From Carlisle to Chester-le-Street
Chester-le-Street Town’s Moor Park may have been our final destination but it didn’t start out that way.
Gillford Park, home of Carlisle City, was our original target for today. However, the weather had put doubt in our minds the night before.
A post on Carlisle City’s Twitter account stated that a pitch inspection would occur at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday morning.
Our train tickets were for 09:48, meaning we would be committed once on the train.
With the pitch already threatened and severe weather forecast, we made the decision to stay local… and a good decision it turned out to be.
The pitch inspection confirmed our worst fears and the game was called off.
While this was going on, we still had an hour to kill before heading for our first bus.
Chester-le-Street is a market town in County Durham with a population of around 24,500.
It is located eleven miles to the south of Newcastle and twelve miles to the southwest of Sunderland. Durham is seven miles south of Chester-le-Street.
The town’s history goes right back to the days of the Roman Empire. The Romans built a fort (Castrum) in the area and the ‘Street’ facet of the name pertains to the road that ran from North to South through the town. (Now known as Front Street.)
The town parish church has importance to Christianity in the Northeast, being both the resting place for the bones of St Cuthbert (a venerated Northumberland saint) before his transferal to Durham Cathedral. It is also the site of the first translation of the Gospels into English.
Former England international Colin Todd and captain, Bryan Robson are among a number of professional players hailing from Chester-le-Street.
Chester-le-Street is also the home of Durham County Cricket Club and their Riverside Stadium occasionally also plays host to England international games.
Lumley Castle will be a familiar sight to anyone who has watched England or Durham matches on TV. Nestled in the treeline, it serves as a picturesque backdrop to the Riverside.
Our first bus arrived on time at 11:16 and roughly thirty minutes later, deposited us in Durham.
Once there, we headed to Greggs for some on-the-go lunch.
Clutching our goodies, we returned to Milburngate and had a short wait before the #21 bus arrived at 12:05.
Thirty minutes and two steak bakes later, we arrived at our destination.
Before we got there, though, I was intrigued by the name of a place we passed through.
As names go, it is up there with some of the more obscure town names dotted throughout the UK. There is a Wikipedia page dedicated to it and I will post the link here, as the actual reason it is called Pity Me is inconclusive.
Because Moor Park lies to the south of Chester-le-Street, we got off the bus before it carried on into the town. This saved us a half-hour walk from the town centre and we still had two watering holes to choose from.
The Church Mouse
The Church Mouse has a very appealing exterior and once inside, it looks good too.
The downside was the price of the beer!
We ordered a pint of Madri and an Atlantic IPA.
The two came to a total of £10.50!
This might be ‘normal’ in areas like London but up here in the North, that constitutes a hefty price for two beers. Compare this with The Cree in Ashington, where two similar pints cost us just £6.00
Needless to say, this would be a ‘one pint and gone’ job.
We sat and watched the TV in horror as images of the violence taking place in Israel flashed across both the TV screen and our Twitter feeds.
After leaving the Church Mouse, we walked along towards the other pub – the Chester Moor.
The plan was to have a pint in each but having been stung by the prices in the Church Mouse, we decided to head straight to the ground and have a drink in the social club instead.
Chester-le-Street Town – Moor Park Exterior
Walking down the road past the Chester Moor brings you to the club car park for Chester-le-Street Town.
Beyond the top of the car park is the gate leading into the ground. To the right side is the social club and this is where we headed.
It was clear that a friendly banter between the red and white and black and white sections of the Northeast was underway.
The friendly guy behind the bar was a Newcastle fan and clearly loved the scoreline while teasing his Sunderland friends.
We ordered a Carling and a Caffreys for a much more reasonable £7.40 before taking our seats.
The room itself was pretty big and filled with tables and chairs. A TV and a large pull-down screen were showing the Wearside/Teesside derby.
Plenty of football memorabilia was dotted around the walls, including one area where quite a few Premier League player shirts were mounted in a large frame.
The biggest feature of the walls was reserved for a mining banner pertaining to the Chester Moor Lodge. The whole of the Northeast has an ingrained relationship with the coal mining industry and Chester-le-Street is no different.
Unfortunately, the club were out of pin badges, so if anyone knows where I can get one, please let me know.
EDIT: It turns out that the friendly Newcastle fan behind the bar was none other than former Premier League referee Alan Wilkie. If you don’t remember him, he was the guy who sent off Eric Cantona at Crystal Palace before Eric launched himself into the crowd with that infamous kung-fu kick.
It also explains the impressive array of Premier League player’s shirts on the wall.
Chester-le-Street Town – Moor Park Interior
After leaving the social club, we made our way to the entrance gate.
This is basically a gate and a garden shed in the corner of the ground.
We paid £5.00 each plus £1.00 for a programme.
Cards are not accepted at the gate but you can pay inside the social club.
The Cestrian is a cheap and cheerful effort from Town and great value at just £1.00.
At forty pages long (the first three and last four are glossy adverts) it is jam-packed full of info with no further adverts.
An excellent effort from a Level Ten club!
Once inside, we found ourselves at the northeast corner of the ground.
To our right was the north end, which is a path doubling up as a partially covered standing area.
The only other thing of note is a net behind the goal to help keep the ball inside the ground.
Ahead of us was the east side of Moor Park.
Again, there is nothing of real note on this side of the ground.
A path carries on round to the south end and a new-looking fence lies on the outer edge of the path.
Four floodlights are located on this side of the ground.
The southern end of Moor Park is where things start to get interesting.
There are five levels of terracing with a narrow roofed shelter at the top that gives great views of the game.
On the western side of this terrace, a brick wall separates the end from the corner. The terrace carries on around the corner without any cover.
Although the terrace carries on around the corner, it lowers down to just two levels before petering out altogether.
The main stand is on this side of the ground, containing the dressing rooms and players’ tunnel. The stand has a seating capacity of 200 spectators.
Technical dugouts stand on either side of the tunnel.
Beyond the main stand, there is nothing other than the path.
The other four floodlights are on this side of the pitch, mirroring the eastern side.
Chester-le-Street Town – Moor Park Interior Gallery
Chester-le-Street Town Tidbits
The Cestrians were founded in 1972 as Chester-le-Street Garden Farm.
They were named after the Garden Farm pub the founders drank in.
In 1975 the club was admitted to the Washington League, winning the Championship, the Durham Minor Cup and the Washington A.M. Cup.
Until 1977, Town played on a pitch at the Riverside Ground before moving to the Sacriston C.W. ground.
This was also the year they joined the Wearside League and changed their name to the name they have today.
In 1980, the club moved to its present home at Moor Park, which at the time consisted of just dressing rooms and a perimeter fence.
They joined the Northern League in 1983 and won the Division Two title in their first season.
The social club was built in 2020 through different forms of funding.
A total of £750,000 has been spent bringing Moor Park to its current Northern League standard.
Chester-le-Street Town – Pre-Game View of Moor Park
Chester-le-Street Town v Blyth Town – The Game
Coming into today’s game, both teams were contesting for positions at the right end of the league table.
Blyth Town lay in third place, while the Cestrians were in sixth place.
That said, CLS Town have played more games than the majority of the teams around them and Blyth Town came into this match as the favourites.
Indeed, the home side had won only one of their last six games, having drawn two and lost three.
Meanwhile, the visitors had won all three of their last league games, scoring an incredible twenty-one goals in doing so.
With all this in mind, my pre-match prediction was a 1-2 win for Blyth Town.
I never learn…
The game went as expected to begin with.
Blyth looked the more confident and able team with Dan Wilson, the Blyth number nine, looking a handful up front.
In fact, it was Dan Wilson who opened the day’s scoring with a well-taken penalty to put Blyth 1-0 up.
That was as good as it got for the visitors though, and eight minutes after going behind, Michael Gray gave the hosts a thirtieth-minute equaliser.
This sent the teams in level at the half-time interval.
Whispers of raised voices in the Blyth dressing room at halftime didn’t bode well for them and the second half was all CLS.
Two further goals put the hosts firmly in the driving seat as first Scott Wallace (65) and then Connor Shaw (70) put the visitors to the sword.
A somewhat surprising but very well-deserved three points for the Cestrians.
You can read a full Match Report here, as and when one becomes available on the club website.
Attendance – 169
Entrance Fee – £5.00
Programme – £1.00
Chester-le-Street Town – Post-Match Interview
League Table After Today’s Game
League table courtesy of the Northern League website.
Next up for the Cestrians is a trip to Teesside to face Billingham Town on the 14th of October.
This is followed a week later with the hosting of another Teesside team, Thornaby.
They finish October out with a trip to Prudhoe YC Seniors for a Friday evening game at Essity Park on the 27th.
Blyth Town will be hoping it won’t be another horror show on Friday the 13th when they host Boldon CA.
The Northumberland team’s other remaining league game in October is also at home when they face Horden CW on October 28th.
Moor Park is a fantastic ground to visit!
It has so much character for a ground at this level and easily matches some of the grounds in the league, maybe two leagues, above them.
The programme is cheap and full of information to read and this is yet another lower-league club shaming the bigger teams who don’t bother to produce a printed programme.
The social club is roomy and friendly, with reasonably priced beer.
It was a shame that no pin badges were available and I hope they will become available in the near future. Groundhoppers love a pin badge when they visit a new ground, so hopefully, a restock won’t be too long in coming.
A little TLC wouldn’t go amiss in cleaning up the paths with a power wash and a sweep of the leaves off the terrace and the pitch.
That is a minor moan though and this is a ground I will happily revisit at some point in the future.
One little amusing anecdote I have to leave here from Mrs Hopper.
Upon seeing the advertisement for the Penshaw Suite behind the north goal, she said she had thought it was the hospitality area and wasn’t very impressed. 😂
Chester-le-Street – After the Game
Towards the end of the game, I noticed a familiar face sitting on the terrace at the south end of the ground. Most groundhoppers who are on Twitter will be aware of Daniel Turner and it was good to meet him on Saturday.
Following the final whistle, it was a simple walk to the bus stop which is between the ground and the Church Mouse.
We caught the #21 bus back to Durham at 17:03, arriving well in time to catch the 17:40 bus home.
It’s not often we are back home for 18:15, so that was a nice bonus to the day and we were soon eating nice hot homemade soup while watching a bit of TV.
Next Up for Hoppers Guide
Next week is still up in the air with regard to our game.
We have planned to travel to Morecambe for their home game against Crawley Town.
However, with Go North East still due to hold industrial action starting on Saturday, we may have no game at all.
I remain hopeful that it will be sorted out in time but we will see…
Onto the next!