Bakewell Town FC – Bakewell Recreation Ground

A lot of things, considered to be staples of the world we live in were created accidentally. Velcro, cornflakes and coca-cola to name just three; LSD another. Dr Albert Hofmann inadvertently created the substance which he then unwittingly absorbed through his fingertips. Hallucinations followed. Another accidental creation, even more potent and divisive can be traced back to the heart of the Peak District; the Bakewell Pudding.

Standing pitchside at the Bakewell Recreation Ground, as the town’s football team took on Wirksworth Ivanhoe, I enjoyed a brief break from watching the action to query where the best place to find one of these famed local delicacies would be. An enormous debacle erupted. “You want the one near the chippy! That’s the proper one!” came the fierce shout from one local woman enjoying an afternoon stroll, rudely interrupting her friend who was about to offer her opinion. “No! You don’t want that one! You want the one around the corner!” came an ardent rebuff from her mate. They were mates until I met them. This could well have been the final straw.

Honestly, it wasn’t always my plan to head to Derbyshire and ruin long standing friendships. In fact, Paul and I had only decided to head southwards a couple of days beforehand. After days of wall-to-wall media coverage, it was finally the day of Prince Philip’s funeral. The main event was taking place at 15:00 which meant that no football was allowed to take place during that time. Leagues instructed their member clubs to choose earlier (or later) kick-off times to avoid a clash as a mark of respect. Every single match taking place across the nation had to be rearranged, which went completely against the Duke’s reported final wishes, where he said he didn’t ‘want any fuss to be made’.

Most teams, keen to crack on with their weekends, pencilled their fixtures in for earlier kick-off times. We did, after a lot of trawling through fixtures, manage to find a double-header taking place in the Central Midlands Football League, with a 12:30 kick-off at Bakewell Town followed by a 16:30 start time at Glapwell. Having met up with Paul, early on in Thirsk, it all looked to be plain sailing as I cracked open a couple of cans and thoroughly enjoyed life in the passenger seat. However, close to Bolsover, a campervan fire on the M1 had put all of our carefully orchestrated plans in jeopardy.

Just in front of us, the motorway had been completely shut as a dark, black plume of smoke erupted in the near distance. Each lane displayed a flashing red cross, signalling to us we could well be here for some time. Once the fire engines had fought their way through, we turned off the engine and enjoyed an impromptu stroll around the car on the M1. I wondered whether people ticked off motorways they had stood on. Would that be sadder than groundhopping? Maybe not.

Half an hour later we were finally allowed on our way. All that remained of the campervan, as ‘Ash – Burn Baby Burn’ poignantly began playing, was a charred exterior; our hopes of making Bakewell in time lay in a similar state. Paul asked me not to shout abuse at the devastated campervan owners, informing me that shouting, “Don’t you know we’re going to miss kick off at Bakewell because of you!” wouldn’t improve their situation.

Zipping downhill into Chesterfield, we passed its famous crooked spire and continued clawing minutes back, arriving in Bakewell with just five minutes of the match gone. A sizeable crowd had gathered at the Recreation Ground, with both the cricket club and football club in action this afternoon. Spectators could watch both sports by strategically straddling the pathway which sliced directly through the middle. The football club, on this occasion, were playing on the pitch closest to the A6, with just a small dry stone wall preventing a misplaced through ball from reaching the passing traffic.

Football has been played in Bakewell since 1883, when a side going by the name of Bakewell Town FC were founded at a hotel in Derby. Today’s club isn’t the same but is in fact the result of a merger between three clubs which occured at the turn of the millenium. Spells in the Hope Valley League, which they won in 2017, and more recently the Central Midlands League have followed.

Over the past year or so, there has been a move towards further community engagement and professionalism at Bakewell Town. A brand new badge symbolises the area, featuring prominent landmarks such as the bridge, church and river. An increased presence on social media and new branding is complimented by ambitions to add further teams to their club setup. These, when mixed together, were all reasons why there was such a large crowd present for this game. Attendance was of course swelled by neutrals who were keen to take in a match, with Bakewell being a lovely day out, even during times of restrictions.

Behind the near goal, I bumped into Dudsey who had dropped the women in his life off at Meadowhall and hotfooted it down to Bakewell for the game. We have followed each other on Twitter for a few years, so it was nice to finally watch a game together, albeit without any of the pints which we always discussed we would have. Hopefully next time.

On the pitch, things weren’t as friendly, especially near the Wirksworth Ivanhoe bench, where frustrations were beginning to boil over. “Play your shape!” shouted the manager at his winger, before he immediately shouted back, “There’s two of them there, you thick c***! Take me off if you want!” Spectators who were watching the game from the tree lined touchline joined together with a, “Ooooooooh!” in a high pitched chorus. Somehow, he remained on the pitch.

In the middle of the crowd which had gathered – yards from the swearing – Bakewell volunteer Dave Cottrell was busy selling a range of refreshments from a small table. He was also being mithered from all angles for club badges and bobble hats, seemingly pleased with today’s influx of custom. A Plymouth Argyle fan originally, with his accent still firmly rooted in the West Country, he was clearly proud of his adopted club and spoke vividly about how the club’s pitch allowed them to feel at the heart of the community.

He was probably disappointed that his side couldn’t put in a match winning performance in front of a decent crowd. Half chances came and went for both sides but we all knew, deep down, that this would be one of those matches. Thankfully, the referee’s whistle put us all out of our misery.

After the game, Paul and I had an hour or so to spend in Bakewell before we had to set off over to Glapwell to make the afternoon’s second match. The campervan fire had played havoc with my planned ‘bakewell pudding crawl’ which was due to form the pre-match build up. I had prepared scoring cards and tasting notes, ready to decide once and for all, which shop in Bakewell sells the best. More qualified people have tried and failed.

The centre of Bakewell is small and on this Saturday afternoon it was crowded, which was fantastic to see. Off the main street, there are a number of shops in close proximity where you can purchase what is claimed to be the ‘first’ or either the ‘best’ Bakewell pudding. Feuds between neighbours are common place, everywhere, but it all threatened to get a bit out of hand a couple of years ago when two of the ‘main players’ in the world of Bakewell pudding’s clashed in court. The Original Old Bakewell Shop triumphed, over local rivals Bloomers.

Neither are where the original was first made though. Apparently, the dessert itself was invented completely by accident in 1859, over the road in what is now the Rutland Arms Hotel. The woman who happened to create the recipe was trying to make a Bakewell Tart for an important guest and she missed the flour out of the mixture. A success, the recipe was then bought by those at the Original Old Bakewell Shop and that is where they now churn out over 15,000 puddings a week, snapped up by tourists.

“I can’t believe you’ve just paid £10 for two puddings and two tarts,” lamented Paul as we left the Old Bakewell Shop and headed back towards the car. This attitude irritated me. How can you go all the way to Bakewell and NOT purchase a pudding? My Grandad once took my sister on a train journey from Atherton all the way to Bakewell and back, with the sole purpose being to purchase pudding. It simply had to be done and I wasn’t at all bothered about the cost.

As Paul happily tucked into his overpriced desserts which I had bought for him, we headed further along the course of the River Wye, which was lined with rainbow trout, all feeding in the clear shallow waters. Further upstream, at the very end of a bland industrial estate we found Thornbridge Brewery, one of the largest and most popular breweries in the UK. Founded in 2005, their beers can now be found on the shelves of most supermarkets and they have even started branching out further afield, running their own bars.

The glorious sunshine had encouraged flocks of drinkers to head to this secluded corner of the town and a large queue had formed. Darting out of the Tap Room, also on his way to Glapwell, was Sheffield FC secretary Stuart, who had also been at the Bakewell game earlier. He had got a couple of drinks down him before he headed along to watch his reserve side in action. “They’re being a bit funny letting people in,” he kindly advised us, before we waved him off. Patiently we waited in line and eventually we were waved forward, in the same way you would expect at border patrol after landing in a communist country. It was all very over the top.

With great difficulty, the bloke “squeezed” us in. We sat in the large marquee which had been erected in recent weeks. Prince Philip’s funeral was about to start as I ordered a Jaipur, Green Mountain and a Florida Weisse. It’s what the Duke would have wanted. In a similar style to Sir Alex Ferguson, Paul was soon tapping his watch, signalling it was time to press on as I stared longingly at the extensive list of craft beers that were available. Next stop, Glapwell.

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