Bridgerule, Football, groundhopping, Non League, North Devon League, Old Alswear Road, South Molton
Saturday 8th September 2018 ko 15.00
North Devon League- Division Intermediate 2
SOUTH MOLTON 3 (Motteram 39 M Latham 48 Jones 70)
BRIDGERULE 2NDS 2 (Parker 46 Barnwill 85)
Unless you’re a groundhopper, the small Exmoor Town of South Molton is best known as being where the last stand of the Penruddock Uprising took place in 1655, or where in 1686 Lord of the Manor Hugh Squier’s philanthropy endowed the Grammar School that is now the South Molton United School. It’s a quiet place, but one to explore for a few hours, then have a pub lunch. But if you are a groundhopper South Molton, is an absolute bucket list ground.
The habit of some hoppers of dismissing clubs who play below a set level, often Step 6, means Old Alswear Road tends to sail under their collective radar. This is the fourth division of the North Devon League, a feeder to Division One East of the South West Peninsula League. That division is at Step 7 of the non-league pyramid, so nominally South Molton play at Step 11.
But just look at the ground! Legend has it that the stand arrived in the 20’s from the town’s former showground, but why are there pay booths here, when as far as can be ascertained the club has never played above local football level? Perhaps the answer is the town’s relative isolation, and to take the view that if the facilities were made available then make use of them! The changing rooms and toilets date from 2009 when the local council decided that the provision of running water and flushing toilets were a minimum standard, but elsewhere there’s a wonderful feeling of timelessness here.
Perhaps it doesn’t pay to worry about the why’s and wherefores of Old Alswear Road, and just enjoy it it for what is it, while it’s here. There’s a possibility of change, with the authorities looking at redeveloping the site as a sports hub for both the football and rugby clubs. It would be criminal to see this lovely slice of football heaven demolished but there seems little or no impetus for the redevelopment; and let’s face it, is a sports hub needed in a town of just under 5,000 inhabitants? I suspect the pace of life is a little slower here anyway.
I only managed to reach the ground during the “Respect” handshake, and even then I passed a few people ambling their way up the incline to the ground. It was a game that meandered rather than blasted it’s way into your consciousnesses, it was a the type of afternoon where the benches chatted to the fans during the game, and I could do the same with the referee at half time. At times being here felt like a salve to the stresses and strains of the Welsh Hop the weekend before.
South Molton won it, mainly because they made fewer errors than their visitors, but it was just a joy to be at a ground I’d wanted to visit, and that had lived up to everything I’d hoped for. I didn’t need it explained, but once again it proved that the times you savour the most are the times you step out of the ordinary and find something wonderful.
I trundled back through town, stopping for a drink for the journey home, then started to attack the hour-long drive back to the M5, utterly contented with what I’d found.
Neil Keating said:
Great pictures and trust me I’ve seen an awful lot worse, but this is real non league, everyone working hard to keep the club’s going, best of luck to all teams playing at this level
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