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2012 Welsh Hop

The Great Welsh Hop of 2012



Friday 24th – Monday 27th August 2012

Welshpool Station on a grey, dank and very wet evening!

Chris had forecast rain, indeed, his quote was “heavy rain – rain – heavy rain – rain” for the four days of the hop. He wasn’t far out, but at least we got a fine day beside the seaside on Sunday!

This was the Hoppers excursion from Welshpool to Llanfair

The first match of the 2012 Welsh Hop was preceded by a steam train journey on The Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway from Welshpool to Llanfair Caereinion, where the first match was to be played. Old acquaintances were renewed and hopping stories swapped, as we fiercely clutched our umbrellas, the rain curtaining the landscape outside the carriage windows!

The journey of only eight miles took just fifty minutes across the rolling countryside, with frequent stops to secure road crossings. Llanfair United were opening their new stand, an impressive affair cut into the hillside, on a ground which commanded a formidable view of the church and town below. There was stew and bread and butter, or chilli and rice, and I helped myself to two portions of the latter! There was plenty of mud too, and it wasn’t long before I realised that I had been sadly mistaken in my choice of footwear!

The new stand at LLanfair United

Friday 24th August 2012 The Spar Mid Wales League Division II K.O.:- 6.30pm

Llanfair United                         4                        Abermule                             1

Geraint Jones 12, 78                                              David Anthony 27

Chris Gethin 23, 72

referee:- G.D.Lewis                                               attendance:- 261

We were staying at Highgate House just outside Newtown in a new building, across the road from the main house, called “the Barn”. Anything less like a barn couldn’t be imagined! My bedroom was big enough to house a jumbo jet. The breakfast room and lounge for all the guests (eight of us) was upstairs, and, each morning, we were treated to a gargantuan breakfast. Andy especially took full advantage of it, never failing to squeeze in a second and even a third helping!

The first match on the Saturday took in the tiny village of Penybont. There were plenty of heavy showers today, but there were occasional bright spells dotted in amongst them. Having got through the entrance at Penybont, the next obstacle was the river which was crossed by a footbridge!

The footbridge across to Penybont's football ground.

This part of mid-Wales is particularly partial to “trotting” and Penybont’s pitch is surrounded by a trotting circuit. This one, however, was grassed, unlike the dirt tracks used in America (and also apparently on other tracks in mid-Wales). There was a real carnival atmosphere for this game, despite the frequent precipitation. Shelter was available in the fine stand (built more for the trotters than the football supporters, I suspect); this was reached by a squelchy ambulation across the sodden sward!

The view from the stand at Penybont with the trotting start line directly in front of the starters platform!

“You’ll Never Walk Alone” blared from the tannoy and the club proudly announced its new goalposts (costing £1,230). There were bacon rolls available in the small but adequate tea hut and a raffle, which produced my first raffle prize (a litre of Bell’s finest) since I won the match ball at Exmouth Town in April 2009!

The opposition were no great shakes. Indeed, the only surprise was that they actually scored and when they did, they received probably the biggest cheer of the match!

The caption at the rear of the Penybont stand

Jake Bufton, who scored the second goal of the match, had his proud dad watching. Dad himself had played for the club for over twenty years, only retiring some three or four seasons ago. He had played for Penybont at Anfield. No, not against the mighty reds, but a team of bankers from Liverpool and this remained the high point of his career!

A view of the stand at Penybont across the playing field. Sadly this is towards the end of the game. Earlier, it had been packed with hoppers!

Penybont FC diagonally across the pitch looking towards the "trotting" stand.

 Saturday 25th August 2012 Mid Wales South League k.o.:- 11.00am

Penybont                            8                      St Harmon                           1

Phil Ruell 5, Jake Bufton 13                    Adam Martin 45

Adam Stephens 21, 28

Dan Farmer 22, 25

Kevin Bufton 76, 79

referee:- Steve Fisher                                    attendance:- 257

The second match of the day was at the sparsely-endowed Radnor Valley ground, where thoughtful officials had laid on the attraction of two barrels of the local brew which I naturally sampled! Radnor Valley was situated in a field halfway down a long track that seemed to lead nowhere! There was hardly anywhere to hide when the showers came, but these were fortunately less frequent and I even found a log on which to rest my weary limbs, along with Jamie Leighton-Morris’ dad (Jamie scored Radnor’s first goal). His mum was there too, but the goal was such a muddle that I don’t think dad appreciated that it was his own son who had scored it! Dad is a lorry driver (or has he been upgraded to “Logistics Operative”?) who used to deliver fertilisers and other farming materials across the country until the company, based just outside Radnor, closed down. Now he delivers stone from the local quarry.

Radnor Valley's sparse headquarters

 Saturday 25th August 2012 Mid-Wales South League     k.o.:- 1.45pm

Radnor Valley                     2                       Newcastle                    3

Jamie Leighton-Morris 32                           Scott Oxford 21, 24

Callum Matthews 40                                      Carl Price 47

referee:- Mr Paul Kirkham                            attendance:- 212

The matches were flowing thick and fast today and the third match of the day was a real cracker and it was held in by far the finest stadium, Llanandras Park, in Presteigne. For me, Rhosgoch Rangers will always be synonymous with heavy and unremitting rain at their totally uncovered Crow Lane ground in August 2010, when they put ten past poor Talgarth Town. Today, they were involved in another ten goal thriller, but this time had to come from 3-0 down to 3-3 just after half time and then from 5-3 down in the 89th minute to 5-5 with a free kick that just squeezed in at the post in the 98th minute! It was a classic.

The fine stand at Llanandras Park, home of Presteigne St Andrews

There were some amongst the hoppers who missed this game because they had already been to the ground and, instead, went off in search of pastures new. There was even one who bemoaned his fate, having missed the opportunity to see a five-all draw, something which had never occurred in all his fifty-seven years of watching football (he must be older than me, then!).

St Andrew’s was the name of the local church and it was the minister, the Rev K. Hewley,  in the later years of the nineteenth century who brought the club into existence. By 1906, it had become the pre-eminent club in the town, replacing both Presteigne Town and Rovers. The club even boasts three players who actually won international caps, playing for Wales!

The well appointed Llanandras Park, home to Presteigne St Andrew's

Saturday 25th August 2012  Spar Mid Wales League Division II     k.o.:- 4.30pm

Presteigne St Andrews                    5                    Rhosgoch Rangers                5

Ieuan Crowe 6, Adriano Giralam 8                       Trefor Lloyd 23, Lee Doman 45+1

Christian Roberts 17, 60                                           Lee Davies 50, Jordan McQueen 89

Danny Evans (pen) 64                                               Liam Jones 90+8

referee:- Chris Bodenham                                         attendance:- 260

The last match of the day took us to the strange home of Hay St Mary’s. There were floodlights, but the only covered area resembled a giant bus shelter. Before the match there was a minute’s enthusiastic hand clapping in memory of Ian (Eioss) Jones, a well-liked and respected young goalkeeper for the club, who was sadly killed in a car accident in July.

Hay St Mary's, Saturday 25th August 2012

The game notched the highest attendance of the day and of the hop so far, and was the first (though not the last!) to pass the 300 mark. Talgarth Town opened the scoring, but were 3-1 down shortly after half time and although they did pull a further goal back after 85 minutes, it was too little, too late!

The strange stand at Hay St Mary's Forest Road ground

Hay St Mary's Forest Road Ground

25th August 2012  Spar Mid Wales League Division II  k.o.:- 7.30pm

Hay St Mary’s                           3                        Talgarth Town                     2

Kevin Jones  28                                                    G. Perry  7

Steve Goodwin 44, 48 (pen)                               Lee Brooks 85

referee:- Rob Evans                                               attendance:- 317

It was a long drive back on the coach, in the dark, from Hay to Newtown, and it was well after 11.00pm before we got back to Highgate House to settle down to “Match of The Day” and “The Football League Show” upstairs in the lounge. Well, I did join them later, but  first of all I despatched a good bottle of red whilst immersed in “Officer Factory” by H.H. Kirst. It was well after 1.00am before I slunk off to bed!

Sunday dawned fair and bright with blue skies and sunshine. It was going to be a warm dry day, but Lawrence was not happy when he turned up to ferry the Highgate House mob to Dolforwyn to catch the coach and we were not ready!

The first match was at Bryncrug. Don’t try and pronounce it. Suffice it to say that Lawrence had decided to include “blitzkrieg” in his blog if the home side notched a suitable number of goals! We took the scenic route to Tywyn following the course of The Tal-y-Lyn Narrow Gauge Railway. Andy even managed to sneak off before the match to the station at Bryncrug where the request stop was managed with red and green boards! I went down into town and managed to get sixteen Welsh first class stamps (same price as English stamps, but they have a Welsh dragon on them ……….and you have to lick them!). The stamps were for the postcards I was sending to my circle of postcard nerds!

Cae Chwarae Bryncrug Playing Field

This was a fairly one-sided match without ever becoming a rout. This time last year, Tywyn/Bryncrug had won the reverse fixture at Bow Street by 2-1.

Tywyn/Bryncrug, a very picturesque setting

Young Rebecca Powell-Jones (18) came down to watch on a beautiful warm sunny morning. She lives in Brycrug and had come to support her local team – having little else to amuse her on a Sunday morning! She got in free, but her brother Tristan had to pay £4. She went from school to college at sixteen and spent two years studying Agriculture and now she works on the farm on the mountain in the above picture. She loves animals and her job – working with sheep and lambs – is her hobby too! Recently she has been weaning three and four month-old lambs. Well, you know what they say! Find something you love doing and get paid for it. Rebecca has certainly done so!

Paul Grant scores a 43rd minute penalty for Tywyn Bryncrug sending Bow Street goalkeeper, Dylan Jones the wrong way!

Sunday 26th August 2012 Spar Mid Wales League Division 1  k.o.:- 11.30am

Tywyn/Bryncrug                             4                            Bow Street                              0

Mark Edmondson 26

Ben Holt 42, 54

Paul Grant 43 (pen)

referee:- Mark Farington (Newtown)                     attendance:- 267

From Tywyn it was but a short drive down the coast to Aberdovey and the second match of the day. This local seaside resort was packed to the rafters with holidaymakers and the car parks were full. Many of us took the opportunity of a wander for half a mile or so into the town centre. The ground itself was hardly more than a cordoned-off field in the grounds of the local golf club. The club had only been reformed in 1995, with substantial local support, and even more recently (2010/11) had won promotion to The Spar Mid Wales League.

The match was electric!

The home side found themselves a morale-sapping 4-0 down after just half an hour! They pulled one back just before half time and even our coach driver, Clive, refused my offer of a £10 bet that the home side wouldn’t win! Immediately after half time it was 4-2 and then, with fifteen minutes left, Aberdyfi pulled another goal back – only for the visitors, Bont, to stretch the lead once again to 5-3. Back came Aberdyfi with two more goals in the last three minutes and the score was miraculously 5-5 until Ben Richards grabbed a goal in the third minute of injury time, to bring Aberdyfi a very unlikely victory!

Sunday 26th August 2012 Spar Mid Wales League Division II   k.o.:- 3.00pm

Aberdyfi                              6                         Bont                                   5

Tim Holt 42(pen), 75(pen), 89                  Andre Marsh 18, Daniel Thomas 20

Luke Rickard 46,  Zac Smith 87                 Llewellyn Hughes 27, 77

Ben Richards 90+3                                        Ian Lee 30

referee:- Carwyn Jenkins                             attendance:- 324

For the final match of the day, we moved back inland to Machynlleth, which is a large, sprawling market town, with several suitable hostelries, which hoppers were able to sample as we arrived a little over an hour before kick-off.

Cae Glas, the community owned home of Machynlleth FC

Machynlleth had a goalkeeper with the number 13 on his shirt, the only time during the hop that a number other than 1 had been worn by the goalkeeper on either side! Thirteen must have been his unlucky number. After a bright start, during which they appeared to be much the better side, Matt Mumford, the Kerry striker suddenly struck twice in eight minutes, shortly before half time and swung the game decisively towards the visitors. Two further goals, late in the second half, sealed the victory in front of the largest crowd of the hop.

Cae Glas, home of Machynlleth. The pitch side stand.

Chris probably won't thank me for this one, but for an event as successful as this was, he deserves a huge amount of credit .

Sunday 26th August 2012 Spar Mid Wales League Division II   k.o.:-  6.30pm

Machynlleth                          0                                 Kerry                        4

                                                                                    Matt Mumford 28, 36

                                                                                    Luke Vickers 70, Luke Mumford 88

referee:- Neil Rutter                                                 attendance:- 347

The last day of the hop dawned dreary and very overcast, although early on, there was little or no rain. The first match was at Welshpool Town and we arrived with plenty of time to spare and I strode into town to post the sixteen postcards and to purchase a paper. Suddenly, the heavens opened and I found I needed to procure an umbrella rather urgently! However, not only did the heavens open, the wind increased as well! By the time I got back to the ground, my cheap and tacky umbrella had contorted itself beyond redemption. I left it on the ground and after the game, a plaintive cry from someone boarding the coach ………. “Has anyone lost an umbrella?” ………… I hid my head in my book!

Maesydre, home of Welshpool Town

The game exploded into life with a goal in ten seconds, the shortest in hop history, I was told. A second goal followed less than a minute later and the away team, Llansantffraid Village had a two goal advantage. Welshpool pulled one back before ten minutes had passed.

“Barchester – Celebrating Life” read the legend on the home shirts.This is an old peoples’ home on the outskirts of Welshpool and owned by The Duke of Westminster, a local supporter explained. Welshpool are the second oldest continuously-playing football team in Wales, he continued. “Which team is the oldest?” I innocently enquired. “No idea!” he said. He started supporting Nottingham Forest he said, after watching the 1959 FA Cup Final, where they beat Luton Town 2-1. In those days, he said, Welshpool Town were a force in Welsh football and frequently reached the quarter finals of the Welsh Cup, even when it was packed with Football League sides both Welsh and English! This ground was built around then, he said, but just look at it now …………. faded glory!

By half time, the score had progressed from 2-1 in favour of the away team to 4-3 in their favour as the goals continued to rain in! The second half continued to rain, but only one goal ensued and that too, went to the away team!

Monday 27th August 2012 Spar Mid Wales League Division 1     k.o.:- 11.00am

Welshpool Town                   3                       Llansantffraid Village                     5

James Langford 9                                           Wayne Austin 1, 24, 72

Ian Jones 31, George Mitten 40                  Oliver Clarke 2  Iwan Matthews 41

referee:- Mike Hughes                                    attendance:- 211

After the match, we repaired along the course of The Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway, where, on Friday evening, we had taken the train. The second match was at Dolgellau (which sounds nothing like it is written, I am reliably informed!) The rain continued to descend in sheets and there was little cover at the ground. The outside kiosk was doing a roaring trade in beefburgers and, so too, was the inside bar.

The home side were bemoaning their fate in meeting one of their “bogey” teams. Apparently they had not beaten Carno since the formation of The Spar Mid Wales League. So, today, we were in for a bit of history making!

Monday 27th August 2012 - Dolgellau 2 Carno 1

Carno (in the green and black) comfortably held off their opponents until they were undone by two goals midway through the second half. They pulled one back ten minutes from time, but it wasn’t enough to deny the home side their first taste of victory in this fixture.

The minimalist stand at Dolgellau, made even smaller by incorporating the home and away dugouts!

Monday 27th August 2012    Spar Mid Wales League Division 1   k.o.:-  2.30pm

Dolgellau                                    2                         Carno                            1

Sion Williams 62, 70 (pen)                                Andrew Davies 82

referee:- John Davies                                           attendance:- 206

We arrived early at the last match of the hop. There was more than an hour to kick-off and precious little cover  from the elements.  Chris cajoled Clive, our driver, to take some of the hoppers down to the centre of the village, where there was a welcoming hostelry. He told them, however, that they must make their own way back to the ground for the match! The rest of us stayed on the coach only nipping out briefly to acquire sandwiches and cups of tea.

The tiny stand at Dyffryn Banw which afforded the only shelter from the inclement conditions

Conditions were treacherous for the match. The turf was slippery; the ball resembled a bar of soap. Despite this, the match was an open contest and, having taken the lead, the home side found themselves 3-1 down after only 22 minutes. They managed to pull one goal back before half time, but with no further goals, it was the away team who collected the victory.

Dyffryn Banw 2 Builth Wells 3

 Monday 27th August 2012     Spar Mid Wales League Division 1   k.o.:- 6.15pm

Dyffryn Banw                            2                        Builth Wells                             3

Tom Molloy 5                                                        Johnny Williams 14, Chris Jones 15

Guto Lewis 33                                                        Steve Morgan 22

referee:- Neil Carpenter                                       attendance:- 181

These hops are long on anticipation and once arrived at, they seem to flash by at the speed of light. Once the last game was over, our coaches decanted the majority of the hoppers at Welshpool station for the 21.05 train and it felt like water down the plug hole, as hurried farewells and “here’s to the next time” floated on the ether. Some were staying the extra night (including a couple at Highgate House), but I had a lift home with Graeme who had some pretty treacherous driving conditions to contend with. I left his house for the final leg of my journey and arrived home just before midnight. It had been an exhilarating weekend!

There are many things which go together to make an enjoyable hop – good matches, meeting people, accommodation, organisation, the fare provided by the clubs, and the camaraderie. The most important, in my opinion, is the organisation and on this hop, as usual, the organisation was outstanding! There were half a dozen (or more?) places of accommodation dotted in and around Newtown and the pick-ups were planned with military precision. I can only speak for myself when I say that the accommodation itself was excellent. Chris (and Lawrence) are to be congratulated for their organisation, planning and logistical management of yet another wonderful hop!


Many Thanks to you both and ……………

Here’s to the next one!








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