Around the Grounds, Nos. 14-15: a cat at Swaffham Town, but no cat at Dereham Town
PUBLISHED: 18:48 28 September 2018
Football writer Carl Marston dons his anorak to visit clubs in the region (and beyond) in his quest for good football and a good cup of tea. Here he targets Swaffham Town
I rarely seem to cross the border into neighbouring Norfolk, to cover non-league crackers, or in fact matches of any particular quality, for this newspaper.
But there have been a few exceptions, including a recent jaunt to Swaffham Town, which was made eventful by the appearance of the resident cat, and a trip to Dereham Town, which was largely uneventful and did not feature any domestic or wild animal.
Club: Swaffham Town
Carl’s visit: There is a real charm surrounding Shoemakers Lane, the home of the Pedlars.
Certainly the approach to the ground is an unusual one, along a single-lane bumpy track which seemed to be heading into the wilds of Cambridgeshire.
It was a good test for the Archant pool car suspension, and my skills in avoiding pot holes, but I did finally end up at the home of Swaffham Town FC, rather than a field in the middle of nowhere.
I loved the stadium.
There are several pub-like table-and-chairs outside the clubhouse – the best location to rest my lap-top and eventually write up the tale of Framlingham Town’s defeat in an FA Vase replay (from earlier this month) – before entering the ground via the one turnstile.
The pitch is bumpy, and has a distinctive slope, but then that can always help with the ‘home advantage’.
Some visits to non-league grounds soon slip from memory, but Shoemakers Lane will stick with me for a while.
The are three modest sitting areas, a main stand to the left, ‘The Shed’ to the right, which is a basic wooden construction (it would be unlikely to appear on the ‘Grand Designs’ TV series) , and a stand behind the goal which has a long bench running alongside the back of it.
I watched the first half from this bench, looking towards the top end with darkened skies above, and certainly the wilds of Cambridgeshire beyond, to the drone of several aeroplanes, before moving to the ‘main stand’ in the second half.
But the highlight of the whole evening was the appearance of the cat, seemingly a resident of these parts.
Play was halted for a few seconds while said-cat ambled across the pitch, oblivious to the two sets of black-and-white and green-white shirted players.
He/she reappeared elsewhere in the ground later in the evening, and again in the clubhouse as I put my finishing touches to my report.
Yes, I will not forget my trip to Showmarkers Lane for a while!
Club: Dereham Town
Carl’s visit: Dereham Town has had a history of changing its name, as many clubs have done over the decades, but has finally landed a very suitable new stadium which, alas, many clubs have not been so lucky.
The Magpies began life as Dereham FC, switched to East Dereham, settled on the current name of Dereham Town in 1920, but then altered to Dereham Hobbies United after merging with a local Sunday League team in 1986. Five years later and the name Dereham Town was reinstalled, and has stuck.
The stadium is on the edge of the town (just off the A47) , and so is easy to get to with onsite parking, always a big plus when you are arriving on a dark winter’s evening, as I did when reporting on Bury Town’s visit in November of last year. It also enabled me to listen to an episode of ‘The Archers’ in the car before heading into the stadium – life in the fast lane!
Aldiss Park – I would say one of the better stadiums in Isthmian League One North – was built at a cost of £750,000 and opened just before Christmas, 1996.
The Magpies had started out at Bayfields Meadow, during their existence up until World War II, and then moved to the council-owned Recreation Ground.
However, for an ambitious club there was no chance of developing that home, so a new site was bought on the outskirts of town.
The move has been a big success. The clubhouse is excellent, and the pre-season friendlies against Norwich City have proved popular over the years (3,000 turned up in 2001).
The crowd was a more modest 137 when I turned up for the visit of Bury Town. The game itself was rather spoiled by Bury skipper Bradley Barber being sent off after just three minutes, the Magpies swooping in for a 2-0 defeat.
Other than that, my memory is hazy – the game could have down with an intruder of the feline-variety.