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With the football season over prematurely due to the Coronavirus Pandemic I’m in the unusual position of actually having this blog up to date! So to keep the content coming, and for something to do, I’ll do some old grounds and games where there’s a story to tell.

Saturday 6th April 2007 ko 10.30
Central Midlands League- Premier Division

YORKSHIRE MAIN 1 (Hawthorne 84)

THORNE COLLIERY 1 (Bitton-Price 27p)

Att 347

Entry £3

Programme £1

I don’t think it’s any secret that the the hop I’ve enjoyed the most was the Ceredigion, but without question the one I learned the most from was the Central Midlands League’s. It certainly wasn’t as a result of being involved in the organisation, of the original GroundhopUK/ Rob Hornby events I was only involved in 2010, the final one. No, my absorption of facts at the CMFL was cultural.

I’m from Oxford, and the CMFL hops back then dealt chiefly with the former colliery villages of South Yorkshire, in and around Doncaster. Growing up at the time of the Miners’ Strike of 1984, the impact was hardly felt; just a sign at the local coal merchant commenting ” No coal, due to the ….. miners” (insert an expletive of your choice). I remember the local gas fitter doing very well that year.

But I was divorced from life in a pit village, there are no Miners’ Welfare clubs in Oxfordshire, so seeing the pit wheels sunk into concrete as gravestones for a lost way of life was an education for me, and I’m sure many others.

And if you wanted a ground that couldn’t be more coal mine if it tried, all you had to do was go to Edlington, South Yorkshire. The ground was, as the club name suggests the works team of the Yorkshire Main Colliery which was open between 1909 and 1985. You want to learn about the Miners’ strike, you could do worse than ask an Edlington resident.

The ground reflects its past. I don’t think there was a single groundhopper back in 2007 that didn’t gaze at those pit wheel chains used as a pitchside barrier in wonder. Sadly those chains are no longer in place and like so many colliery clubs the club’s fortunes roughly mirrored those of the colliery. When the mine shut the fortunes of the football team began to wane.

They’d played Northern Counties East football from 1984 to 1991 and we caught them during a 15 season stint in the Central Midlands League. That ended in 2013 and they’ve been in the Doncaster & District League ever since. You’d like to think a return to the Central Midlands League might be on the cards, but even if that doesn’t happen what a ground this is!

This was the first game of 4 that day, with another 3 on the Sunday, and while there was nothing remarkable in that, there was plenty going on in the background. For one “Four Four Two” magazine were in two and the magazine did print Dave Woodings’ wonderful one-liner on the hobby,

“I’m divorced and retired, so I can do it (groundhopping) properly now.”

But Stockholm-based Kim Hedwall was also there. A few of us had been trying to get him to get a hop running in Sweden, and 4-4-2 did print a line to the effect that he was looking into it. Now I know Kim got a copy of the magazine sent home and so in the June there we were in Nyköping, and three years’ later we had “Offside” magazine the Swedish equivalent of “4-4-2” with us in Stockholm too.

Half the fun of putting these archive pieces together is seeing how so many of them are interlinked and that goes double for the organised hops. So little that happens on them does so by accident and what does occur through happenstance is often internally banked and carried over to the next one. This was a wonderful example.