Sunday 9th October 2016 ko 14.15
Western League Premier Division
STREET 4 (Herrod 27 Murray 42 62 90p)
CHIPPING SODBURY TOWN 2 (Guest 23 Sims 71) Criddle sent off 45 (Serious foul play)
We headed back towards Bristol for the hop’s final game in the Somerset village of Street, named it seems because a Roman road ran through where the settlement built up. The Society of Friends, the Quakers established a base here in the 17th century and one Quaker family, the Clarks set up the eponymous shoe making business here. The factory closed in 1993 (although Clark’s still has its HQ in Street) and the factory was converted into an outlet shopping centre. The Clark family leased the firm’s former sanitorium to become, in 1931, Britain’s first Youth Hostel.
The Tannery Ground is one of those delightful hotchpotches of stands and terracing that deserves to be explored. What surprised me was how tiredness hadn’t set in either in myself or the other hoppers. Perhaps that was the advantage of being the final organised English hop (we’re still waiting for S4C’s choice of games before making a decision on the Welsh Premier League Hop), through the UCL/PDFL, the Welsh, North Berks, and Bedfordshire hops we’ve built up a semblance of fitness!
But finely honed athletes like us need only foods best suited to us so the Chilli con Carne sold quickly, as did those who were looking to carb-load by eating chips. Obviously hydration is important, so the bar did a roaring trade too!
Anyone who was at Chipping Sodbury‘s hop game will have a lot of time for them, and their club president Jeff Harper. Again they were the classy friendly club we’d found last year, and it was wonderful to see them having been promoted for this season.
The game was a rip-roaring end to the weekend. The visitors took the lead through Joe Guest (wonder whether he’s put his name into Google?!), Street struck back twice to lead but what cost the visitors the game was the dismissal of Andy Criddle for a quite dreadful challenge. Steve Murray notched the second hat trick of the hop, and while the ten men fought well, the home win was the right result.
This was a hop that managed to be far better than at one point I could have imagined. The geography of the clubs made organising those staples of the organised hop, transport and accommodation difficult, but whilst it took more organising than normal we got there, and with every hop GroundhopUK organises we learn more. In fact the day we stop learning, is the day we quit, and already the conversations between us and the league have started. Thankfully the clubs have seen 14 excellent host clubs over the last 2 years so they’ll be no lack of potential host clubs for 2017.
Much of the credit for that should go to those clubs, both host and visiting. I mentioned Jeff at Chipping Sodbury but you could include many many others too. The league are a joy to work with but special mention should go to General Secretary Mark Edmonds. I opened the very first Western League Hop article at Corsham with the comment that if you metaphorically scratch the surface of the Western League Hop, you get Mark and 2 hops later that very much holds true. Thanks Mark, to you, your clubs and your league.