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Saturday 15th May 2021 ko 14:00

Hope Valley League Premier Division

BUXWORTH 1 (Hyde 62)

TANSLEY JUNIORS 3 (Hill 37 71 81)

Att c50 at Western Lane

Free Entry

If the Westmorland League is the league for the Lake District then I’d argue the Hope Valley is the league for the High Peak. And if you’re thinking that the idea was to take the pretty football ground with a backdrop I’d tapped into at Sedbergh & Dent FC a week earlier and move it to the Peak District then you’d be absolutely right! Or putting it another way, “All Creatures Great & Small” became “Peak Practice!”

Like Long Hanborough near my home in Oxford, Buxworth seems to have had something of an identity crisis. The area was built up around limestone quarrying and both the Peak Forest Canal and Tramway were built in the 17th Century to service that industry. The canal ends at Bugsworth basin at the edge of the village and perhaps now you can see the identity problem!

The village was originally called Bugsworth, and is still referred to locally as Buggy. The name change in 1930 was due to the local vicar and headmaster collectively deciding that “Bugs” was vulgar and campaigning for a name change. It never did affect the waterway’s name, and a local plebiscite in 1999 saw the name Buxworth retained but not by much- by 233 to 139 to be precise. As I write I wonder if local schoolchildren back then were told to watch Bux Bunny?

Here’s a groundhopping top tip (I haven’t used that phrase in a while) – factor in time to visit the Navigation Inn before visiting Western Lane. For one thing its far easier to park here than at the ground and it’s simple enough to walk across the footbridge across the A6. Moreover the pub food is excellent, and the establishment did have an interesting former owner- Coronation Street legend Pat Phoenix.  It’s worth commenting that the pub car park is for patrons only and is patrolled, so play fair with them- we did!

Assuming you use the footbridge you’ll arrive between the cricket and football grounds. To the left Buxworth CC 2nds were losing by 79 runs to Hayfield CC’s 2nds in a Derbyshire & Cheshire League Division 3 game. I have to say that game was far more resistant to the afternoon’s showers than a test match would have been.

For me both games were all about the backdrop and the chance once again to strip away the fripperies and watch the game as both as it is at grassroots and how it ought to be elsewhere. When the Premier League patronises the National League by calling them “Grassroots” I do think someone needs to stand them pitchside at somewhere like Buxworth and show them what grassroots really is and why the term isn’t pejorative- far from it!

 Once again it was a treat to select a small aperture and photograph as much as possible. Why would you want to put an “Arena” stand in front of any of this? Would it make Western Lane any more of a football ground? I did feel a certain amount of pressure, the previous week Mike Bayly had photographed Buxworth FC. Since his book, ” British Football’s Greatest Grounds: One Hundred Must-See Football Venues,” I now regard as the new gold standard for those of us who try to capture football grounds I’m sure you understand my unease at trying to find something different from his superb work. 

But that was to some extent, missing the point. Why I’d sat in a car for 3 hours was to enjoy the company of two friendly clubs and if ever there was a game to do just that it was this. Groundhoppers do have a tendency to overthink what we’re watching- so with that in mind this was two sets of players playing an entertaining game in a quite stunning setting. The plaudits will, and should go to Dale Hill for his hat trick; he was the difference between the two sides, but my thanks to both clubs for being a credit to themselves and their league. 

I walked back across that footbridge afterwards with no little regret.