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Saturday 17th September 2016 ko 10.30

North Berkshire League Division 4

BLEWBURY 4 (Crickmore 6 45p Kent 53og Jamieson 71)


Att 123

Entry & Programme £4

Badge £3

I’d wanted the North Berkshire Hop to head to the south of the league’s footprint for some time. That meant Burghclere had to be included as the league’s southern outpost, and I soon found an excuse to pay Compton and Turnpike Sports visits. It was obvious that Compton would make good hosts, but Thatcham-based Turnpike would find hosting impossible due to lack of volunteers and the open nature of their Henwick Worthy Recreation Ground home. When Turnpike then opted to merge into Newbury FC to, in effect become their reserves it served only to reinforce that decision!

But with all due respect to all at the now defunct Turnpike I’d missed a trick. I’m a believer in groundhopping fate and there was a club who unwittingly are why I’m now on the league’s committee and organiser of our hop and that club is Blewbury.

The village sits on the road from Didcot from Pangbourne and sits at the southern tip of the Berkshire Downs. It’s where “Wind in the Willows” author Kenneth Graham lived briefly, and where St Birinius preached so as to introduce Christianity in the area. He founded Dorchester Abbey and the village of Berinsfield is named after him.

On a more personal level I was seconded around a decade ago to a branch of a bank in Tilehurst. I soon discovered that the more logical A34/M4 route from Oxford was prone to congestion so I found a quieter back route. One evening I drove through Blewbury and spotted the little football ground in the left and wondered who played there and in what league?

I got home and discovered Blewbury played in the top division of the North Berkshire League, and that the league had a rather good website. I turned up to their next evening fixture, against Harwell International and the rest as they say is history. It seemed entirely logical to bring the hop here, although I soon discovered that the old roadside pitch has gone, swallowed up by the new, frankly palatial clubhouse. But at the clubs’ meeting it was clear that we’d encounter a few problems.

Blewbury folded in 2009 and although they reformed 2 years’ later they’ve never played higher than NBFL Division 3 since and were relegated in 2014. The club’s relationship with both the facility and the village has been strained. There would be little or no chance of getting the community involved like at Penmaenmawr and the pettiness was such that the tennis club demanded half the car park! I hope the two people using the tennis courts during the visit of 123 people weren’t too inconvenienced……

I’ll always remember Drayton’s contribution to the very first NBFL hop, it takes courage to commit to hosting without having any point of reference. They did a wonderful job back in 2011 and I was saddened when they folded last season. Thankfully they’ve been revived for this season and I know Pete Ivey and his club would love the chance to host again.

Sadly for them Blewbury were far too strong on a drizzly morning and the theme of it being a bad time to play in goal continued with the second goalkeeper’s own goal in as many games. The rain did have one benefit, as roughly half the attendance sheltered under the clubhouse roof’s overhang. That meant a captive audience for breakfast rolls, tea and coffee, and judging by the items being carried back to the minibuses afterwards, tombola tickets.

It was a gentle start to the hop, run by thoroughly decent club. It was of course that decency that attracted me to the league in the first place.