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Saturday 7th October 2017 ko 10.45

Western League Division One

WELTON ROVERS 3 (Smith 27 Pile 42 90)

KEYNSHAM TOWN 1 (Curnock 4)

Att 247

Entry £6

Programme £1

We picked our way along narrow roads through the Mendips, the windscreen wipers shooing away fine drizzle. Julian French at the league proved to be spot on, we’d see rain at the first of the four Saturday hop games, but then it would be dry for the rest of the day. But why was I singing Flanders & Swann songs with fellow hopper Michael Squires?

The answer is because former colliery side Welton Rovers play in Midsomer Norton whose Beeching-axed station was immortalised in their famous song “Slow Train.” Mind you that doesn’t explain why we were singing “Mud Glorious Mud?”

There was nothing slow about what we found when we arrived at West Clewes Playing Fields. It was all being led by John Gulliford at the gate who was disproving the adage that only women can multi-task by taking the gate, selling programmes, and organising the car park. He was doing it all with good humour and grace which later on that day was put into perspective.

Save for the much larger crowd, the big change since my first visit is the replacement of the wonderful old stand, victim to an arson attack. I like many other hoppers am not fan of the modular “Arena” stands that have replaced it, but they did provide shelter from the rain for many of us!

From an organiser’s point of view you tend to look for the club to firstly host competently, the time before kick-off on the first game on the Saturday is inevitably spent distributing tickets at programmes! That’s how we came to watch John in action!

So we knew we were going to have an easy morning of it, no bad thing as Chris Berezai had managed to damage his knee by, and there has to be an irony in here somewhere, falling off the wheelchair ramp at the hotel. Our thanks to Bedfordshire Hop organiser Craig Dabbs for helping out with the head count.

But Welton’s staging was way beyond being simply competent. The catering, so often relegated to something, anything barbecued was imaginative. Fancy a cooked breakfast? Would that be the omnivorous, vegetarian or vegan version? And if that wasn’t sufficient to satisfy your morning hunger, there was sweet waffles with ice cream no less. I really couldn’t resist could I?

But Julian French’s club is Keysham Town and over 3 years of this hop I’ve neither managed to work out why his team are still in Division One, nor whether he’ll ever manage to live down the hog roast saga! This was a morning that was a frustrating for Keynsham as it was satisfying for Welton. Welton deserved their win, but I hold Jules in high esteem so could feel his frustration. I’m certain Keynsham’s time will come.

But this was Welton’s morning and as we prepared to head to Radstock, there was John Gulliford again to help see my minibus out on to the main road. What a wonder that man is!