Lost in…Brecon

Brecon Corries v Abercarn United

Rich Field / Preseason Friendly / 22nd July 2017

Undoubtedly my favourite ever project I had to do in school was a project in GCSE Geography where we had to decide which town was better based on a number of factors: Merthyr Tydfil or Brecon. I went to school in Troedyrhiw, a village on the cusp of Merthyr town, and I think deep down all of us in that class knew that Brecon would come out on top, even though a lot of us were stubbornly loyal to our often derided hometown. Brecon was like this magical, charming place located 18 miles away on the other side of the ever-idyllic Brecon Beacons. There was only going to be one winner and every group in the class came up with the same conclusion  from their research rather reluctantly: ‘Brecon is a nicer place to live in than Merthyr’ was the final headline of our projects – at least on the human and physical geographical factors we had studied. It all seems quite cruel our geography teacher doing that to us when I think about it now. The highlight of the whole work was a trip into Merthyr one day and the seemingly wonderful Brecon another day to do some field research and to interview average Joes of  of the general public. The last question on our survey was ‘Where would you rather live: Merthyr or Brecon?’ I still remember one Brecon gentleman responding to the question by saying “Brecon, because see this watch on my wrist? I wouldn’t be brave enough to wear it in Merthyr?…Where are you kids from?…”

The Merthyr valley is and always will be home and I will always love it no matter what, so I was very excited to be heading back to Quakers Yard and the Valleys for a few days before flying back to Slovakia. Craig would be coming too to get his first taste of the Valleys too and so we decided we’d try to fit in a bit of football. Incidentally, we opted to go to Merthyr and Brecon – Merthyr on the Wednesday and Brecon on the Saturday. ‘Football ground quality’ wasn’t a factor in our GCSE Geography project, but this is where Merthyr triumphs over Brecon in emphatic fashion. In fact, by non-league standards, I think Merthyr triumphs over most most in this category, as Merthyr Town’s Penydarren Park still remains one of my favourite grounds in football; even with its modern revamps, it still oozes character. It was great to spend Wednesday evening there watching their 1-1 draw v Newport County. But, Merthyr has touched these pages a couple of times already, whereas Brecon never has, despite me coming close to going to their footballing home on many an occasion. In fact, I genuinely think the last time I had been to the town was for that GCSE Geography trip.

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Wednesday night at Merthyr Town – repping the ‘Made in Merthyr’ t-shirt.

We’d had an all-dayer in Cardiff on the Friday, but we were fighting fit as we set off up the Valley in ‘Paddy’ (the name of Craig’s Fiat Panda in case you’ve missed that in previous blogs). We passed Merthyr and we looked to be well on time to make it to Brecon before midday, leaving us plenty of time to wander the quaint town before the 16:30 kick-off between Brecon Corries and Abercarn United in a preseason friendly. Then, the traffic just halted. It seemed there’d be an accident on this part of the A470 – the main road linking Merthyr to Brecon and the quickest route through the Beacons. It seemed the road wouldn’t be clear for another few hours too, so like every other car we U-turned and discussed a Plan B. The B in our Plan B still stood for Brecon though and I soon had us on a different route – definitely a more scenic route.

Paddy was pushed to the limit as instead of the main road to Brecon we headed through miles and miles of narrow country lanes, dipping and diving and zigzagging through the Brecon Beacons. The route was longer and certainly more bumpy, but what it did provide in abundance was some awesome scenery. We headed past the ever beautiful Pontsticill Reservoir and then towards the small village of Talybont-on-Usk. We had to stop for a photo stop as the scenery was just too beautiful; we even had some sheep pose for us!

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Paddy posing with the Beacons.

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The photos will not do the area’s beauty justice.

After about 30 minutes through the sticks, we re-emerged into society on the A40, which took us all the way up to Brecon. Great stuff! Now just to park up…I wish it had been as easy as that. It seems that almost every car park in Brecon is ‘short stay’ and the ‘long stay’ ones were only for 4 hours. Did Brecon council not think of groundhoppers who want to visit Wetherspoons, try some local ale and watch 90 minutes of football at Brecon Corries? That’s definitely not a 4 hour job. Clearly folk like us were dismissed to the back of Brecon council’s minds. Sort it out Brecon council or drive away sad cases like ourselves from your town. Anyway, eventually we decided to snoop around the ground and we did find ourselves a small parking space alongside Brecon’s canal, where OAPs seemed to be slowly racing down the canal in little, motorised boats. Bless them.

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Brecon canal.

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Brecon town.

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The town is made up of lots of narrow little streets and roads.

Brecon is as beautiful as I remember it. The town is a pleasant little place with a population just over 8000. Despite its small stature, the town has always proved popular with tourists who want to go exploring the scenic Brecon Beacons or maybe even tackle Pen-y-Fan – the highest peak in southern Britain. And of course the town is famous for its jazz festival, Brecon Jazz, which is hosted annually. For such a small place there is definitely plenty to see and do and it is certainly worth a visit if you are nearby. I’d like to say we were going to do something cultural like maybe explore the town walls, visit the cathedral or even the war museum, but no, we were off to a different sort of cultural phenomenon: Wetherspoons.

After our detour through the Beacons, we had less time in the town now, but the place is far from a sprawling town, so a quick lap and you can see most of the centre. More important was beer (well, in my case – Craig was driving of course) and so we headed to Spoons. Fair to say, Brecon’s Spoons offering is a very plush one indeed – and massive too! Apparently the George Hotel used to be a prominent coaching inn from the 16th century, but Wetherspoons had only reopened the establishment back in March of this year, after the previous owners stopped trading and left in 2015. It is now one of Wetherspoons hotel pubs too.

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Spoons ahoy!

I was happy with my local ale and Craig was happy to get a burger down him, but it was time to move on and I already knew where our next destination was going to be having spotted somewhere on our previous walk through the town. After a quick wander through the town’s market hall (I love Welsh market halls) we headed for the Brecon Tap. I’m a big believer in any pub with the name ‘Tap’ at the end of its name: Piccadilly Tap, Sheffield Tap, Euston Tap and so and so on – all fine establishments’ And so is the Brecon Tap. I was happy with the golden ale on tap, but I was to enjoy it in my own company as Craig had gone off to deal with more important matters. Sitting by the entrance to the pub was a couple with two pugs. To say Craig loves pugs is an understatement, but he did have the decency to restrain himself and wait for the couple to finish their meal before going over there to play with the pug duo. I left him to it.

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Brecon Tap.

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Craig took to Twitter to show off his new friends.

Ale-drinking and pug-cuddling done, it was very close to 16:30 and so we headed down from the town, across the canal bridge and back towards Rich Field, the home of Brecon Corries. The gilet-wearing pensioner at the gate greeted us with a smile and took our £2.50 entry fee, as we entered the scenic home of football in Brecon.

Rich Field is definitely a throwback and certainly fits the bill of ‘traditional Welsh football ground’. Fortunately ‘traditional Welsh football ground’ is one of my favourite types of ground. The one stand is a battered, yet charming old relic containing just a row or two of battered seats and a walkway into the smell of Deep Heat emanating from the changing rooms. To the side of this is ‘The Brunch Box’, a small portacabin apparently donated to the club in recent years to sell their drinks and snacks from. No bar at the ground, so coffee would have to do, although much to my joy it did come provided in a mug – always a sign of a good football club.

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Abercarn warming up as we arrive.

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Beautiful stand.

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More of that stand.

You can’t not love the rickety stand, but the ground’s money shot is definitely from the environment surrounding it. The ground is very near the town centre, but enough on the edge of it to give it a real rustic feel. The other three sides of the ground are enveloped with foliage with the one side opening out onto the hill leading away from the town. It really is a wonderful setting.

We had arrived shortly before kick-off and so there wasn’t long for us to wait until the teams were out on the pitch. We took our seat in the stand as Brecon, in red, and Abercarn, in black and white stripes, lined up. The game couldn’t get underway though until the Welsh lower league of ritual of asking spectators “Does anybody want to run the line?” had been performed, before two coaches reluctantly took on the roles. This seems to happen at every Welsh game I go to from every game down below the Welsh League, so I wasn’t surprised to see it happen here in a preseason friendly.

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Viva Gareth Bale.

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Happy with my coffee in a mug.

Brecon currently play in the South Wales Alliance League Premier Division and Abercarn in the Gwent League Division 1 – meaning both play in leagues the step below the Welsh League. Their equal footing showed in the early exchanges until Abercarn began to take a hold on the game. A lot of this came down to their no.9 up front who had a very, very impressive game for the visitors.

However, in the 15th minute it was the number 10 for Brecon who broke the deadlock in style, but in a running theme started in my last blog, I missed the goal. Why? Craig insisted I read a tweet about Sophie Ellis Bextor and Isaac Newton and I can’t even remember what the tweet was about now. The goal would have been far more memorable, as I just caught the end of the move as the no.10 hit the floor after performing an acrobatic volley from the edge of the 6 yard box.

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Match action.

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Match action.

Craig was acting about 3 times his age as he was getting increasingly annoyed with the two young lads playing a game of ‘who can slam the ball against the wall the hardest and loudest’. Whilst the youth wound up Craig, an old gentleman to our left delivered a textbook grandad move by offering us a Werther’s Original (this isn’t just stereotyping, this happened). But we politely declined his kind offer and with a football still slamming into the nearby wall, we decided to go wander the ground so I could take some photos.

I always find Welsh lower league football great fun, as although it may sometimes lack quality, it is usually fast-paced, chaotic and full of grit. This can apply to preseason too as demonstrated when the Abercarn winger clashed with the Brecon right back and a tussle broke out. The Abercarn player had little sympathy for his opponent on the floor following the tackle as he eloquently stated with a grin, “Get up you fucking pussy.” Poetic.

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Match action.

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Craig on thumbs up duty.

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Match action.

As we headed round to the stand-less side Abercarn deservedly equalised and with the last kick of the half they made it 2-1 as they finished a 1-on-1 opportunity.

Half-time: Brecon Corries 1 – 2 Abercarn United.

Abercarn started the second half as they finished the first and their no.9 continued to cause trouble. It was he who would score the next goal and a lovely goal at that. No.9 ran at the defense down the left before cutting inside and smashing a shot into the far corner from just inside the box. The keeper didn’t even move. The men to our left in the stand all began to praise the opposition striker now too as one stated “He can come play for us if he wants.”

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Craig at the Brunch Box.

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Stray ball.

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Match action.

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Match action.

Abercarn were relentless now and made it 4-1 in the 70th minute with a lovely glancing header from a cross. This was the cue for the lads in the stand to start shouting at ‘Pughie’, who I assumed was a player/coach, to get on and rescue things. He jokingly replied he wasn’t up for it anymore, before minutes later subbing himself on anyway.

Maybe it was Pughie’s impact that helped Brecon pull a goal back with a diving header that went in off the post in the 85th minute. But that was it for the scoring and Abercarn deservedly won 4-2. To be honest, if I had the guy in the photo below shouting at me on the touch line I’d make sure I’d win too.

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Scary coach (and makeshift linesman for the day). He reminded me a bit of former WWF wrestler Jim ‘The Anvil’ Neidhart.

Full-time: Brecon Corries 2 – 4 Abercarn United.

There was talk of have one last wander around town, but with texts from my Quakers Yard pals saying they were all down my local, the Glan Taff Inn (the place where this blog was born actually), we decided to head straight back. We made it through the Beacons on the main road this time and our journey back was a lot quicker (although, again, we had to stop for some photos).

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The beautiful Brecon Beacons.

A very enjoyable afternoon in beautiful Brecon and it was great to see some action-packed Welsh football too; a good fun preseason friendly to watch. Brecon Corries is definitely a lovely little football club worth visiting.

Aesthetically, I can still see why my Year 11 geography class decided Brecon was the better town. However, home is home and Merthyr Tydfil will always be best in my eyes.

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#lostboyos

Highlights: scenic trip through the Brecon Beacons, Brecon is lovely, good Spoons, Brecon Tap, scenic ground, decent friendly to watch.

Low Points: parking in Brecon, ground took bit of work to find.

All my photos coming on my Flickr page soon.

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