Saturday, 5 February 2022

White Notley - Oak Farm

White Notley FC
Oak Farm
Church Hill
White Notley

Ground Number: 1036
Saturday 5th February 2022
White Notley 1-1 Little Oakley Res
Essex & Suffolk Border League Premier


The tiny village of White Notley has a population of just 522, but remarkably, has its own railway station. Located 41 miles from Liverpool Street station and four miles from both Braintree and Witham, local facilities include a school, a pub, a village hall and a church. Settlements can be traced back as far as the Bronze Age but the football club was established in 1950. There's not a great deal about their early years online, but in 1988, they joined the Essex Intermediate League. They remained in Division 2 until 2002 when a runners-up spot was good enough for promotion to Division 1. Their debut season saw them finish a credible 3rd behind Bishops Stortford Swifts and Takeley. However, the following season saw a decline in form and a second-bottom finish. this led to relegation back to Division 2. The league was effectively taken over by the Essex Olympian League in 2005 and White Notley would stay in Division 1 for a couple of seasons before departing for the Essex & Suffolk Border League in a sideways transfer. White Notley were Division 1 champions in their debut season, winning promotion to the step 7 Premier Division. I can only find tables from the 2011/12 season onwards but that year, White Notley finished bottom but escaped relegation. Their best finish to date was 4th place in 2018. Local cup achievements include a runners-up spot in the Essex Premier Cup in 2004.


My last game saw Wycombe turn in an insipid performance against Milton Keynes which was most unusual for them. The game was devoid of inspiration and it was my least enjoyable day at Adams Park in around a decade. But worse events were happening off the pitch, with fans of a club that should not exist. They chose to chant 'Akinfenwa's a sex offender' for no good reason whatsoever. They were asked to stop on multiple occasions but generally failed to do so. Even when Akinfenwa himself went over to remonstrate, he was met with more abuse. Eventually, the chants were drowned out by home fans booing the horrible fans of a horrible club. All in all, not a good Saturday and the usual unhappy Sunday followed where my estimation in the human race dipped further. To be honest, I'd not even wanted to go to the game to start off with and had I not bought a season ticket, I'd have gone elsewhere. There was a brief respite on Monday morning as I awoke to find out I'd won four tickets to the upcoming Long Crendon v Wycombe Wanderers Berks & Bucks Cup game. But as is so typically 2022, after a gruelling day at work, I drove home, only for my engine management light to come on again. It was the third time in two months that I'd had to take my car in, after a problem with the exhaust and the initial problem that had illuminated the light. Last time it was the PCV Valve (and probably will be again, as it was only cleaned) and reading up on it, some damage could occur to the engine if left. I did a preliminary search for alternative cars, just in case it persists, but there doesn't seem to be a lot of value in the market. I was in fact without my car for two days - it went in on Thursday and due to a delay in getting a part, I was without it on Friday too. It meant getting the bus to work which meant an extra hour of travel time each way. To make things worse, the part still hadn't arrived by Friday, the deserved weekend off for the garage meaning I'd be without it for another three days.

After a midweek without football, I was keen to make a day of it on Saturday. Even without football on Friday night, various factors made Worthing United, Hailsham Town and Bournemouth train journeys far too lengthy for my liking. Frenford on the other hand was too short, plus I wanted to save it for a cold or rainy day. Inspiration once again came from step 7 in the form of White Notley. Fellow hopper Dan had recommended it and it looked a decent place to visit. Once I saw that I could stop off at Chelmsford on the way, included in the cost of my train ticket, I was sold. There were plenty of decent pubs there, in fact, the only negative was that trains were only once an hour, meaning that there wasn't much margin for error. As soon as I signalled my intentions on Twitter, I was made to feel very welcome by a few people at the club and I immediately knew that I'd made a solid choice. Following the disappointing news about my car, I spent the Friday night working out how I was going to get to work on Friday, with no buses early on. I figured the best option would be a rented electrical scooter and so put everything in place to be good to go. I also researched the history of White Notley and also put the finishing touches to my plans for tomorrow, all whilst having a few drinks to take the edge off a tricky week.

The morning of the game came and I woke up an hour earlier than my 7am alarm. After lazing about for an hour, I got up and had a porridge pot for breakfast. I set off at 7.35, checking out the scooter location for tomorrow on the way. I was at the station well in time for my 8.57 train. Thanks to my Network Railcard, the fare was a well priced £23.25. I worked out that it would have cost in the region of £30 in the car, if you factor in servicing costs. Plus there was not the bonus of a Chelmsford pub crawl or being able to relax on the journey. I was in Marylebone around 40 minutes later and it was a fairly easy trip across London to get to Liverpool Street. I was there around 40 minutes before my train so was happy to discover that there was a Wetherspoons at the station, that I was yet to visit. Even better, they had the fairly decent Black Dragon on offer, albeit for £5.10 a pint. It took a while to find where I needed to go but I eventually had said pint which helped me relax. I was back at Platform 8 for the train in good time, which was good as it left a minute or so early. The train was clean and pleasant, with plenty of room to space out. I was in Chelmsford by 11.20 and headed straight to the Ale House pub. There were a lot of fruit ciders which were not for me. I had a pint of Gwatkin No Bull which was a retry. It was a bit sweet for my liking, but I enjoyed it all the same. The pub had a nice dog and there was a possibility that I'd return later. From there, it was food needed. Pizza 45 did the trick, a 13" Mount Vesuvius was good value for £6.99. I wasn't the most trustful of the trains, hence me heading back to the station for the 12:22 rather than the 13:22 to White Notley. I'd finished my pizza by the time my train came and it was very tasty and very filling. The only thing I missed out on was a local shop to stock up on snacks and drinks, but then I'd passed a few on the way to the station. I didn't fancy going in with a big pizza box so it would have to wait for now. I was in White Notley at 12.40 after the train was tip top. The place was deserted but working in retail, I can't stand the general public, so it was perfect. After watching a DPD delivery man just leave someone's parcel at the end of their drive, I made my way to the Cross Keys. There was no real cider on offer sadly but a pint of Aspalls was not bad for £4. Amazingly, Kidderminster Harriers led West Ham United 1-0 in what would be a monumental FA Cup shock. I walked the 20 or so minutes to the ground. A veterans match was starting as I arrived, but I headed for the bar. On the way, I was given a nice welcome by the Little Oakley manager. I got myself a pint of Strongbow Dark Fruits for £4 and settled down once more to watch the game. Declan Rice grabbed a last-minute equaliser and so I'd miss the conclusion as my game started. In the end, it was another injury-time goal, this time in extra time, that saw West Ham progress. 

White Notley were in disappointing form, having lost five of their last six games. They'd lost their last game 5-2 at Hatfield Peverel and also lost 8-4 at Alresford Colne Rangers, 5-1 to Dedham Old Boys, 3-1 at Chelmsford City Reserves (cup game) and 2-1 to Earls Colne. Their one win had come as they beat Alresford Colne Rangers, so they'd certainly been amongst the goals. The hosts were 11th in the table whilst the visitors sat 16th. Despite this, Little Oakley Reserves were in better form. They too had lost their last game, 1-0 to Barnston. They'd also lost 5-0 at West Bergholt and 8-0 at Stanway Pegasus. However, they'd beaten Chelmsford City Reserves 3-1, won 6-2 at Felixstowe & Walton U23 and won 5-0 at Frinton & Walton. It was the hosts that started the better side and they took the lead following a left sided attack on nine minutes. The shot from a tight angle gave them the lead. It was all square after 20 minutes, a right-wing corner headed home at the back post. Chances continued to come, mainly for the hosts but it was level at the break. The hosts continued to press after the interval but it was Little Oakley that had a header disallowed for offside. 

Both sides made a go of getting a winner, but they lacked the quality to win the game. I had a half-hour walk back to the station and was there with around 15 minutes to spare. The train turned up as planned and once more, it was Chelmsford that would be my break point. There were two pubs, close together, around 15 minutes away that I wanted to visit. First up was the Hop Beer Shop where I had a Framboise Boon which was £6.10 although at least I didn't have to fetch it from Belgium myself. A nice dog was keeping people company as they drank and it was quite busy. Then, it was across the road to the Moulsham Tap where I had a pint of Tricky UFO, one I'd had a fortnight ago. It was worth trying again at a reasonable £4.50. From there, it was to Taco Bell which was OK, but the main thing was that I could throw a load of self-serve soft drink down my throat while I waited. Once I'd eaten that, it was back to the station. I was there at 6.50, in time for the 6.55 train. I had no idea if my ticket was 100% valid but I took the chance rather than wait another half hour. It gave me the chance to finish off my blog, the plan from there was to go back to Wycombe and hopefully get back in time for Match Of The Day.


OAK FARM is a simple but decent setup for step 7. The pitch is fully railed and there are some areas of hard standing too. There are no stands, but there is a clubhouse which is reasonable. 20 minutes away is the Cross Keys which does meals and real ale. The train station is around a mile from the ground, it involves walking along some roads without pavements, but it is fairly sedate and safe to walk down. 

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