I have been visiting Hartsdown Park for almost 2 decades now. The gradual transformation of a classical Southern League football ground into a soulless "stadium" makes me feel nostalgic for football as it used to be. Today's ground is extremely well kept with everything as neat and tidy as the ongoing hopes of redevelopment allow. It feels though on three sides as if the sponsors should be Portakabin.
Where there was some height and definition from the old stands now things are low level. This allows the ground to appear in many ways one of the most scenic and pastoral with trees from Hartsdown Park framing the backdrop. The changing rooms and offices are the only "real" part of the ground left with a character of their own.
In recent years the talk amongst the crowd has at times been as much about what may happen off the pitch as on it. Again today I heard idle speculation on where houses might be built to help fund redevelopment of the ground. Margate's fans are good natured. At today's game they were muted by a poor home team performance. The biggest difference between them and opponents Cray Wanderers who won 1-0 through a Tommy Tyne goal was effort.
The hardcore Margate fans behind the goal have a big drum, but it was rarely used with only rare corners bringing anticipation of a goal. Margate committed more fouls and in truth were a litle flattered by the 1 goal margin. Off the field the Hartsdown Football 5s is a great initiative to see people at the ground throughout the week. Sad to see in my top picture the mindless vandalsim of the headline advertising for it in Hartsdown Road.
Margate is a very friendly and the club shop is well laid out and worth a visit for any football fan. I hope that in time the club will be able to fashion a stadium that has the quirks and character that made the old Hartsdown Park an arena to fill the eyes with pleasure. Sometimes architecture even if only haphazardly designed works in a way that one only realises when it has gone. If I want to view trees I can go for a walk in the country or a park, but at football I want to view a place were passions are captured on all 4 sides.