SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 22
Coleshill United 2 Ardington & Lockinge 5
THE first of today’s four matches in the North Berkshire Football League Hop kicks off at 10.30am, requiring an early start for me.
It is a wonderfully sunny day, which befits the stunning setting of Coleshill’s Bottom of the Hill ground. The venue is in a National Trust Preserved Village and there are very particular parking arrangements in place for visiting Hoppers to observe.
Friendly stewards point me in the direction of an estate field (free parking), followed by a 500-yard walk along the narrow road through the pristine village. I wave my entrance ticket at the gateman (a bargain £14 for four matches and programmes) and my nose is highjacked by the unmistakeable smell of sizzling pig. The locally-sourced bacon and sausage baps are delicious.
Some Hoppers are already sampling the bottled beer, brewed in the village, while others are perusing the organic vegetable stall (the owner has also kindly donated a box of vegetables as a raffle prize). I was going to purchase something from the stall after the match but he packed up and left before kick-off!
I am flicking through the professionally-produced programme when the steward standing next to me is summoned to the changing rooms. He stubs out his fag and trots off. It turns out that he is one of United’s players!
The pitch is roped off but there is no cover for the fans: none is needed on this shirt-sleeve-warm day. There is a small clubhouse, complete with tiny bar. The pitch is surrounded by fields and there are a few wind turbines on a hill in the distance.
What is the point of the National Trust carefully preserving the outlook of Coleshill if they are going to allow these inefficient monstrosities to be built to spoil the view? Ridiculous!
The Division Two players provide an entertaining match for the 172 spectators to enjoy. There are seven goals, a missed penalty and a sending-off.
I enjoy this all the more for knowing that I parked in Oxfordshire to watch the action in Wiltshire in the North Berkshire League: how quirky is that?!