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Sunday 8th October 2017 ko 14.15

Western League Division One

BISHOPS LYDEARD 2 (James Quick 39 Hebditch 45) James Quick missed pen 51

CHEDDAR AFC 4 (Coomes 9 Jones 67 Bennett 75)

Att 264

Entry & Programme £6

The Western hop’s final destination for 2017 was easily the most anticipated of the weekend. There was nothing too involved about the reason why, it was because Bishops Lydeard are new to the league joining last season, and that Cothelstone Road has seen massive improvements to allow the club that  promotion. That meant that a large strand of the groundhopping hobby would suddenly have the club on their radar for a visit and that was reflected with the second-highest attendance of the event, and easily the highest number of hoppers. The question was how would Lydeard cope with the large crowd?

The answer was admirably, to the point that for the only time on the entire event I actually had to show my ticket- normally the GroundhopUK jacket is enough, and I was more than happy to see it being asked for. It also gave me the confidence that once again the Western Hop had produced 7 games with 7 excellent hosts. Jules French and all at the league should be very proud.

That feeling of quiet contentment quickly turned into one of amazement when we saw the huge woks of curry for sale. I remembered seeing a similar cooking utensil in KV Mechelen’s now redeveloped Achter de Kazerne ground, but that was in the Belgian top flight and I doubt it’s still in use today. Whether you like curry or whether you were hungry, so many people saw the food and bought on impulse, and that’s why GroundhopUK advise clubs to get creative with the catering. Once again my adage of the smaller clubs making the most effort was borne out!

But the angel was in the details. Take a club at a Step 7 County League needing a stand and lights to take promotion. Often it’s a case of the concrete surround and bases getting laid, the the floodlights and finally the horrible little “Arena” stands get delivered. They tick the FA’s boxes, but their offer little comfort and the sightlines are awful. There are end of clubs who fit that mould, such as ChinnorGlebe and K Sports whose redeveloped grounds leave little to aesthetics however much I enjoyed the clubs’ company.

But Bishops Lydeard is different, and the investment and attention to detail is impressive. The stand is via Stadium Solutions, and is sufficiently well-designed for people to actually want to sit in it. Then look at the seats in the home dugouts, I know professional clubs who’d love to have those! And the new changing room block too, the spec’ is of the highest order. The view of the Quantocks does however come for free, and is as impressive as anything else on show.

On a personal level it was good to see Taunton groundhopping legend Martin Bamforth there with his camera. Personal circumstances have meant the hobby has seen less of the affable, but accident-prone photographer, and I hope the in the near future we’ll see the big man here, there and everywhere once again.

The game was a fitting finale to our weekend with both sides leading, with Cheddar shading an exicting game, mainly due to James Quick’s missed penalty for the hosts.

It was a hop that like all really successful ones, managed to be greater than the sum of its parts. The measure was that as I attended in the days after the event people kept coming up to me and saying how much they enjoyed themselves. The credit for that should go to Jules, Kerry and all at the league but expecially to the clubs and that army of wonderful volunteers.

The final word on the previous two Western Hops as always gone to the late Mark Edmonds, and although he is no longer with us, part of his legacy is this weekend. I hope we did his memory justice.