Grounds for celebration as my favourite read reaches fever pitch

There are people who look out of train windows at the hills and the clouds and perhaps they take photographs of the hills and write down the names of the clouds in a little pad;

there are people who, when they visit a new town, look for the nearest art gallery or the best Italian restaurant and when they've found them they compare them to the last art gallery or Italian restaurant they went to, and there are people who can feel their heart beating faster when they spot a rare bird visiting for the first time.

And then there are people like me, who look out of train windows trying to catch glimpses of non-league football grounds, taking photographs of them through the glass and writing details down in well-thumbed notebooks; who, when they visit a new town, look for the nearest non-league football ground to compare it to other non-league football grounds in other towns and who can feel their throat getting dry and their pulse racing when they're approaching a non-league football ground for the first time.

The bible for me and people like me is the magazine Groundtastic, a marvellous quarterly publication devoted to what one critic called "the pornography of corrugated iron sheds", and which has just published its special edition 50th issue.

Let's leaf through its glossy pages: the cover feature analyses Shrewsbury Town's recent move from Gay Meadow to the New Meadow, and there are sections devoted to the grounds of Scotland (Alloa Athletic have installed an artificial surface at Recreation Park), Wales (Bala Town have added further capacity to their ground at Meas Tegid) and there's even a few hundred words on European grounds visited by subscribers.

League grounds are covered but the non-league scene is Groundtastic's beating heart: there's a feature on the lost grounds of Fleetwood, Lancashire; there's a news item about the wet weather delaying the building of Biggleswade Town's new stand (they're still having to groundshare with Bedford FC); there's a review of an old National Coal Film Unit film featuring Linby Colliery FC from Nottinghamshire and there's a beautifully evocative photograph of Glastonbury FC's main stand from 1974, with the Tor in the background, dark as a linesman's shirt.

The top 10 feature in this issue is "Top 10 Programme Covers that Feature Football Grounds" which isn't quite as good as the "Top 10 Turnstyles" feature in Groundtastic 49. The magazine began in 1995 and, looking at the first issue, not that much seems to have changed: there's a photo of Cromer's wooden stand on the cover and features inside on Bradford Park Avenue and Brentwood's defunct Hive Ground. Ah, happy days!

It's easy to mock a magazine like Groundtastic, make no mistake: it featured on the TV programme Have I Got News For You as a guest publication, thus putting it into the category of magazines read by super-anoraks and blindly sad loyal enthusiasts with no life beyond the annotating of corner flag design and the testing of new plastic seats for comfort and depth of field of vision in relation to the view of the opposition goalmouth area.

If you love football grounds, though, it's a simple leap of faith from admiring huge stadia like St James's Park and the Emirates to being intrigued and moved by grounds at places like Worsbrough Bridge, Maltby Miners Welfare and Harrogate Railway.

My own love of football grounds comes from a love of community endeavour and of theatre or rather of spaces where theatre can happen: and if I'm being perfectly honest the theatres I like best are intimate spaces like The Georgian Theatre Royal in Richmond or the Crucible Studio where you can see the actors swallow and hear every nuance of their voices; I also love so-called Amateur Dramatics (a perjorative term like Non-League football: have you seen the intricate way the leagues are organised below the Conference? Have you experienced the professionalism these "amateurs"put in to every performance?) and when I'm out and about I like to visit, or at least grab the brochure for, Little Theatres and Amateur Playhouses.

It's a short leap from watching Pontefract Amateur Operatic Society performing South Pacific to watching Pontefract Collieries play at their atmospheric Skinner Lane ground; both the theatre and the football are packed with drama, endeavour, sweat and just a little bit of comedy, intentional or unintentional.

Groundtastic understands this and each issue is produced with love and care and an understanding of sport's place in the wider world. And, of course, a demonically detailed enthusiasm about the kinds of buildings that people who weren't readers might never give a second glance to: Stratford Town's new stadium at Knight's Lane, Tiddington, for example. Did you know that Stratford Hope to be playing at their new stadium by the end of 2007? I thought not, but somehow that news makes my heart beat a little faster.

There are plenty of grounds in Yorkshire to visit and write down in your Ground Spotter's book: Stocksbridge Park Steels, high on a hill over Sheffield at the oddly named Look Local stadium with a real sense of a community club; North Ferriby United near Hull, next to the railway line and at the back of the allotments, with the noise of a passing Transpennine Express can drown out the referee's whistle and someone is pushing a wheelbarrow just yards away from a frantic goalmouth scramble; AFC Emley, where the ball is frequently lost over a high fence into a neighbour's garden, and Sheffield FC, playing at what used to be called the Coach and Horses and is now called the Bright Finance Stadium, (or the Stadium of Bright to some) 150 years old this year, and the oldest football club in the world.

People say that if you travel the country on a canal boat, you get a completely different view of Britain; that may well be true, but if you travel with a copy of Groundtastic in your pocket and you keep your eyes peeled for floodlights over terraced houses, small knots of people in unfamiliar football colours, and team buses with baffled drivers consulting A to Zs you'll never be disappointed and, who knows, you may come to love corrugated iron sheds as much as I do. It's Groundtastic!

For all you ever wanted to know about non-league football grounds visit