After gaining promotion Hereford will play their last game in the Evo-Stik Southern League at St Ives Town on Saturday 28th April. It is likely to be party time for Bulls fans, with many arriving in fancy dress as arranged by Reg and the Away Days coaches. Simon Wright has taken a look at St Ives Town for Talking Bull and predicts a great day out.
With Spring well underway and Summer peeping daringly around the corner, our football season. as ever, comes to an abrupt end. You’ll have to take my word of course, but this is a laidback friendly place to wrap up another successful season. (and celebrate the birthday of Radio Hereford FC’s Frank Williams. Drinks are on him). This St Ives is not in Cornwall so there aren’t any beaches or artists. This St Ives nestles close to Cambridge, a small town with serious history and a river, the Great Ouse, (far prettier than it sounds). Ground to riverside pubs is walkable in just a few minutes. Yes, there is a Wetherpoons in St Ives but there is so much more to admire. I reckon this is a fine venue for an end of season weekender though accommodation in the town is already filling fast. This is a market town with under 17,000 people and 17 pubs. It sits just off the A14, 12 miles from Cambridge.
I visited last summer when the entire Board, doubling up as a working party, were delighted to down tools on a hot day and introduce themselves. Big Hi to Nigel, Marina, Gareth, Chris and Mark.
Yep, OK, the ground is modest, on a par with Kings Langley and Royston (or Alvechurch), but just like those other sides, Ives are new to Step 3 with meagre support. This is only their second season at this level and they will be pleased enough to start a third term. They only reached Step 4 level for the first time in 2013. Attendances are smaller than those of Gosport but the reality is that the Ives are a small club in a small town with lots of nearby competition.
It is what it is and massive credit goes to the hard-working Board who get by with begging, borrowing and donating many hours of unpaid labour. They don’t need telling Westwood Road looks dated. The choices are a new ground which is being explored with the Council with two new locations or re-developing the existing facilities. The preference is to stay put in what is a very central location but how to raise funds?
In theory, Westwood Road can hold 2,000 but this is untested. Largest crowd to date was the 1,700 who squeezed in “three or four deep” around the perimeter fencing for a Play-off Final against Rushden two years ago.
On the clubhouse side is surely the smallest stand in the world for the press and directors – maybe 20 seats behind a few terraced steps. On the opposite touchline is a succession of some covered terraces and a 200-seater stand of similar design to Royston’s. Our Disabulls are advised to stay on this side for a better view and easier access.
The standout feature is the splendid huge green water tank donated free by North Greenford FC, provided they could collect. Not a problem for the Ives as two of their Board members drive trucks. Admission is the standard £10 adults, Concessions (over 65’s) £6 and U16’s at £2.
The regular tarmac car park is the other side of the entrance track and shared with the leisure centre. It’s normally full by 2pm but fortunately there is an additional facility behind the ground which will be opened especially for us.
The all-significant bar is perhaps a bit smaller than Addisons. All alcohol here is bottled though our hosts do promise to stock 12-16 real ales at £3 a time. Low brown furniture dominates, similar to that in Addisons. The front entrance has steps so if you need it, bear in mind the rear entrance has ramped access. As already mentioned, the town centre is a few minutes’ walk away. So look out for Floods Tavern on the Broadway, selling 3 Elgood real ales, or the Nelson’s Head in Merryland, a Greene King house with 3 “GK” real ales, a food menu and a beer garden. The local “Spoons” the Swan and Angel is a little further away in Market Hill. Twelve handpulls to choose from.
By Road: 140 miles (PE27 6DT) From A14 (J26) continue along London Road (A1096). On entering St Ives, continue over the first roundabout and over the bypass (Harrison Way), continue over the next two roundabouts (still on Harrison Way). Turn left at the next two mini roundabouts onto the A1123 (Needingworth Road/St Audrey Lane). Turn left at the cross roads onto Ramsey Road where Westwood Road can be found on the right-hand side (opposite the Fire Station). Continue to the bottom of the road where the football club turning can be found.
By Train: From the Shire, hopeless as usual. From the Deep South, just an hour from Kings Cross to Huntingdon, the nearest rail station. There are regular buses from Huntingdon to St Ives where you need the stop in front of the Slepe Hall.