Battery depleted, Bakewell Puddings, steep streets in Matlock and Everards beer burps in Belper.

Not many grounds have their own clock tower.

Another week. Another Sunday going through the Non League Paper looking to plan a week’s worth of football. Not much caught the eye. Ilkeston on Monday maybe? A long way to go just for an evening, as much as I like Derbyshire. Anyone playing on Tuesday nearby? Belper Town. B&B booked in Ilkeston. I did the usual check on the camera. Battery 81%. Out of habit I did a quick sensor clean and blew away a couple of dust spots that had been annoying me.

So off up the M1 I travelled. The extended 50mph zone helped with the fuel ecomony. 8.9 litres per 100 miles on the way up. God loves a Diesel, even if it’s a Japanese one. Since getting the newer car with a fuel computer I’ve been enjoying trying to drive economically. Anything to stop me putting more money in that Lizard Cameron’s tailored and superior Etonian pockets in the form of fuel duty.

It was quite a pleasant journey despite the constant middle lane hoggers although just after Northampton services an electronic sign proclaimed “Don’t hog the middle lane”. Shame that they can’t enforce this and make it a 3 point fine on the licence. Or just ban women who drive Nissan Micras with their noses pressed to the the windscreen and eyes staring into oblivion. Audi A4 convertible women, although fit, can’t drive either and young ladies who drive Minis basically want to be men.

Ilkeston is a bit drab in the same way Crewe is. Or a bit like the run down Monorail town in The Simpsons (the episode where Homer stops a runaway monorail train by throwing an anchor and hooking it onto a giant donut). Nowadays of course the town now pretty much devoid of the coal, iron and textiles industries that once made it thrive, and then sustained it for a number of years. It has currently has a population of 37,000 and it must be the largest town in the UK without a railway station. It’s twinned with Châlons-en-Champagne in France and among the list of notable people born in Ilkeston are William Roache (Ken Barlow in Corrie) and actor Robert Lindsay.

A fully rebranded Ilkeston FC without the “Town”. Well not quite.

Ilkeston FC is the reformed Ilkeston Town who were liquidated last year after not paying a big tax bill. Ilkeston FC were born in their place and now ply their trade in the Evo-Stik Northern Division One South. The New Manor Ground, where they play, is a neat and tidy little ground and also a bit quirky. On one side there’s an all seater stand and an elevated stand in the corner with a clock tower! The bottom of the stand incorporates the changing rooms and the hospitality suite. Behind one coal there’s quite a substantial covered terrace which is about the same depth the away end at Plainmoor. The other two parts of the ground are dominated by a huge club house which houses a very decent sized bar and then there’s a small terraced roof covering a flat standing area behind the other goal.

Upon entering the ground I had a quick look around. I bought a match programme for 50p from the Club shop, as there were none on the turnstiles and then I took the camera out to take a few test shots. You know. Guage the light, pick a decent shutter speed and an appropriate white balance setting. I flicked the switch to “on”. Not the usual noise and slight vibration. I looked at the LCD screen. “Battery depleted”. I called myself a harsher variation of a twonk several times. Not enough time to go back to the hotel for the charger, or to charge it up. Fooksticks. Cameraphone it was.

The very decent covered terrace.

579 turned up to watch them at home to Carlton Town who brought on the evergreen and ever bald Neil Grayson as a first half sub. Ilkeston were the better team and they have Kevin Wilson managing them with ex Spurs, Reading, and Notts County player Darren Caskey as his assistant. They won 2-0 and you get the feeling they are going to have a decent season. The new owners seem to be adopting a sensible youth policy and in addition allowing Kevin Wilson to sign a couple of pros to add a bit of quality. They got over 600 at home on the Saturday before the monday night game so the fan base seems to be quite big for the division. Certainly enough to sustain them as they go up the divisions.

The mad post match car park dash.

So onto the next day. Battery fully charged. Fuelled by a magnificent breakfast from the overnight B&B I had a day to kill in the Derbyshire Dales. Not really a hardship. Great countryside and nice little towns of Buxton, Bakewell and Matlock to visit.

Causeway Lane, home of Matlock Town FC. Very nice isn’t it?

First stop was Matlock which played host to the excellent Shane Meadow’s film “Dead Men’s Shoes”. I even saw a green and white Citroen 2CV in the railway station car park. Matlock also plays host to the possible the steepest town centre street I’ve ever seen. It’s called Bank Road and runs from the high street right up the side of a steep hill. I decided to drive up it in the car (bollocks to walking it) and it felt like the car was going to flip over on me. I stopped for a couple of Ham Cobs in the Butchers and then made my way down to Causeway Lane, the home of Matlock Town FC.

I hope that the chalk “Chorley” lasted.

What a cracking little ground that is. They’ve recently built a smart new grandstand. The good people of Matlock Town must have sense that I was coming and left the gates open for me. I know that strictly speaking I was trespassing but I hope that they don’t mind. One of the nicest little grounds I’ve seen. I hope I get to pay it a match visit sooner rather than later.

The view from the ground of Riber Castle.

Moving swiftly onto Bakewell and a quick pit stop for a Bakewell Pudding I’d once seen on the Hairy Bikers. As magnificent as the breakfast. A million years from the Mr Kipling nonsense most people pass off as a Bakewell Tart. Very tasty if a little overpriced. Whilst in the town I also paid a small visit to the Thornbridge Brewery. Although I love their Kipling and Jaipur IPAs I have to say I was disappointed. A brewery as clinically laid out as an Apple Store complete with waxed hair young gentlemen with branded polo shirts. It’s cheaper to buy from Waitrose than from the brewery. #Disappointed

Monsal Dale.

From Bakewell I travelled to Buxton but the highest football ground in England was shut up tighter than Scotsman’s wallet. So I travelled back down towards Buxton and Monsal Dale. Monsal Dale is a breaktaking place. Well worth a visit if you’re in the area.

My frugal chariot of fire.

I made it to Belper with plenty of time to spare for the evening kick off with Goole AFC. I treated myself to Battered Sausage and Chips and a Dr Pepper for £2.60! Good prices in the East Midlands. After this I had a couple of pints of Everards Equinox. I used to drink a lot of the excellent Everards Tiger when I was a student in Leicester. Many a good night was to be had drinking that, talking bollocks about football and music, and then soaking it up with Haslet cobs inside the pub and perhaps chips afterwards. The foundation years. I almost shed a tear in memory. Equinox is one of their seasonal ales and it’s a very good one. The name is a little on the Jean-Michel Jarre side but a lovely beer.

Christchurch Meadow. With the East Mill in the background.

Belper is a town of almost 21,000 people just to the north of Derby. Belper Town aka The Nailers play there home matches at the Christchurch Meadow which has the rather excellent East Mill building as a stunning backdrop.

The game kicked off. Belper Town bossed the game, obviously trying to please newly installed manager Peter Duffield who applied for, and not got, the Belper hotseat before the start of the season. The successful candidate back then, Tommy Taylor, had left after only 7 games.

A steward keeps a keen eye on the new Peter Duffield reign.

A strong cup of tea kept the beer burps at bay. Always a price to pay with Everards. The night and the coldness descended very quickly. Belper attacked. Goole defended stoutly. 147 people turned up to watch this game. One definitely came from Goole, I saw him in the pub and between us we helped to solve a pub argument about a question concerning which rivers Bishop’s Auckland flow through the town. For the record the town is situated on the confluence of both the Wear and it’s tributary the Gaunless. Money changed hands in the pub. Serious pub debate with cash prizes. I would be a poor man if I lived in Belper.

The main stand with the main social club and tea bar, plus a bit of parking.

The wall gives ample scope to hold cups and meat pies.

Belper scored with a 25 yard direct free kick. The specky wee gadge supporter Belper jumped for joy behind the goal for a few moments before resorting back to shouting “come on yellas” every 30 seconds or so.

The deep lying centre forward.

Much the same thing in the second half. I swapped one side of Christchurch Meadow for the other. Goole had a half chance but the centre forward fluffed his lines. Belper looked gritty without really creating that much until a second goal sealed the game. Peter Duffield looked contented. The Goole manager looked on glumly.

Rolling up the sleeves. The gritty centre half.

5 minutes to go and already people started to drive out of the ground. It seems a strange notion that a ground this small would be big enough to house a decent sized car park within the ground itself. I know of a few others in the non league circles. Harrow Borough and Willand Rovers (Devon) spring to mind. Rosslyn Park is a rugby ground where you can park inside. Still it’s unusual to see a Ford Focus doing 5mph past the main covered terrace of a football club while the game is still going on. The final whistle blew. 2-0 to Belper.

A variation on leaving early.

I walked back to the station car park after the match and made my way back home on a deserted M1. Fuel consumption back to frugal motorway standards. Ilkeston and Belper are both lovely places to watch football. But I long for the day when Torquay draw Matlock away in the Cup.

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