Posted: 5/6/2008
Title: SEASON FINALE AT EARLS ORCHARD

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      Richmond, North Yorkshire is one of the most handsome towns anywhere, one of 58 Richmond's world wide. The 2nd is near London and the 3rd in Virginia. Although there was a Roman encampement it was the Normans, from Rich-Monte who settled there and a friend of William the Conqueror,  Alan Rufus, built the castle, after the Conquest of 1066.  The town has a large, cobbled market square, surrounded by 17th and 18th Century Georgian buildings, with the weekly market each Saturday.

     Richmond Castle is 11th Century, overlooking the River Swale, the swiftest in Britain, and directly across the river is one of THE most spectacular settings for a soccer field anywhere on Earth-and I have researched many of them.  It was the last weekend for the Wensleydale Creamery League and local rivals Richmond Town FC were hosting Bucks Inn Broncos at Earls Orchard, and both were joint 5th with 35 points. The dramatic background are the ramparts and walls of the castle, now an English Heritage site. There were about 30 spectators plus three dogs, Missy, a Jack Russell, Stamp, a cocker spaniel, and Ruby, a Boxer. Lying by the side of the pitch was a long pole and fish net, in case the ball went in the river.

    I had spoken with the wife of the Town manager Peter Marshall at their sports shop in town,who boasted that the field was in immaculate condition, due to his tender loving care. It was their Academy team, local boys who had won the Cup last year and despite their ages, in their late teens, were now playing older teams.The club has 15 teams from U6 to senior, and 2 girls teams. They were wearing royal blue to their opponents yellow and I arrived to see Gareth Love get an equalizer before Mickey Sortini scored a late winner 2-1 for the Bucks in the last minute. I had missed the opening goal by Philip Stirling.  Many of the boys attend Richmond School. One old boy was Lewis Carroll, the pen name of Charles Dodgson, author of 'Alice in Wonderland'.

    They have a nice pavilion with hot showers, so no danger of taking a bath in the river and getting swept away in the Swale, and as their sponsor is The Turf Inn, owned by their other team manager Steve Moss, they enjoy sausages and chips and watch Sky soccer on TV in town afterwards. I visited The Turf before catching the bus out of town and the bar was decorated with signed football boots of Allan Shearer and Paul Gascoigne plus a framed England jersey signed by David Beckham plus cricket, ice hockey, horse racing, golf and other memorabilia.

    At the indoor market I had enjoyed delicious slices of home made cake for 70 p. The walnut cream was the tastiest and I also had the Russian slice, soaked in plum brandy. The stallholder swore by the passion cake. He said that his friend the pet shop owner 'had sex 3 times after eating it'. I asked which had been the unfortunate pet !!

    Earls Orchard used to be used for jousting by local knights but that hasn't happened for a few centuries. It's a steep climb across the river bridge and up the hill to the town, and I stopped at No. 6 Castlegate, the HQ of the Richmond Amateur Dramatic Society. There is a brass plaque outside on the wall.  During The Commonwealth Period 1649-1660,(after the beheading of King Charles I) acting was forbidden by the puritans and in 1652, four local men were convicted of 'acting'. They were found guilty, stripped to the middle and whipped till their bodyes be bloodied for rogues. Their names were William Archer, Stephen Kirby, John Binckes and John Ripon. ( I guess that's why the young soccer players on Earls Orchard didn't try acting or 'diving' in front of the referee. He was dressed in black and white, just like the Puritans!!).

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