If you're travelling on the train south towards Milton Keynes, then a quick glance out of the window just before Wolverton station once revealed a ground hidden just the other side of the trees, the floodlights and grandstand tantalisingly inviting in the groundhopper with time on his hands to an early stop for further investigation!
Wolverton Park was opened in 1885 as the LNWR's recreation ground for the workers, with football, cycling, athletics and bowls all catered for, in a layout typical of the Victorian era. One of the first in the country to be established, it stood in the shadows of the large Grade II listed train shed to the west, which along with the entrance lodge are the only two buildings on the site still standing as they were when it was first built.
I'd first visited the site in 2005, two years after the last tenants, MK City, had vacated, with it still being recognisable as a football ground even then. It had been used by a number of teams previously, notably Wolverton Town, and in 1987 had seen a large attendance of over 4000 watch the Berks and Bucks Senior Cup final between Aylesbury United and Wycombe Wanderers (Wycombe winning 3-2). In a 2003 Observer article about the ground Andrew Gray was quoted as saying "It's hard to explain, but as soon as you enter you feel this mystical quality. It gets to everyone who comes here" and on my first visit, I couldn't find myself agreeing more. Enclosed by trees around three sides and the train shed overlooking the far side, the football pitch was surrounded by an egg shaped cycle track with curved banking at each end. Three stands were evident then, albeit all derelict with the 1899 Grandstand shrouded by scaffolding and keep out notices. Unfortunately the precarious state of it meant that you didn't really need the notices to tell you not to enter, common sense for your own safety doing that. Still, even in an overgrown, vandal-hit form, you couldn't help but fall in love with the ground, and so when after my visit the news broke that developers were looking to build flats there then it left a heavy heart knowing that the site as a sporting venue had come to the end of its life. Residents got together to try and stop the plans, but in reality when a site has fallen out of use, then you're always fighting against the inevitable, and in 2008 it eventually closed to construction workers.
If there was one positive, then that was at least the developers were sympathetic towards the sites previous use. The Bowls Club were relocated a short distance away, and the football pitch was turned into a park (albeit for residents only). The Grandstand was maintained as well, albeit not in its original form, with only the roof remaining, re-designed so that where once it had been three stepped bays it was now level, and at a lower height, with the stand itself beneath removed, and it now used as a shelter in the park, mock terracing beneath giving some effect of it still being a stand. Other than a small section of the cycling track near the lodge, nothing else remains though, the changing rooms, second stand and tea hut all gone, the floodlights failing to survive neither. A re-visit in 2010 left me in two minds, whilst the purist of course will always rue the passing of a ground, the truth is that life moves on, and a derelict site is now thriving again. Whilst it would have been nice to have seen a club playing there again, the development could have been far more intrusive and destructive, and keeping the stand and track are nice touches that pay tribute to the site's history.
View of the site from Wolverton Railway Station footbridge
The Western side of the field
Building at the Southern End
View from inside
The historic Grandstand, covered in scaffolding
Rear of the Dugouts
The Second Stand
Steps up to the Second Stand
View from inside
The Tea Hut
The North End of the site, with the Cycle Track
The overgrown rear of the Cycle Track
The Cycle Track and Entrance Lodge
The West Side of the site
The Southern End of the site
Side of the Grandstand
The East Side of the Ground
Steps up to the Changing Rooms
'This is Wolverton Park'!
Wolverton Park 1885-2007
Standing in the exact same place on Wolverton Railway Station Footbridge as in Picture 1
The Entrance to the new Development
The Entrance Lodge
The West Side of the Field
The last bit of Cycle Track remaining
The West Side of the site
Wolverton Park Panoramic 1
Wolverton Park Panoramic 2