, , , , , , , , ,

Saturday 12th June 2021 ko 14:00

Wensleydale League

HAWES UNITED 4 (Calvert 17 Richardson 33 43 Wallis 81)


Att c40 at Old Station Yard

In my logic, I’ve treated the FA’s relaxing of the rule of all club football having to end by the end of May as as a bonus. It’s also an excuse to visit the kind of places that in my heart of hearts I wouldn’t fancy as half as much in the depths of winter and the chance to explore the game right at grassroots- this was a new league for me!

And with last Saturday’s fine, sunny weather the only use I’d have found for a stand was to offer some shade! You can add to that thought a growing desire to add a little hinterland into what I’m doing.  In more usual times Robyn and I would have been on the annual Swedish Hop and that’s an event that works because it places everywhere we visit is always put into its local context. It could be by means of a tram museum, a tour of the local TV studios, a Viking fort, or more usually by a club official introducing themselves. But in Hawes that hinterland is definitely cheese and so we made a beeline for the creamery.

As the league’s name would suggest Hawes is in the middle of the Yorkshire Dales, and in an act of supreme irony we still managed to be only 14 miles from Sedbergh & Dent who play in the Westmorland League. Even more oddly we took an almost completely different route to get there, the A1(M) rather than the M6. And yet despite so much being similar, I found so much that was different. 

The obvious difference was that I found time to spend time in Hawes, and since the town is the home of Yorkshire Wensleydale Cheese we visited the Creamery beforehand. If ever there was a foodstuff so completely by and of the Dales it’s Wensleydale cheese but in 1992 that didn’t stop the then nationalised Dairy Crest closing the site down and moving production to Lancashire! A measure of how well that decision went down in Yorkshire was that the site was back up and running within 6 months under new ownership. In fact they didn’t even miss a Christmas!

I have to say the cheesemaking viewing won’t be worth visiting until all Covid restrictions are abandoned- unless you really want a picture with Wallace and Gromit,  but the cheese on sale is wonderful- a world away from the mass produced stuff you see in the supermarkets. I’d recommend the restaurant too- as far as I’m concerned when your food is local, fresh and artisan produced, you’ve normally found something special- and this was!

From a footballing angle the Creamery also sponsors the league, and it is a perfect synergy- local football and food from this part of the North Riding. It is the lowest rung of football in the area, and for those who fret about such things I’d be hard pushed to remember a ground with fewer facilities, there isn’t even a clubhouse or changing room block at the end of Old Station Yard. 

That name is the best clue as to how to find the place. The Dales Countryside Museum is housed in an extension of the Hawes station building; it was once the terminus of the Wensleydale railway line. If you follow where the line used to run you’ll reach the pitch. I’d also point out the once you’ve left the station environs the parking is free! I found myself pondering a footballing cup of cheese, could Hawes play Stilton for the right to play either Caerphilly or Cheddar in the final? Obviously Lymeswold folded before they could take part…..

One half of the pitch is where the railway embankment used to be, and that will see the club having to move if the Wensleydale Heritage Railway are successful in the plans to open the line all the way from Leeming Bar to here. Where the embankment ends does provide a rather good vantage point by shelving down to the pitch; there’s even a rudimentary bench there!

But this isn’t about facilities, nor should it be, and I’m more than aware that for some having no programme, stand, rail or turnstile means they’ve long since moved on to reading something else. That is of course their loss, because just like Sedbergh & Dent this is a spectacular place to watch a game. It is one of those wonderful times as a photographer you simply select the lowest aperture you can get away with as you want to get as much in focus as you can. The backdrop here is king, and you have everything that make the Dales what they are in your viewfinder. 

That includes, the countryside, the industry and yes the tourists, I even spotted the milk lorry heading to the Creamery at one point. In the middle of it all two local sides played in an end of season match that meant little save for local pride. That didn’t stop it being highly entertaining with Hawes’ forward line being a little too clever and a little too strong for their opponents. Referee Anita Sygmuta managed the game beautifully, and she was being watched by a rep from the North Riding FA. I’m bound to say he enjoyed himself nearly as much I did!

The game finished and the players all headed back to their cars, still in their kit. We made for home, and there was a sense of returning into the our world as we neared the A1(M). You get to find places like these only occasionally, I mentioned Sedbergh & Dent, and another would be Clovelly. Most aren’t to be found in any book or magazine but there’s real joy in simply finding one. Just remember where you saw it first!