Saturday 3rd April 2021
Hope Valley League Premier Division
Youlgrave United 2 High Lane 6 HT: 1-2 Att: 16 (headcount)
from Youlgrave Cricket Club
Finally, football returns with spectators, but not officially. This is where the Peak District has come into its own during Covid times. During the last spell of miscommunication and mass confusion regarding fans, the Peak provided some great football and wonderful views, to boot.
The reason for heading out this way is that the grounds are remote, open spaces and there is none of the urban-angst over covid, where club officials might waver between common sense and ‘the rules’. The Hope Valley League isn’t one I’d really looked at for options until last year, simply because there were always other bigger grounds on my radar.
I shouldn’t have been so dismissive, because most of the grounds in this league are set in idyllic locations, and what is lacking in football furniture is more than made up for in views and bucolic grandeur. And despite being a league that isn’t even registered as part of the non-league pyramid, the standard is as good as I’ve seen in county leagues and the matches entertaining and competitive.
Something I’d also failed to appreciate was just how near the Peak is to me, with today’s jaunt a mere 26 miles. Admittedly they’re slow miles, but the scenery is magnificent, and should there be any issue with the game taking place, the drive alone would be worthwhile. Today was no exception as I headed for Youlgrave United, past Leek and the Roaches and the quiet scenic villages of Longnor, Crowdicote and Monyash.
Youlgreave is one of the most misspelt names in England, with 60 recorded iterations since it was mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086, as Giolgrove, meaning yellow grove, referring to the yellow ore mined locally. Today two spellings vie for dominance in roughly equal measure. Most maps go for Greave. The Highways Agency is on the fence, referring to it on signposts as Youlgreave but on the village sign as Youlgrave. Local businesses use both, the church goes for Grave, as does the football team.
Youlgreave is one of the larger villages in the Peak, but not as openly touristy as nearby Hartington or Bakewell. Of prominence is the church dating back to 1130, with a norman font. Walking through the village, it was eerily peaceful and quiet; I’m unsure if this was the norm for Saturday afternoons or exacerbated by the pandemic. This area of the Peak is worth the visit, without the football. If you’re a collector of Stone Circles you have the impressive Arbor Low, three miles west of Youlgreave.
I think Arbor Low is better than Stonehenge. For a start you’ll probably have it to yourself, there’s no visitor centre or barbed wire or entrance fee or hundreds of people taking selfies. A little further afield you have the Nine Ladies stone circle, accessible by a woodland walk. Having already ticked off these stone circles, I plumped for doing a 5k on the Bakewell Parkrun route. As official Parkruns are still prohibited, this was like a ground tour with no game, or a bracketed Parkrun tick.
The route starts at Hassop Station, a visitor centre, café and bookshop on the former railway line, that is a now the 8.5km Monsal Trail, popular with walkers and bikers. The course is 2.5k out and back along the trail – it was a fast route. After a bottle of water and coffee I made the short trip to Yougreave.
The ground, the Youlgrave Cricket Field lies off the main road through the village, on the left before the centre, if you’re approaching from Bakewell. There is a car park just inside the wall of the ground and a small wall from which to stand, which gives you the best backdrop of the countryside beyond, where the river Bradford winds around the village.
This was the resumption of the League games, with visitors High Lane FC (who hail from a borough of Stockport) having a 100% record with five wins in five, but second in the table to Furness Vale, who had played one more. Youlgrave were sitting second to bottom, having won just one of ten games. As there are only 11 teams in the division, finishing off the league fixtures is not such a squeeze as other non-leagues.
The first half was quite even and competitive, with High Lane showing touches of why they The first half was quite even and competitive, with High Lane showing touches of why they’d dropped no points so far. A defensive error led to them taking the lead midway through the first half. Youlgrave equalised after a soft backpass was leapt on eagerly for a good finish. High Lane then re-took the lead immediately to go into the break 1-2.
High Lane then turned the screw in the second period, scoring some well worked goals, with the hosts picking up one themselves, through a rebound after a deflected long shot. The game was clean and played in a great spirit, with respect shown to the ref. I was also pleased to hear no mention of Covid. The 15-20 supporters just enjoyed an afternoon in the sun watching footy.