Something to sit on sir?

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Saturday September 29th 2012, Kick Off 15:00, South Midlands Premier League at the ‘Second Meadow’.
Biggleswade United (Red/Navy Blue) 0-3 Ampthill Town (Blue/Yellow).
Admission 5 pounds, with the programme included.
Tea 1 pound, badge 3.50.
Att 35 (official), 10 or so from Ampthill I reckon, a local derby.

So here is the scene, Monday through Friday, where should I head this coming Saturday? East/West/North/South?  Perhaps Shepton Mallet FC, AFC Porchester, Cadbury Heath, Biggleswade United? Like many ground hoppers it’s an enjoyable dilemma having the choice to choose from so many games. Grounds ‘already’ visited are generally ‘off the radar’ on a free Saturday. Unless a fixture really stands out, and this is a reoccurring theme throughout the season.
But bearing in mind I’d driven back from the South of Scotland the previous Saturday, I decided to go no further than two hours by road for this Saturday fix.

To a large degree my choice this time of the year is also dependant on where Ros decides she wishes to visit. Sometimes in the middle of winter she stays at home, when the lure of National Trust/English Heritage or photographing cathedrals doesn’t appeal to her in the freezing cold.
However she’d mentioned to me midweek that the Henry Moore (sculptor and artist) foundation (his home and grounds basically) in Hertfordshire, with thirty sculptures to view, was high on her tick list – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Moore.
As I’d already been considering a visit to either Herts/Beds or Northants this sat nicely with my plans. And with good weather promised for the Saturday, I decided on the local derby between Biggleswade United and Ampthill Town, dropping Ros in the remote ‘Perry Green’ on the way, via a route of M4/M25, then onto local A and B roads.

Have a mat, any mat!

The twenty-five mile drive across country from Perry Street to Biggleswade was not straightforward by any means, but thankfully my ‘Miss Sat Nav’ got me there without delay.  And in daylight it was a very lovely drive through picture postcard chocolate box villages. And so I pulled up at ‘The Second Meadow’ ground of Biggleswade United by 14:20, having passed, on the other side of town, beside the A1, the ground of Biggleswade Town, whom I had visited in 2009. I later learnt they were also playing a first team fixture on the day, versus Daventry Town, which seemed a little non sensical to me, especially when so few were attracted through the gates of the respective clubs, a little over 100 turned up at the higher level Bigg Town.

Biggleswade is a market town and civil parish located on the River Ivel in Bedfordshire, population circa 15,000.
It is well served by transport routes, being close to the A1 road between London and the North, as well  as having a railway station on the main rail link North from London (the East Coast Main Line).
Located about 40 miles north of Central London and 20 miles west-south-west of Cambridge.

My first impression of the club was very positive. A smiling face on the turnstile to purchase a programme from, and then the same in the clubhouse when I managed to snaffle another enamel badge for my collection, whilst also availing myself of the team sheets to note down the line ups. As for the ground itself, initially I was less than enthused (but I was wrong). Enclosed by a ugly high metallic looking grey fence (scurge of ground grading!), it appeared to lack character. However, it had two stands on either side of the pitch. The one to the left of entry with BU FC picked out on the fascia, had about 3/4 rows of orange bucket seats, and a small area of standing to the end of the seated area.

On the other side, where I settled, in the sun, a smaller stand, sitting snuggly between the dugouts, this more of a ‘heath robinson’ affair, which also had some standing to the end of it. And a first for me, as the stand didn’t have individual seats. Just concreted wide steps to sit on, it had been clad in a type of metal material. And because of this the club had left out a small batch of mats to use to sit on, a really nice, caring touch. So, by the second half we all sat snuggly, to my left, a local middle-aged couple with 2 small dogs, a middle-aged fella with ear phones in,  a couple of club helpers (inc the gatelady). An Ampthill player, ‘Fred’, a charming african lad, not playing today. And a players wife sitting in front of me, pregnant, “its due today” she breezily told the gatelady. Her offspring,  lovely 2 and 9 year old girls, playing with the small dogs, along with Fred who also seemed particularly enamoured by the cheeky dogs rather than the game! The sun was shining on our small stand, all was well in the world, this was what community village/small town football should be about I thought to myself.

The ambience, as ever, slightly spoilt by a couple of guys to my right, who might well have been BUtd committee men, who just couldn’t resist the occasional use of the ‘F’ word ‘For f8cks sake ref’. Why is it ALWAYS the refs fault? Even in the presence of tots they couldn’t restrain themselves, what a shame, hopefully the player’s wife was thick-skinned enough for it not to worry her. Having said all this, I know I’ve let the occasional expletive go during Palace games, so one mustn’t sit too high on a high horse I guess, but come on, this is step ten footy!

As it turned out, it was a fairly easy win for high-flying, newly promoted Ampthill.  At this level it is always very apparent for players with speed, skill and flair to clearly stand out. Ampthill had about three, BUtd didn’t appear to have any!

Those stand out players for Ampthill were Taylor, Kemoagna and Soetan. Ampthill confirmed their superiority with goals in the 27th, 77th and 81st minute, BU struggled to create a great deal, and one can see a continual season of struggle for them. As for Ampthill, freshly promoted from the league below in 11-12, they looked half decent, and might threaten the top three this season if they can hang onto those mentioned players.

Whilst sitting in the stand, I could just spy the entrance to a large on the edge of town supemarket, ASDA I think, and it had been consistantly busy with cars coming in/out during the match, but far enough away not to disturb. Is this what ‘normal’ people do of a Saturday afternoon, really?,  jeez, please shoot me if I ever show signs of normality!

After scooping Ros from Perry Street, and having had my lip curled by hearing Palace had won at Bolton, the stop on way home was ‘The Orchard’ GBG listed gastro pub/restaurant in Harefield. With fantastic views of valley and lake falling away from the hillside, very nice indeed.
The pub was heaving, most eating, seemed like they struggled at the bar to serve quickly, but food came out quick and was very good (Once we got a table).
They had about five or six real ales on, and my favourite was the excellent tasty Thornbridge ‘Sequoia’.  As is usual for this brewery, top notch 🙂 Question, how DO people exist without the CAMRA Good beer guide? An essential yearly purchase in my household. Always thumbed to within an inch of its life every twelve months 🙂

Tip, visit Biggleswade United, nice people!

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