Apparently, this blog is influential. Although I find that hard to believe, I also find it quite unnerving too. I could now use this new information to single handedly take over the world, or it could lead to the complete annihilation of life as we know it. Either way, it’ll probably end up being the same result. I suppose it’s a responsibility I need to take extremely seriously, if I’m committed to sharing my future thoughts. Yeah right. As if that’s ever going to happen. I bet Jesus Christ didn’t think about that when he wrote the Bible. What? He didn’t actually write the Bible? So it’s just a collection of accounts of events that are supposed to have happened? You’ll be telling me next that it wasn’t even written in English. What was that? It wasn’t, it was translated from Hebrew via Latin? Oh come on, you’re not expecting me to believe that are you? So one bloke with a vivid imagination could’ve dreamt the whole lot up? And nobody thought to cross check any of this stuff? Or check that the bloke that was ‘translating’ wasn’t under the influence of alcohol or/and narcotics? Good grief. Least that’s put my mind at rest. Means I can write anything I want to now and still get away with it. Neah, second thoughts, I’ll just carry on with this pulp. Back in August, whilst I was deep in bandit country watching Fisher play Sutton Common Rovers in the Extra Preliminary qualifying round of the F.A.Cup, my mate Bryn sent me a photo of himself outside the turnstiles of Belper Town. According to the poor bloke, this blog had inspired him to watch a Non-League game, and as he was stopping in Belper to attend a wedding (Not his own, I might add. Nipping off from my own wedding to take in a game, would be something I would do, but he wouldn’t. He has decorum of course, and I don’t.) he decided to go and watch Belper. His going to watch Belper, wasn’t my inspiration for wanting to go there mind, and there certainly wasn’t a wedding involved either. By the way, if any of my younger family members are thinking of getting married and just so happen to read this, please please please, either get married during the close season when there isn’t an International competition, get married during the week when there aren’t any games, or better still, just don’t get married at all. So why Belper? Well it wasn’t because of the name of the place. Belper sounds like something from the old ‘Carry On’ films. They were big on innuendos and titillation back in the 60s and 70s. It’s more ‘in your face’ these days. (Ooh er Missus.) Anyway, much as the name sounds rude, the place looked quaint in my research, and the pubs seemed good. I got the train to Derby, changing there for Belper. No, I didn’t belch or burp just then, even if it sounds like I did. Touching down in the town, the first on my itinerary wasn’t open as advertised. Instead, I went for a wander round. Despite the name, the town is beautiful. In fact, as names go, Belper is a polar opposite to how it sounds. With the first not being open, I was at least able to go on a reconnaissance mission to find some of the others on the list, and also soak in some of the prettiness of the town at the same time. By the time I’d finished, The Railway had opened. Belper hasn’t got a Wetherspoons….yet. A brewery tap for Lincoln Green, the pub was on the sparkling clean, nondescript side of decoration. Nice, but not worth taking a photo of, and if I’m telling the truth, a little bit boring. If the Railway was a tad bland, then the Cross Keys made up for it. A Bateman’s owned pub, I really wasn’t expecting what I found.
The decor was eye candy. Everywhere you looked, something else caught your eye. The layout draws you in and reeks cosiness. A perfect combination for a bitter cold day. What topped it was the obvious experience and sheer enthusiasm of the bloke running it. I wrote on this blog about the holy trinity of barmaid credentials, but the bloke running the Cross Keys has the dynamic duo you require to run a pub. Constant, upbeat enthusiasm, and always essential, interesting knowledge. He gave you the impression, that nothing was too much, and would be delivered with sincerity and humour. As we chatted, he told me about what he’d had done to the pub during Covid, and without a spec of bitterness, outlined the plans that the brewery had for the pub’s refurbishment. He had a refreshing attitude that after his many years in the brewery trade, had yet to become jaded and cynical, and looked like it wouldn’t be abated for a long time to come. From the Cross Keys, I took in the nearby, Angel’s Micro pub. After taking a couple of photos.
I joined a bloke who turned out to be a Hereford fan from Leicester. A season ticket holder, he was at the the famous F.A.Cup game where the recently deceased, Ronnie Radford scored an absolute screamer of a goal. I was to discover he makes a regular trip to Belper for an ale trail, and I was beginning to understand why too. From the the excellent Angel’s, gravity took me back down the hill,
“Can you tell it was steep?”
to Arkwright’s Real Ale Bar. I’ve no idea if Richard would’ve approved of the pub named after him and I don’t care, because I do.
“Come on Dick, what’s not to love? Yes yes, innuendo time.”
With time kicking on. I wanted to get one more in. The George and Dragon was full of people heading for Bryn’s place. Mostly home support, there were a few Whitby fans, though disappointingly, none were Goths or even steam punks. (If you don’t know what a steam punk is Sis, Google it.)
Much as I was intrigued by the photo Bryn sent me, it didn’t show what an idyllic setting the ground is in. I can only apologise mate, it’ll be all down hill now. You’ll be hard pushed to find anywhere more pleasant. I advise you just to keep that in mind if you ever need to escape from another wedding. By the way, how’s Birdy getting on with his girlfriend? Has she had enough of his playboy lifestyle yet? I suppose after the big build up, I’d better stick the obligatory photos of the ground in this rubbish.
“That’s the boring ones out of the way”
“Yeah yeah, rolling hills”
“And a church and Victorian factory building”
Not impressed yet?
“Well I was anyway.”
On paper, this was a proper relegation tussle. I reported in my account for Marine versus Liversedge, that the defeat for the away side, had consigned them to last place. That was until Belper’s subsequent defeat to Lancaster meant that they dropped to the bottom instead. Coming into this game, Liversedge were the only club between the two sides on show. It made for a bigger than usual attendance and the programmes selling out before I could get one. Certain things are synonymous with Non-League football, and just add to the appeal of it. Things that are jettisoned the further up the pyramid you go. Whereas the clubs at the top of it peddle a sterile environment, as they strive to print money, clubs lower down know they need to provide something a little more unique to scratch for pennies. Just inside the turnstiles, far enough away as to not prove an obstruction, but near enough to draw the eye, a trestle table had been set up with souvenirs. Intrigued, I wandered over for a browse. With my back to the game, Belper went and took the lead. I wasn’t surprised, it’s typical of my luck. For someone who seems to see a lot of matches that end 0:0, I also end up missing goals. I don’t drive, so I know I haven’t run over a black cat, I can only think it must be the amount of mirrors I’ve broken as I’ve looked at my reflection in them. It was though, a warmly received goal for obvious reasons. Could they now either hold on to it, or even add to it for what would be, 3 warmly received points too. All I wanted was more goals so I didn’t feel so stupid at missing seeing the first. As with games at the bottom of the league, in the middle of the season, the nerves don’t show, but the passion does. It was a stereotypical, Non-League league, blood and guts game and it was brilliant entertainment for a ground hopping, ale trailing neutral (nutter) like me. That lead though, wasn’t to last. By halftime, the lead had not only been cancelled out, but had changed hands too. The second was after a calamitous mistake by the new, on loan keeper making his debut. It really was one that had you rubbing your eyes in disbelief. When you’re fighting at the wrong end of the table,these sorts of things are what you really don’t need but get. It never happens when you’re at the top of the league. In point of fact, it’s the teams at the top that always appear to be the benefactors of mistakes like this. Kick a man when they’re down? I suspect many of his teammates and a huge number of the home support would’ve liked to have taken the saying literally. He on the other hand, was frantically searching for a spade to dig a hole big enough for him to could crawl into. Had Sky Sports News been covering the game, they would’ve shown the howler on a loop for the whole of the following week. The Halftime interval came and went, it was back to the basement battle. And a battle it was. Neither team showed any signs they had thoughts of early Christmas shopping. This was a shirt sleeves rolled up encounter. None of the play acting of the professional game. The football may not have been technically all that good, but what the teams lacked in ability, they made up with in sheer endeavour. It was a joy to watch. A release from all the gamesmanship that’s prevalent once again at the World Cup finals. If the ball is round and being kicked, I’ll watch it, but upper levels of the game need to take the good things from the lower levels and remember, what they do is an advertisement for future generations. Basically, stop the play acting, it’s passed embarrassing now, it’s irritating to the point of being infuriating. Although neither side will see it like this, a draw would’ve been the best way for a game like this to end, and that’s how it would finish, but not before the Nailer’s had grabbed the equaliser from the penalty spot. A point each was right. A long way to go in the season yet, but both will be hoping they’ll be handed a box containing a storming end to their league campaigns, come Christmas morning.
I’d got one last pub on my itinerary for Belper, and it was there that I made for.
“Captivating and enticing”
“But enough to leave this place?”
I could imagine leaving the The Thorn Tree Inn, drawn by the floodlights, gravity would just take you down the hill. But would the fear of another defeat be enough to put you off having to climb that hill back home afterwards? Never mind gravity, addiction would mean I’d be going to the game, but then I still can’t afford the therapy I’ll undoubtedly need. A proper back street pub, it’s got a knot of loyal locals. I smiled as they regaled each other with their various latest ailments and medications. It was like a GPs surgery waiting room, but with beer as refreshment. To be honest though, if I could get a decent pint of real ale in there, I might even consider visiting the Doctor myself. As it is, I can’t, so I don’t bother. I can’t say I hadn’t been impressed with Belper. A pretty little town but with a name that simply doesn’t fit. On the way back, I did contemplate going through the barriers at Derby station, and having a last pint in The Alex, but tiredness was starting to take a firm grip, so home to Brum it was. Another good ground hop and ale trail complete.