Saturday 25 June 2022

Chepstow Town - Larkfield Park

Chepstow Town FC
Larkfield Park
Newport Road 
NP16 5PR

01291 629220

Ground Number: 1080
Saturday 25th June 2022
Chepstow Town 2-0 Portishead Town


The club is one of the oldest in Wales, having been formed in 1878. They were known as Chepstow Castle for some time and have played at various grounds including Bulwark, which means 'defensive wall'. Other grounds include St Mary's Institute which is now occupied by a Tesco supermarket. Up until the start of World War 1, the club played in the East Gwent League but led a nomadic existence thereafter playing in the Welsh League at first before joining the Gloucestershire Senior Northern League which they won in 1932. During World War 2 their ground was taken over by the Ministry of Defence and used as a supply depot for the war effort. At the end of the war, returning local servicemen wanted to revive football in the area. The club was then reformed incorporating Chepstow Boys Club and Fairfield FC. They joined the Monmouthshire County League and great success was enjoyed here which led to Chepstow rejoining the Welsh League. They were Division 2 champions in 1965 but increased travelling expenses saw them drop back down to the Gwent leagues. Chepstow Town would rejoin the Welsh League in 1997 and would win promotion in their first season, finishing as runners-up in Division 3 behind Milford United. They had two credible 5th place finishes in Division 2 (their best ever at step 3) but fortunes soon tailed off and they were relegated to Division 3 in 2002 and then back to the Gwent County League in 2007. It took the club until 2012 to become champions and win promotion back. Chepstow Town continued to yoyo between Division 2 and 3 (steps 3 and 4 of the Welsh pyramid). The club were in Division 2 when the pandemic interrupted football. When they returned, it was at the same level in the Ardal South East where the club finished 9th last season.

Chepstow is one of the most easterly towns in Wales and is on the border with Gloucestershire. It has a population of around 12,500. Chepstow Castle, situated on a clifftop above the Wye and its bridge, is often cited as the oldest surviving stone castle in Britain. The castle was established by William FitzOsbern immediately after the Norman conquest and was extended in later centuries before becoming ruined after the Civil War. The port of Chepstow became noted in the Middle Ages for its imports of wine, and also became a major centre for the export of timber and bark, from nearby woodland in the Wye Valley and Forest of Dean. Chepstow is also well known for its racecourse, which has hosted the Welsh National each year since 1949. According to the 2011 census, 1147 Chepstow residents (9.2%) described themselves as 'Welsh speakers', with an additional 465 people having 'some Welsh skills'. The town also has a rugby club and famous sportsmen to come from the town include former Hereford United player and Welsh international Paul Parry as well as Eddie Parris, the first black player to play international football for Wales.


Our original choice of Devizes Town was a ground that I'd fancied visiting for a long time. During the lockdown, I eased the tedium by making a spreadsheet of grounds I needed to visit, what hopper it would be best to offer a lift to (if any) and public transport options in some cases. But most important of all, whether there were any pubs which were worth a visit to make a day out or trip away with it. Devizes was one of those that scored highly on the latter, but it was a bit of a pain on public transport, what with it not having a train station. Long before fellow hopper Dan passed his driving test, I implored him to take me to Devizes once he had passed, in return for all the lifts I gave him around 2015 & 2016. It didn't quite work out that way though. However, I was able to secure a lift with his regular driver Richard who had kindly given me a lift to Norwich United and the Hellenic Hop. It would be cheaper and quicker than the bus and all I had to do was get myself up near the M40 junction at High Wycombe to be picked up. This suited me fine and I was glad to accept the offer.

The midweek went very slowly, the general public not improving in their behaviour and with the sun blazing, they came out in their droves at work. Tuesday saw me pop up to see Colin to sort out our weekend away, which eventually turned out to be Bolton and Blackpool based. It took a lot of patience and planning on my part as Colin is not the best at that sort of thing. However, he was happy to pay for what I booked for him and I was glad to have him for the company and also to cut down on accommodation costs. It was also a bit of a dummy run to see what he was like to share with in advance of the potential Scottish hop later this year. Wednesday saw the hosts confirm the fixture which was great as there were not many options about. Thursday was not a great day, another busy day at work. Whilst I was toiling, I found out that Seend United had opted to pull out of the fixture on Saturday. It was very disappointing, but at least they gave a bit of notice. The Wycombe fixtures came out and I was initially pleased that we'd not had home fixtures on the first few FA Cup rounds but there were a lot more cons than pros. We'd had a lot of home games scheduled for when I was off work and half already booked trips or had groundhop days pencilled in which is one of the perils of an employer that demands that you book your entire year's holiday by the end of April. I'd rushed into changing my Eurostar to March which I later discovered was an international weekend. I wished I'd stuck with the original date, but they wanted £30 to change it back. The original date had been cancelled due to the pandemic and with unlimited pushbacks, there wasn't really any harm done. I did however doubt whether I will stick with getting a season ticket though, but I'm erring towards it as it's five games free.
I could have done with a drink after all that but decided to stay disciplined and wait until the weekend. At least I did have something to cheer as a replacement game was sourced. Chepstow Town v Portishead Town was a decent shout and Richard was still happy to drive. Chepstow was the home of one of my favourite cider makers, Troggi and so I contacted them to see if they had any stockists in the town. Sadly, they did not respond in what was a pretty hectic and unpleasant Friday. I was just glad to get home and have a few drinks to take the edge off of what hadn't been the best of weeks. I awoke early on the day of the game after a fairly typical five hours sleep. I did think about either walking to ASDA or going out for exercise, but in the end, I couldn't be bothered.

I drove up to work and parked, one of the few perks of the job. It was then a five-minute walk to Five Guys where we had arranged to meet. We left at 9.40 and the journey dragged a bit although I was in good company. We were there by midday, following a lengthy diversion after the M48 bridge was closed. Chepstow were super friendly and they have us a mini ground tour including showing us the new dressing rooms. We then headed to Tesco hoping to stock up on some Welsh goodies but the selection was disappointing with Black Dragon cider out of stock. We then headed to the Wetherspoons, the Bell Hanger where I had fish and chips with a pint of Black Dragon. It was a very nice Wetherspoons but service was pretty slow with my drink taking 15 minutes to come, although to be fair, there was an apology. The food took even longer, and very poor management left them short-staffed. My fish and chips were only lukewarm too, due to being the quicker of the two meals on our table but it was a lovely bit of fish. It was then a short walk to the Queen's Head Micropub. A fantastic place, I had a pint of Seidr O Sir Sych which was super dry and this was the sort of thing that I'd come for. It was a ten-minute walk from here to the ground where entry was free and so I'd really rate Chepstow as one of my favourite places in the UK.

The game was an end-to-end affair but just before half-time, Chepstow took the lead, with a goal on the break and a low finish. It was a fairly dull game with both sides getting back into the stride of things although Chepstow were well on top. The hosts made it 2-0 on 88 minutes, with a low shot from the edge of the area. We left around 5, the only bonus about the diversion was that it took longer to get back to England and the unwelcome parcel of muck that was Sunday. I was going to get my blog done on the way home but my camera was not transferring photos for whatever reason. We were back in Wycombe by 7.30 and with me peckish, I headed to the Mandarin House Chinese. I got myself salt and pepper chips and house special chow mein. The portions were very generous and the chips filled me up. I got home at 8.10 and saved my Chow Mein for the next day's lunch at work.


LARKFIELD PARK is a decent setup for the level, not especially characterful but very well kept. There is just the one covered stand with around 100 seats and there is further cover around the bar area. The bar itself is a smart place with a basic selection of drinks. The town is a ten-minute walk away and includes an excellent Micropub called Queen Victoria which had a great range of drinks. There is also a Wetherspoons and various takeaways nearby. The club are really friendly and I couldn't recommend a visit more.

Saturday 18 June 2022

Harpole - Harpole Playing Field

Harpole FC
Harpole Playing Field
Larkhall Lane

Ground Number: 1079
Saturday 18th June 2022
Harpole 1-4 Northampton Town Legends
125th Anniversary Match


The club was established way back in 1896, making this year its 125th anniversary. Very little is on the internet about their history, their first recognized honour coming in 1934 as they lifted the Northamptonshire Junior Cup. The club was especially successful around 15 years ago, winning the Northamptonshire Combination three times on the bounce between 2006 & 2009 and then again in 2011 and 2012. Due to their fairly basic facilities, they were unable to make the step up to the United Counties League and continue in a league that sits at step 7 of the Non-League pyramid. They've had a couple of runners-up spots since and have generally finished in the top half of the table. Last season they had to settle for a more modest 9th place finish, their lowest in recent history, but still well safe from relegation.

Harpole is a village around four miles west of Northampton with a population of around 1,600. Its name has the rather unflattering meaning of 'filthy pool'. These days, it's a quiet village with three pubs, although one of those, the Live and Let Live hit the headlines recently as it's set to close due to rises in the cost of living. Harpole hosts a scarecrow weekend in September, during which thousands of visitors enjoy the views of the historic village. The playing field, where Harpole FC play is a community hub with several fundraising events held there. The ladies' team of Northampton Town also plays there.



Aside from not being much else on, one of the main attractions for attending today's game was the Northampton Town Legends side. There were two notable names with a Wycombe Wanderers connection, the most well-known of which is the well-travelled Scott McGleish. The ace goalscorer Scott McGleish is the most notable one, his spell at Adams Park was one of 26 moves he has made across his career. He signed in January 2007 for a reported fee of £80,000 from Northampton Town. He proved an astute signing by Paul Lambert, scoring 34 times in 75 league games for a largely defensive manager. His best season was 2007/08 when he scored 26 goals, including all four in an away game at Mansfield Town. The following season Peter Taylor took over and the two parties fell out. McGleish went on to have loan spells at Northampton Town & Leyton Orient before being released at the end of the season. He is still playing to this day, appearing as a converted centre-back for Spartan South Midlands League side Leverstock Green.

The second of these was Chris Carruthers, a player that agreed to sign for Wycombe on 16th June 2005, but by the end of the month, he backtracked on his decision and joined Bristol Rovers instead. The reason the left-back gave was that Wycombe Wanderers manager John Gorman was unable to guarantee him a first-team place, the same applied to any player. He'd scored his only goal for the Cobblers against Wycombe but opted instead to join his former boss Ian Atkins at Bristol Rovers. It didn't work out badly for him as he played 100 times for Rovers before a nomadic career including prolonged spells at Oxford United and York City. As well as these two, there were a number of well-known players turning out for the Cobblers XI.


The second of my weekends in the off-season was a little more positive, with more games starting to become available. Ideally, I'd have liked to revisit the Cardiff City Stadium for Wales v Belgium. However, the evening kickoff made it difficult to get back to work the next day unless I fancied an expensive and inconvenient drive. Instead, I took a walk down town to my favourite pub for a couple of pints before one at the pub nearest home for good measure. It put me in a good mood, but I made the error of watching England for the second Saturday evening in a row. In the complete waste of time that is the Nations League, England managed to be even more boring to watch in their 0-0 draw with Italy. This continued on Tuesday when I made the sensible decision not to bother watching the Hungary game. I know the competition is the international equivalent of the Papa John's Trophy but a 4-0 home defeat to Hungary is not a great look.

I'd discovered this game thanks to my fellow hopper, Dan. Usually, his suggestions are not the greatest and usually involve huge distances and a big spend. However, this one was a decent shout and not too far, plus Anwar agreed to come with me. I awoke on the day of the game after around five hours of sleep as I woke up naturally at my usual work time of 7am. I still felt good though although I was in no rush to get going. There was rain forecast, so I didn't bother with a big walk which wasn't so bad as I was in a lazy mood. I did drop a parcel off at the post office though which got me out of the house. I spent the rest of the morning at home, catching up on things and trying to plan my weekend away in mid-July. The accommodation was a bit pricey in my first choice of Cullompton on Friday though, and the choice very limited. I had a great Thai Prawn fishcakes and chips lunch before leaving at 12.45. I needed petrol on the way and was dismayed to see that petrol had gone up 18p a litre since I filled up less than a fortnight ago. I could have probably got it cheaper if I'd shopped around, but this garage are generally competitive and it was right on my route. Plus I only saw one cheaper station all afternoon. I picked Anwar up at 1.15 and our journey was frustrating - along slow roads and also very rainy. The rain continued after we arrived at 2.30. The place was packed and we had to park on the road outside. There was a great number of stalls and I bought four old fanzines for £2 off of a stall called 'Cobblers Collectables'
The rain abated just after kickoff and Northampton Town had some recognisable names in their side. It was disappointing that their club had not really tweeted about it, but it was still a great attendance of around 400 at a peak. As expected, the Cobblers were well on top but Harpole had a goal disallowed for offside. Scott Cross opened the scoring on 22 minutes, heading home from a corner from about five yards out. On 39 minutes, Cross was on target again, the shot was parried by the keeper and he followed up from ten yards. There was a quick turnaround at halftime, only five minutes and so I missed out on the nice-looking pizza stall. Harpole reduced the arrears on 65 minutes when keeper Chris Dunn bought down a home player in the area. Lee Mills stepped up and converted the spot-kick and looked absolutely delighted about it. A minute later, a Cobblers player headed just over. They were not to be denied for long and it was 3-1 on 69 minutes. It was an error from the home keeper as he allowed a tame shot from the edge of the area to go straight through him. They came close to sealing the game soon after, a deflected shot hitting the post and they would hit the woodwork a couple more times before the end. The scoring was completed on 79 minutes and it was the goal of the game. Cross completed his hat trick with a mazy run and a well-timed finish to make it 4-1.

It had been a good day again, although I wish we'd got there earlier so I could look at the stalls more. The rain was also a pain but it is what it is. I was in good company, as well as Anwar, fellow groundhopper and blog reader Richard was in attendance. He sorted me out a programme from today which was a nice touch. He also told me about a time when Chester visited Adams Park. The queues out of Adams Park are well-known but their scumbag chairman Steven Vaughan who killed Chester City and Bangor City had other ideas. His driver forced his way through the crowds of pedestrians, nudging people out of the way and tooting his horn to force people out of the way. A true enemy of football. We left just after 4.30 and the journey home was beset by the same slow drivers that had blighted our journey there. We stopped at Farmfoods in Aylesbury and I got a pizza for dinner as well as some meals to take to work in the week. I was back by 6.30 and spent the evening relaxing at home with a few drinks, trying to enjoy the last bit of freedom before the horrors of Sunday. I'd endured a preview thanks to some screaming brats in Farmfoods and was in no rush to see a repeat performance, though no doubt it would come to pass.

THE LANE or HARPOLE PLAYING FIELD is a nice setup for a club at this level. There's a smart bar near the entrance and this has a lot of memorabilia on show, although I didn't check out the drinks range. Across the field is a part-railed pitch with some nice dugouts. It is located just outside the small village. On my visit, there were some superb stalls - the Cobblers Collectables was the pick with an incredible range of merchandise and old programmes. There were also some decent stalls including crepes, pizza, a bar and a burger stall. It's well worth a visit in my opinion and you'll get a good welcome.