Longridge Town v Colne
The Mike Riding Ground / Friendly / 4th July 2015
The tumbleweed of June has blown past and football is back in my life. Okay, so it hadn’t really been away that long, since I had attended a game on the last day of May and here I am back on my travels just a few days into July. I’ve been a good boy over the football wasteland known as June with me veering away from alcohol for the best part of the month, getting some much-needed housework done and doing a bit more running. But that goes out the window this weekend. This is July and July means summer football. So where to start?
My football travels had actually begun on Friday night, as I headed up to one of my favourite picturesque towns, Buxton, and visited SIlverlands, the home of Buxton FC and dubbed the highest ground above sea level in the whole of English football. It’s been blogged before though, so I’ll leave writing a follow-up blog about the place for another time. My second game of the season would come the day after and my debut blog of the season 2015/2016 would see me head to Longridge Town.
Once again, this was a place I hadn’t heard of either until recently, but on discovering it and expressing a slight interest in visiting on Twitter, my timeline erupted with people lavishing praise on the small Lancashire Town with one of my Morecambe pals claiming it was ‘your sort of town’. Sold.
Having not drunk too much over the past few weeks, I woke up Saturday morning slightly hungover after a night in Buxton which finished with me acquiring free bottles of Hooch from the landlord of the Milton’s Head, an Elvis- obsessive who I had befriended on my previous trips to Buxton. This was then followed by two young girls on the train home wanting advice on where to go out in Manchester and in exchange they gave me lots of wine. The randomness of the evening escalated quickly to be honest. Anyway, any remnants of a hangover were destroyed with a combination of Starbucks coffee and, ironically, my reading of the excellent The Search for the Perfect Pub by Robert Turner and Paul Moody.
By 11am I was in Preston city centre. Now apart from changing trains here a few times, I’ve only really been into Preston once before (to watch the Swans at Deepdale) and so it was nice to be reacquainted with the place.
I’ve become a big fan of smoothies recently, so i grabbed myself a fruity concoction from a stall in the main town square to further combat any lasting signs of a hangover. ‘What’s happened to you Matt?’ I hear you ask. ‘Smoothies? Coffee?’ Don’t worry I haven’t changed that much over the past month – the pubs and beer are coming.
I completed several frustrating laps of the town centre in search of the bus stop for the bus to Longridge, before eventually spotting a Stagecoach bus with ‘1 Longridge via Grimsmargh’ meandering through the town and sprinting after it. On board, a £4.50 return bought and it was onwards to Longridge I went.
Longridge is located 8 miles north-east of Preston and the route upwards towards the Ribble Valley is a rather scenic one, although I was slightly unnerved by the Shaun the Sheep toy I spotted nailed to a plank of wood in the Grimsmargh area; the thought did cross my mind that perhaps they knew I was coming and this was some sort of ‘intimidate the Welsh’ tactic. Fortunately, I didn’t see anymore lovable animal characters crucified on the way up towards Longridge and 20 minutes or so after leaving Preston I was into Longridge.
I love little Lancashire towns. You get a nice mix of the scenic and rural like Barnoldswick and the more ‘rough and ready’ places like Colne. From what people had told me about the town, Longridge should fall into the former category, but as I walked towards the town centre I just found the place a bit….well, ‘meh’. I was giving it a chance still though, as it was early doors.
There wasn’t a lot to see until I eventually came to the main high street located on a hill. More importantly, at the bottom of it was the Towneley Arms and it was here I had my first drink of the day. The innards of the pub were fairly plush as the 18th century building had recently undergone a refurbishment. Signs on the wall were shouting out the pub’s pride in their provision of real ales and so I figured it’d be rude not to opt for one. I plumped for New World – a golden ale from the Marston’s brewery. It was nice too.
I now decided to wander up the hill to see what else Longridge had too offer. Well, if you like small coffee shops, charity shops and local butchers, then Longridge is the place for you. However, it wasn’t exactly ticking many of my boxes. Into the Durham Ox pub I went.
Now this was more my sort of place: dark, a bit scruffy and just a genuine battered pub. There was only one customer in the place: an angry Scotsman. Whilst he went on an angry, semi-coherent rant about tractors (I think that’s what he was shouting about anyway) I ordered a pint of Surf Sup – another golden ale, this time from Caledonian brewery. Now this stuff was beautiful indeed and trumped the other ale from the previous pub. I enjoyed it accompanied by the BBC’s coverage of the F1 at Silverstone on TV.
I continued my trek up the hill and found the closed down White Bull pub and the calamitously-named Dog Inn, which had a sign on the door saying it was closed for the day because of an electrical fault. It was worth climbing to the top of the hill though for the views of the Spade Mill reservoirs in the valley below. Looking west I could even spot Blackpool Tower in the distance.
With little else at the summit of the hill, I headed back down the hill and back to the two pubs I had noticed earlier in the day, but were closed until midday. I started at the Bull and Royal where I encountered a man drinking a large glass of lime and soda, which he drunk sporadically in between doing shots of jager. Maybe it’s a local delicacy. Once again, it seemed that the majority of the Longridge public are just not interested in early afternoon drinking as the pub consisted of 4-5 men at the bar moaning about various elements of their life, before then seeming to be enlivened by the barmaid turning on the British Grand Prix qualifying coverage. I snubbed the idea of the lime/soda/jager combo and instead opted to leave after a pint.
WHERE IS EVERYONE? On walking a few yards up the road to the Forrests Arms, I once again found myself in a pub completely devoid of punters. It was literally just me and the barmaid in there this time. The pub did have one of my favourite pub features though: a circular bar placed right in the middle of the room. I’m not sure why such a thing thrills me so much, but there you go. Equally exciting was that the bar had Bolton-brewed beer Flat Cap on tap. Of course, I had to have a pint.
“Flat caps are sort of my thing,” I said to the barmaid whilst pointing to my cap and my new #NoFlatCapNoParty t-shirt, which I had made over the summer (I had two different ones made actually). She didn’t really respond and just gave me a look as if to say ‘You are a loon’, before going off around the corner and leaving me alone with an unsupervised bar. I resisted the urge to loot it.
Getting internet connection on my phone had been an issue all day with Longridge having temperamental signal for phones to say the very least. This was an issue as I really did not have a clue where I was heading for the ground. It did eventually spring to life though and I was delighted to learn that the ground was a mere 10 minute walk down the road from the pub.
I knew I was getting close when I could hear the thumping of footballs and the quiet shouts of men implying that a warm up for a football match was going on somewhere nearby. Soon I spotted the orange bibs on the other side of some foliage next to the Alston Arms pub and I now knew that I had found the place. There was only 20 minutes to go until kick-off, so I decided that I’d save the pub for a post match beer.
I found the opening into ground and was greeted by an overgrown cabin with the words ‘Welcome to Longridge Town’ fading on the side of it. Ahead of me was a large red bungalow and the pitch in front of that. Undoubtedly the most impressive aspect of the ground is the backdrop. The hills of the Ribble Valley head off into the distance and there seems to be an endless parade of green fields leading away from the one side of the ground. It felt a bit like being right on the edge of Lancashire with the rural stretch of land heading north of the ground looking completely devoid of any form of civilisation. It really is very pretty.
The current club Longridge Town was only formed in 1996, but, like many clubs in Lancashire, the club’s roots can be traced back to the 19th century. The original clubs of the town, Longridge St. Lawrence and Longridge St. Wilfred’s, played in religious leagues until Longridge St. Lawrence became a non-sectarian club in 1929 and changed their name to Longridge United.
When Longridge United and Longridge St. Wilfred’s amalgamated in 1996 to become the current Longridge Town, the club played in the local Preston & District League before joining the West Lancashire Leagues in 2008/2009, where they play to this day, even winning the First Division title in 2011/2012.
The red bungalow houses the changing rooms, as well as a small club bar. In the bar I found a whole host of Longridge memorabilia and trophies and photos from Longridge’s history. There wasn’t much on sale in regards of foods (I think they’d already run out of pies) and beer came in the form of either a pint of Carlsberg, cans of Fosters or bottles of Corona for £2. Corona was purchased and I was unsurprised to find that it didn’t come with a piece of lime in it unlike more upper market bars. It had to be drunk quick though if I wanted to be pitchside for kick-off, as it seemed that Longridge Town officials had a zero-tolerance policy on taking alcohol pitchside this evening, unlike at Buxton the night before.
As the teams came out onto the pitch, Longridge in red and Colne in their white away shirts, I positioned myself in front of the diminutive stand adjacent to the bungalow – the only stand in the ground.
A few times on this blog I’ve given shout outs to the wonderful and wacky Twitter account/website Non-League Dogs (check out the site here) – yes, it is exactly what the title suggests: photos of dogs up and down the country at various non-league football grounds. Well having been a fan for years, I was delighted when the brains behind the account tweeted me saying they would be at Longridge too. The only issue was that I didn’t have a clue what this dog-loving person looked like, until…
“Are you Matt?” came a voice to my left. The voice came from a lady holding two dogs, so it should have been obvious to me straight away who this was. However, I just did not click. In my head, the person behind @nonleaguedogs was an aging, beer bellied gentleman with a love of obscure non-league grounds, but instead it was this smiley lady in front of me. I’m such a misogynist it seems. Ruth then introduced me to her partner Richard, who’s groundhopping exploits I also follow on Twitter. Richard is a Norwich fan now exiled up in Preston, but with that comes a good knowledge of grounds and clubs in the West Lancashire League – a league I clearly need to explore more of. Richard gave me some recommendations so hopefully more obscure grounds in Lancashire to come this season.
As we chatted away about places like Hurst Green and Fulwood Amateurs, Colne took a deserved lead. It had taken 10 minutes for the first goal to come and it was a superb diving header finish from Joe Garvin that put Colne in front.
The game was played at a decent pace for a preseason friendly and either side could have grabbed another goal. As the game played out, I went for my usual lap of the ground taking photos. On my circuit of the ground I spotted a game of cricket going on on the adjacent field. Technically, I could have stood there and watched both the football and cricket, but…well, I hate cricket.
I completed my lap with 5 minutes to go until half-time and so I thought I’d skip the half-time rush and head to the toilet. Of course, as soon as I got into the toilet I could hear the cheers from outside, as Longridge had equalised. Another header I was told.
There was still time for Colne to make it 2-1 before the break, although I can’t for the life of me remember the scorer or the goal itself. Once again, more cutting edge match reporting from Lost Boyos.
Half-time: Longridge Town 1 – 1 Colne.
I reconvened with Richard at half-time for another Corona, before heading out for the second half. Once again, I had snubbed the free offering of biscuits on the table as I felt that beer and biscuits are not a compatible combination.
As is always the case with preseason friendlies with multiple substitutions, the second half was a fairly dull affair despite another 2 goals.
The game looked to be over as Colne made it 3-1 the other side of the half-time interval, but Longridge battled on valiantly.
By now, we were sitting on one of the steps of the stand hanging out with Richard and Ruth’s dogs Lou and Sidney, whilst watching the second 45 minutes. Apparently, the flat-pack stand is relatively new feature of the ground and maybe a sign that the club are pushing to develop the ground further.
I went for one more lap of the ground to get a final few photos, whilst Longridge were scoring with minutes left to make a game of it in the closing stages. However, that would be the end of the scoring today.
Full-time: Longridge Town 2 – 3 Colne.
I was kindly offered a lift back to Preston by Richard and Ruth, but I declined as I wanted to go to the pub next to the ground so we said our goodbyes. They had been great company for the afternoon
.Before I headed to the Alston Arms, I made sure I went over to say hello to Colne manager Steve ‘Cunny’ Cunnigham. Cunny enjoyed my blog about my visit to Colne’s Holt House ground last season (second place for ‘Ground of the Season’ in last season’s awards blog) that he promised me free beer if our paths ever crossed. I didn’t hold him to that this time, but it was good to finally say hello. And obviously I made sure he got the obligatory double thumbs up photo.
Directly over the hedges around the far corner of the ground is the Alston Arms, which was to be my final port of call in Longridge. I avoided hedge-jumping to get to the pub and did the more sensible thing of walking around the road way to the pub. The Alston Arms was another rather generic food-serving pub with many visiting on this sunny evening for a Saturday meal. All very nice, but also a bit bland too. Time to go I suppose.
Buses to Preston run frequently, so there wasn’t long for me to wait for the number 1 bus and for me to make way back towards Preston The bus journey back through rural Lancashire gave me time to gather my thoughts together about Longridge. To be honest, it was pleasant enough, but the town had not exactly blown me away either; it was all a bit too low-key for me and a bit quiet. However, I was a fan of the football club and the ground. I love any ground with a stunning backdrop and Longridge Town’s home definitely has that.
Highlights: football is back! Surf Sup real ale, nice, scenic ground, free entry, not a bad game, decent club bar. meeting ‘Non-league Dogs’ and Richard.
Low Points: bit of a dull town, crucified Shaun the Sheep toys.
You can check out all of my photos from my trip to Longridge on my Flickr page here.
Plus, if you want to, you can also see my photos from Buxton the previous night here.