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Saturday 12th October 2013 ko 10.30

Bedfordshire County League Premier Division

MARSTON SHELTON ROVERS 3 (Reid 59 60 Franks 79)

SHEFFORD TOWN & CAMPTON 1 (Jones 62)

Att 162

Entry FREE

Programme £2

Bacon Roll £2

Badge £3

This season has been by far the busiest by far for organised groundhops with, if I’m correct, this Bedfordshire League being the fifth so far with another six still to come. The diary is congested, and I expect that to be the case for years to come as it seems that Leagues have finally worked out that there’s a windfall to be had from the purse of the groundhopper. There has never been a better time to be starting out in the hobby.

Ask any groundhop organiser and he’ll tell you that organising these events isn’t easy. The two sides of the equation often don’t understand the needs of the other. If the job is done well, the club gets a windfall and the hopper gets a good day or days out. It works on co-operation to a large extent.

In the 17 years or so since Mike Amos at the Northern League invented the organised hop, all organisers have learned to email, or pick up the phone to the others to ensure the events don’t clash and a sensible diary is kept; until now, that is. Last year Craig Dabbs ran a successful event in the Bedfordshire League, and had earmarked October 5th for this year’s event. We at GroundhopUK made sure our North Berkshire Hop didn’t clash, and Harvey Harris did the same with the Northern League’s event in a fortnight’s time. So we were all rather surprised that the Eastern Counties League organised a hop for that date, forcing Craig into a late switch of date.

That of course is their right, no-one has the right to any date in the diary, but their dismissive treatment of Craig was disappointing. Moreover we have attempted to contact the League so that we can co-operate better in the future but those emails at the time of writing remain unanswered. Hopefully that situation will be resolved soon as clashes help no-one.

I, therefore wanted to make sure I attended at least one game of the hop, to show support for what he’s trying to achieve. It was also good to see Notts Senior League Groundhop organiser Rob Hornby there too, and I hope sales for his event later in the season go well, it really is an excellent day out.

It’s fair to say that Craig has improved the offering this year. There was transport laid on for those who wish not to drive and this time each club was selling that staple of the groundhop, the metal badge. More than anything else though, this was a well presented hop game, the catering was excellent and the club worked extremely hard at their day. I trust the cheque at the end of it all made it all worthwhile!

There are of course two things that can’t be organised, the weather and the quality of the game. The weather forecast was dreadful, and the rain was pouring down when I left Oxford but maybe the sun shines on the righteous as the game was played in sunshine that was as welcome as it was surprising! It was a decent game, with lowly Shefford belying their lowly league position with the 3-1 scoreline slightly flattering the hosts.

There was one small glitch though, and it was wholly of my own making. Marston Moretaine is famous for its church. St Mary the Virgin is a 14th-century church with a very rare feature for the East of England, a Grade I listed detached tower to the north of the church located about 70 feet from the north wall of the chancel. Here’s the rub, I left early enough to pay it a visit, but try as I might I couldn’t find it!