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Saturday 19th August 2017 ko 15.00

Cornwall Combination

CARHARRACK AFC 8 (R Stephens 11 15 79 Shaw 27 Davies 48 Powell 55 Pope 86 A Stephens 90)

WEST CORNWALL 1 (Knuckey 20)

Att c30

Entry £2

It was 2010 and I was driving a carload of hoppers to a pub just outside of Falmouth for a surprise party for then South West Peninsula League Press Officer Mike Sampson. We drove near to Redruth and then passed through the former tin mining village of Carharrack. But then I spotted a ground, the brakes screeched, there was 3-point-turn and seconds later 4 blokes were gazing at the Howard Beauchamp Memorial Ground slack-jawed.

Part of what made it so special for us, was that with roughly 4000 grounds visited between us, none of us had the slightest idea who Carharrack were, but I knew that some day I simply had to watch a game here.

The club were formed in 1965 and orginally played on a rented farmer’s field. That ended rather badly, the farmer ploughed up the field without telling the club first! They eventually moved to the site of the former Ting Tang Tin Mine about a mile out of the village, but that wasn’t straightforward either. They had to remove roughly an acre of trees and shrubbery to create the clearing that gives the ground much of the feel it has.

Back when I visited, the club had just left the Mining League, moving laterally to the Falmouth & Helston League in 1999, only for that league to merge in 2011 with, you’ve guessed it, the Mining League to form the Trelawny League. They were promoted in 2015 to the Cornwall Combination, and now sit one promotion from the Step 7 lower division of the South West Peninsula League. Given that that they won the Combination by 14 points last season, and the works are taking place to allow promotion next time, perhaps in a season or two the main body of the groundhopping world will discover this place. But when they do, tell them where you saw it first!

But as stunning as the ground is, it’s only half the story. People are what make clubs, not bricks and mortar. Give me a friendly club with poor facilities over the opposite ever time. But at Carharrack you get both; after a brutal drive from Oxford (and an even worse one back) the welcome was much appreciated. You should, by the way make a point of visiting the tea bar, the food is excellent and they should clone the ladies who work there, their humour is what non-league football is built on.

I expected a Carharrack win, last season’s Championship flag is flown for a reason, and Camborne-based West Cornwall are new to the league. And now you’ve seen the score you’ll be surprised when I comment how hard they made Carharrack work for their win. They’ll play far worse than this, and win. It was only when they began to tire that the champions began to run riot.

It was above all all else Carharrack’s day though. Now its a groundhopper’s maxim that the little gems usually turn up in hard-to-get-to places but even taking that into account Carharrack was an exceptional club to visit. All the very best to them.