Saturday 29th July 2017 ko 13.45
Peterborough & District League Premier Division
MOULTON HARROX 3 (Parry 6 Watkin 26 Woods 42)
SUTTON BRIDGE UNITED 0
You got a sense of divergence as the crowd left Holbeach. Some headed for Deeping, some for Fakenham and others March Town. The destinations all had one thing in common, they all were grounds at Step 6 or above, or putting it another way the kind of grounds that if we’d have made the hop an exclusively UCL event, would not have seen hoppers on anything like the scale that happened here. Whilst I understand their reasons, there is a point of view that doesn’t deal with life at Step 7 or below; it would have been lovely to have seen them try the delights of Moulton Harrox and Spalding Town, there were were strong reasons for optimism.
The advance ticket is the organiser’s main tool in giving clubs a steer on numbers, and that’s the sole reason they’re offered, believe me the administration involved means there’s no money in it! Back when this hop was set up we at GroundhopUK thought that the PDFL clubs would see fewer hoppers than the UCL grounds. We were proved gloriously wrong, the ticket sales for the PDFL games have been higher throughout the hop’s run and of course the highest attendance in UCL/PDFL hop history was the 534 at Sawtry last year. The drop in attendance from Holbeach was due to smaller local support, not ticket sales or number of groundhoppers attending.
We swamped the pretty Lincolnshire village of Moulton. Sadly there wasn’t time to visit Britain’s tallest windmill or learn that the village’s most famous son John Molson emigrated to Canada in 1782, returned to England briefly to buy a book on brewing and went on to form one of the world’s largest breweries, now part of the Coors empire.
The club, primary school and village square take their name from John Harrox whose 1561 will endowed the village with a school (now merged with Spalding Grammar) and the sportsfield we were visiting. Given the chaos in the streets outside I was pleased and relieved at how well the club were coping. The 3rd barbecue in 3 games served excellent Lincolnshire sausages that would have sold better had fewer clubs on the hop decided that charcoal should remain the default option. The clever marketing came from the ladies of the bowls club whose teas and homemade cakes sold easily as well as the cliche would suggest.
We saw a different kind of hopper here. These hoppers tended towards higher numbers of grounds visited and the very British strain of the hobby, the paper-chasers (those who target clubs doing a programme who don’t print normally) were also out in force. Some of those departed elsewhere might have looked at Moulton Harrox and regretted their decision; the cover and dugouts and rail on one side means that there are far worse grounds at Step 6. For the first half the hosts showed how they could easily cope a division higher as so often is the case at this level it’s the facilities that prevent promotion, not the players.
Inevitably perhaps Harrox slowed down in the second half, the win secured with the minimum of fuss. But as the stream of hopping humanity left, bound for Pinchbeck I reflected on an afternoon of surprises. There was the relative strength of both a league and a side until fairly recently in the Boston League, the quality of both the facilities and standard of play, but mainly a feeling of regret that those who’d headed east bound for more certain pleasures hadn’t given this a try. I know they’d have been very pleasantly surprised.