shoulder. The current Mrs D thought that it was
entirely appropriate that my 53 year old body be utilised in shifting two tonnes of granite blocks
form one place to another. My body disagreed and in particular my shoulder. Bowling was out of
the question, making batting a precarious priority. Having been sawn in half by a couple of
deliveries, I managed to eek out a passable fifty and retire.
Craig “Blue” Barrett batting at 4, made a customary start but then something happened. This
normally most mild mannered of batsmen, suddenly revealed that he is at heart…. A dirty foxglove
slogger! He unleashed various vicious hooks and cuts in IPL style and was only forced to stop
once he had been bowled! The truth was out!
Ankit also provided yet more disturbing scenes as he continued to coo over his bat whilst totting up
a decent 32, only allowing Phil Milton 20 to chase when he came in. More father/son banter was
had, Milton Junior silencing the Senior with a six to seal the win.
We trundled off in the direction of a good pub and the fines format was followed. On this occasion it
was Blue who lost the drinks race. He retired to the John only to emerge as a superhero.
We returned back to barracks to continue discussions…
Wednesday 7th June – MCC v Laughton CC at The Valley of the Rocks, Lynton & Lynmouth –
40 over match
Organising a tour is quite an undertaking and you need to be motivated to want to do it. For this
tour, my motivation was to play here. My father had said that he had always wanted to, but never
had. He had made a pilgrimage to the ground some years ago, just to be there, but never played.
He retired from the game in his 60’s and now at 78, he had come from Sussex to watch the game.
It was a bit of a Deverill affair, as my son William was also there. He plays for Laughton CC, as do
Breeders (Moose) and I, on the few times I’m in the country to do so. The Valley of the Rocks is
one of the most desired destinations for any cricketer to play at and the demand to get a game
there is so high that the Home Club have turned it into a charity, whereby you can rent the ground
and play an opposition of your choosing. This is necessary and the local club, simply wouldn’t be
able to find time to work were they to play everyone who asked. Sounds alright to me!
You can imagine the pressure that this puts on both ground and groundsman.
The Laughton boys had journeyed over the day before and were staying locally. We had to trundle
across the county in the bus, which took well over an hour. This was no hardship as the ever
changing scenery would have been entertainment enough, but we had yet more!
Laughton were three men short, a fact known weeks before the fixture. It wasn’t a problem, until at
the last moment they were four men short. We had three guys at the ready, two of Milfys mates
(Locals) and a mate of mine and The Moose who had moved to Devon a couple of years
previously. Happily, Chairman Richard, from Cullompton was more than willing to join us, so we
were back to eleven a side.
I met David Earl when we were teenagers. We played for the same club and to me he will always
be a mate who opens the batting. You are more likely to know him for his career in comedy. He has
likely appeared on your screen at some point in the last ten years, whether you realise it or not. He
writes for film and TV and has s successful podcast with fellow comedian/writer, Joe Wilkinson.
David had joined us for breakfast before jumping on the bus.
Every journey on the bus was amusing, but this one reached its peak as we descended down the
steep and narrow way that leads you to the ground. A rocky cliff face on the left was a rocky drop
to certain death on the right. Then trough a narrow gorge before it all opened up to a version of
The ground is surrounded by a series of rocky peaks, as on a crown. Through these from one end,
you can see directly to the sea. If you climb the peaks on one side you find a path that leads along
a cliff, from where you can look directly across to Wales. It is a ludicrous setting.
The playing field is surrounded entirely by a fence, within which sits a timber and stone pavilion
and a permanent net. A cafe next door provides the teas. Cream, naturally.
If this place had been my motivation, it had been worth it. There were gasps all-round, but my
favourite reactions were from Ankit, Neeraj and Argha. Every day they had said that the last place
was the best ground they had ever played at and “It can’t get better than this”. And then, here we
were. We had finally reached the pinnacle.
When looking at the make up of the two sides and deciding what was best, we agreed that The
Moose, Dave Earl and I play for Laughton. Breeders is their Captain, when not touring with MCC.
We both know Dave from old and it was a rare chance for me to be on the same team as my
boyhood friend. The two local ringers got the dubious pleasure of being reunited with Phil and to
play for MCC. Sorted.
Messrs Altmann and Breeds performed the Toss under the watchful eye of Simon Wicks who had
come all the way from Sussex to do so (He may prove crucial!).
The only foreseeable downside to the day was that everyone wanted to do well. Nobody wants to
fail in a setting such as this, but inevitably, many would!
Jonty called correctly and MCC elected to bat. Jonty and Milfhouse donned their pads and before
the game began, my father was asked to get us underway with a couple of deliveries. In his
heyday, Dad was a wonderful cricketer. I can’t tell you how many people have told me this. As
anyone going down through the gears will tell you, you never lose that competitive urge. Jonty
looked very nervous as Dad sent down three ball to fulfil his lifetime desire to play at Linton &
Lynmouth. A very special moment and thanks to all for indulging us.
Jonty’s nerves never really got to settle as he was the first to enter the purgatory of what could
have been. Cody, Laughton’s opening young quick picked him up with the sixth ball of the game.
Jonty was at least the first to find the boundary at The Valley of the Rocks.
Owen looked to continue his happy tour as he strode in. A boundary and a single were his scoring
shots before Cody claimed him, caught by Earl at slip. The Moose was being miserly from the
other end (Moose are the Scotsman of all deer), but without luck. A trap was set for Milton, but was
ruined by my lack of ability to catch. No issue, two balls later Breeders did it himself, Phil C&B for
Ringer #1 was now at the crease, with Craig. Ryan Strong is Captain of Watchet CC 1st XI. I know
nothing more about him other than he is a friend of Phil’s, a nice chap and he was a good bit better
than our bowling. Having made his 50, he retired.
Craig, having been admonished for his grotesque behaviour at Bridgetown, dutifully left the crease
having made a sombre Two from many, many balls. Equilibrium was returned. I should add that he
was cleaned up by my son, which is always a proud moment for a dad.
The problem was that it only served to bring Ringer #2 to the crease. John Harris is another very
pleasant fellow and friend to our very own Phil. John hadn’t played for five years, due to various
horrific injuries, but this didn’t prevent him from flailing Laughton to all parts. Having decided that
injury or no, I was going to have a bowl on this ground. They took a particular liking to my pies and
I got summarily slapped. John was mercifully judged to be LBW to Matt Wicks on 34.
Ankit and his new mistress made 38. Who knew that a bat could do this. All the time he played in
Germany I was begging him to play along the ground, but to no avail. Then sees this bat from
across the room and “BOOM!” The ball is being drilled to the boundary along the floor and into
gaps. A pleasure to watch. Finally he strayed into the air and he was caught of the bowling of
guest star, chairman and groundsman, Sir Richard of Cullompton.
Gorgeous George got the cheer of the day when he threaded the ball to the boundary (What a
place to do it).
Neeraj, such a dangerous prospect in Germany had struggled for wickets on tour. If you’re not
winning with the ball, do it with the bat. He looked purposeful and this was backed up by some big
hits including a six that went for miles!
George didn’t want to hold things up and left for 5. Luke Farnes the bowler.
Argha had done well with the ball all tour and so left for nought, second ball. Sir Richard providing
the fatal delivery. Andrew Muir (Who also plays for Laughton, when not touring with MCC) also
wasted little time, but did make a digit before Luke foxed him with a straight one. There was much
merriment at the fall of his wicket as the two are firm friends.
Although everyone had batted, Niraj was still in and Ryan had merely retired. Back in he came and
the onslaught continued, only abating when Niraj finally holed out on 33. Laughton had conceded a
hearty 252 runs.
Teas. If you find yourself in that neck of the woods, go to the cafe next to the ground. You won’t be
It’s been about 14 years since Mr Earl and I played together. A fine bat, he was nervous as we
walked out to make a reply. He had hardly played in those years and despite appearances, he’s an
Ankit on the other hand was raring to go. I don’t know how many times I banged on at him to stick
to the top of off when he was in DE. Who knew that all it would have taken was a new cherry, that
setting and the prospect of a celebrity wicket to get him to two it!?
Ignoring the 5 wides, the first over was a blinder and Dave did well to look solid against it. He said
to me afterwards that it was just what he needed. Ankit was firing on all cylinders and Dave knew
he was in a battle. It fired him up and I loved being at the other end to watch him re-emerge from
his cricketing cocoon.
He put Argha through the covers with a nice drive to get off the mark. It was the first of five fours
and four sixes that took him to 46 in quick time. This against some of the cream of the MCC
Looking to reach fifty with another thump, he mistimed it and a good running catch off the bowling
of The Chemist Muir, saw the back of him. I had barely even started at this point.
Laughton has a mercurial talent in Will Griffith. He seemed similarly inspired by the whole day and
went off like a train, 37 in no time. Jonty silenced his innings with a beaut that sent the bails flying
almost centimetres from the stumps.
Laughton were 108 for two and up with the rate. Then the wickets came.
First, yours truly, clean bowled by Ringer #2 Harris. 17. Then umpire Simon Wicks, forced to give
son, Matt out first ball. A bitter pill for both. Harris the provider again. Luke Farnes made a digit
before Gorgeous George deceived him into drilling the ball at Ringer #1. Thomas didn’t trouble the
scoreboard, Caught Craig off Jonty. William Deverill provided some much needed hope, but Neeraj
and George combined to stop him on eleven. Cody provided some slippage too, but fell for 20.
Andy doing the honours off the bowling of Craig. The Moose was stoic and fought on in the face of
the insurmountable. Jamie Ralph (Who incidentally, had the valley of the rocks as his home ground
when he lived in Lynmouth and who’s father I had toured to Watchet with in 1994) hung around for
while until being undone on five by Milfy, ct Altmann.
When Sir Richard of Cullompton joined Breeders, he and the Moose needed 66 form six overs to
As it was it only took three more overs, MCC taking the final wicket that secured them a clean
sweep on tour and in the most glorious of settings. Breeders was the last man to go. He’d pumped
Milfy for six the over before, but on his second attempt he was undone by Milfy’s even slower ball
and castled. A fitting end in many ways and a fine match. Laughton 50 runs short and perhaps
ruing some dropped chances, but still upbeat and glad to have been there.
We all hiked up to see the views. Nobody wanted to leave, but all good things, must… We headed
into town, found a pub and sat outside gassing.
Since we were two teams on tour, fines had 11 more persons involved. The drink-off saw Matt
Wicks from Laughton win the honour of wearing the dirndl, Milfhouse had worn previously. I
understand that this was ripped off him later on the same night by Thomas. What goes on tour…
Thursday 8th June – Rest, reflect and enjoy.
The last full day on tour and the last chance to make the best of it. Most decided not to go
anywhere. Why would you? The house had plenty to keep us entertained, the weather remained
glorious. Only George, Sabine and `I decided to venture out. We took a boat out onto a local lake,
drank a few beers and came back to find the merry men all in good cheer. There was a surplus of
beer, wine and nibbles that needed clearing. The process was well underway.
We hadn’t found time to spark up the BBQ, so tonight was the night. I don’t know what Ankit did to
the chicken, but man it was good! The evening was sublime, the full moon rising over yonder ridge
and… well you had to be there.
When the dew come we went in to use the massive dining table. There was the remains of the
cider and various potions to consume. Andy set about his potions as the final fines session
commenced. This the most brutal of them, with scores now to be settled. Then a pre-prepared
quiz, from quizmaster The Moose (Canada is boring in many parts and so Moose have highly
developed quizzing skills. It’s a form of evolution. Craig was useless before he moved to Canada.
I’m thinking of spending a few months there, just to see if it will help).
Friday 9th June – Home.
If you look on the fridge door at the Hirsch, there dangles a lanyard with a bottle opener on it. We
were all given one from Phil as a reminder not to drink Cider of the tour. Craig had sped off in the
direction of Manchester. Mr & Mrs Maschelles had their own car also. The rest of us made the final
trek back to Sussex and on to homeward destinations. Handshakes, hugs and farewell, see you
Summary and Thanks.
I’ll start with the thanks. This was a special tour. Everyone on it contributed and I could not be more
grateful for that and the fantastic good humour that you brought with you. If I knew who to thank for
the weather, I would. An abysmal start to the year was looking scary, but then it broke and what we
got was divine.
If any of the clubs we played are reading this, “Thank You”. Great hosts, all. To Lynton and
Lynmouth, we didn’t play you but we are all grateful that you have the drive to loan out your
ground. Thanks especially to the groundsman.
Thanks to the Ringers who played for or against us, John, Ryan Richard and David.
Thanks to Phil Milton for recommending the Bampton game and for getting the super-cheep hire
car. All of your input was invaluable.
And a massive thank you to the unsung hero that is Mr Breeds (Yes I took this out before you proof
read this account). I typically drove to the grounds and Breeders drove back, allowing me to enjoy
a beer or two. He was up pretty much every morning organising breakfast. The best righthand man
you could have on any tour or indeed in life. Cheers!
If you want to hear David Earls’ views on his experience, MCC gets plenty of airtime on these two
Lastly a thank you to the lady on our tour. Sabine, having you with us was the icing on the cake.
You fitted in with an ease, that only a person with practical experience of knowing how to control a
bunch of idiots in a confined space could do. We sere all delighted that you enjoyed the lunacy of
touring. You are always welcome, in fact it may be contractually obligatory.
I’ve organised lots of tours now, but that worry is essential. Will everyone get along? Will the
weather ruin it? Will the accommodation be good enough? Will everyone turn up on time? Costs,
food, logistics, drop outs, opposition strength, arghhhhh!
This tour topped them all. You can try to cover everything off, but there are so many things you
cannot adjudicate for. This was symphonic in how it all came together and much of that was due to
the people on the tour and sheer dumb luck.
You can see all the photos taken on this link here:
They are a riot! I haven’t been able to recount every hilarious occurrence in this “Brief” account, but
the pictures do tell the story of a very happy time had.