, , , , , , , ,

Saturday 6th November 2021 ko 14:30

East Cornwall Premier League

ROCHE AFC 3 (Rowe 2 20 Robinson 88)


Att c15

Entry £2

In my mind it was time to head off the beaten track again. There is a strong element amongst groundhoppers to be target driven- finish a division, league or even a level of non league. I’m target driven in my professional life so when groundhopping the only real rule for me is to go where the mood takes me. And on this occasion I fancied another trip to Cornish China Clay Country.

I’m sure you’ll point out that a month earlier Robyn and I had been in Penzance and managed not to watch a single Cornish game there in 7 days! I’m sure that had something to do with my thinking, not that driving from Oxford to St Austell and back in a day is entirely logical. 

The area is something of a footballing hotbed with the likes of St BlazeySt Austell, St DennisSticker, and Foxhole Stars all within a 5 mile radius. It’s not that this area is unfamiliar to me! Everywhere you look you’ll see the terraces built up as the china clay extractors dug down. The Eden Project is built in one of those craters. 

But once I committed to the idea, the possibilities opened up. For one thing we had Chris Garner with us, and he hadn’t been to the glory that is Nanpean Rovers’ Victoria Bottoms so we simply had to drop him off there, but before that I wanted to indulge in a little non league footballing archeology.

We headed to Bugle, and Molinnis Park home of Bugle FC. They won the South Western League in 1985, but the then East Cornwall Premier League club folded in 1998. And apart from a brief revival using the name Bugle Orient, the ground has been derelict ever since. It does take a little getting into, I found a hole in the fence, but the stand is worth the effort it took.

But why Roche’s Trezaise Road? Well for a start if you ever want a quirky ground to visit, Peter Miles’s 20 Glorious and 20 More Glorious Non League Grounds articles are a good source of inspiration, and that’s where I got the idea for this. Now there’s nothing remotely wrong with anything that’s on offer at Trezaise Road, but what makes the place what it is, is a geological oddity, a tall tourmaline granite outcrop in a sea of china clay. The clay erodes easily, the rock doesn’t, and there’s a chapel on top that overlooks the football ground.

But that’s a rather unromantic way of looking at it. The chapel, a hermitage, dates from 1409 and like its larger cousin in Penzance Bay is dedicated to St Michael. Now depending on which bit of folklore you listen to, the chapel was used by variously a hermit and his daughter, Jan Tregeagle the Cornish Faustian character who hid from demons here, and even the doomed lovers Tristan and Isolde of Shakespearian fame on the run from Isolde’s husband King Mark. Possibly the most plausible is that a family of landowners who’d contracted leprosy quarantined here to avoid infecting the village below. 

I had to find time to climb up, and those iron ladders while secure aren’t for the faint hearted, but the view from the top of both the ground and Bodmin Moor is spectacular. Do hold on tight, it is windy up there, and typically there’s myth around that too. Apparently the wind is a Cornish giant howling, but I’ll let you decided which of the stories are just bunkum!  

But I do wonder whether the club are sick to death of visitors being more interested in the rock than the club? If that is the case then those visitors are missing a trick. Yes, the rock is fascinating but there’s entertainment to be found underneath it. And Trezaise Road is a far better appointed a place than you’d expect for the level, even though the social club wasn’t open- it was cold enough for me to fancy a half time Bovril! But the wired off pitch evoked Sticker before the improvements for the Peninsula League, and a spectator opted to sit behind the open gates of the dugout presumably for protection from stray passes. 

The visitors were a side not unknown to me. I’ve watched Plymouth Marjon’s  firsts a number of times and should make it clear that they’re not a student side, far from it. The quirk here was seeing a Devonian club playing in a Cornish League, but as long as scones, cream and jam weren’t served afterwards, I see no issue in it! The real issue Marjon had was that they turned up with no recognised goalkeeper, so the man who drew the short straw wore the orange bib.

Roche won fairly easily albeit with Marjon doing enough to make it competitive. But this proved to be about more than just that rock, it proved to make for an interesting backdrop but little else. There was also the more pressing backdrop of the china clay which is what makes this part of Cornwall what it is and the sense of history. I listened, and interacted,  and the difficulties of running a grassroots club with all that Covid has left us were similar to those we face on committee at the North Berkshire League.

It left me attacking the route home thinking about what we’d seen, and when we stopped for a fish and chip meal, it really was food for thought. Some would question the logic of travelling all day to watch a grasstroots game, but it was a education in so many ways.