Consett and Match
Fourteen miles to the southwest of Newcastle on the edge of the Northern Pennines, lies Consett, County Durham.
This would be the scene for our next adventure in the northeast and what an adventure it turned out to be!
Consett and the surrounding area have an abundance of coal, limestone and iron ore. These were ingredients needed for the iron and steel industries and Consett grew on the back of this.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, Consett was the centre of the British steel industry.
British iron ore has a high phosphorous content and was therefore imported from abroad and shipped from Newcastle. However, with the invention of the Bessemer process, British ore could now be used. Ironically, this led to Sheffield, home of today’s visitors, becoming the hotbed of the British steel industry, rather than Consett.
Sadly, all that now remains of this history is the club’s nickname, the Steelmen.
As of 2021, Consett had a population of over 29,000.
At about 900 ft above sea level, Consett is one of the highest towns in the United Kingdom. On average, due to this elevation, Consett is typically at least 2 °C colder than nearby cities like Durham and Newcastle.
This is one of the reasons I wanted to visit Belle View Stadium in the summer.
Oh, what a naive fool I am!
Our journey began with the 09:46 #65 bus to Durham.
Upon arrival in the cathedral city at 10:15, the inevitable happened. Yep, we raided Greggs of its pastries!
We then caught the 10:30 X5 bus to Consett, arriving at 11:15.
As ground hops go, they don’t get much easier on public transport.
The sun was shining and we didn’t even have any Broken Britain characters to contend with this week, much to our relief.
Consett – Pre-Game
After arriving in Consett, we had first determined to visit the Terris Novalis sculpture on the edge of the town. We then planned to move on to the Grey Horse pub, which is the tap house for the local Consett Aleworks Brewery. It is also the oldest pub in the town, dating back over 150 years.
This didn’t happen though, so I am giving them a mention here as I’m sure it is well worth a visit if you decide to add Consett AFC to your agenda.
Prior to our visit, I had never heard of the Terris Novalis statue and it is a very quirky and lovely effort, indeed.
The sculptures consist of two measuring instruments; a theodolite and an engineer’s level.
They stand at an impressive twenty times the size of real instruments, or six metres to you and me.
The sculptures are made from stainless steel and are quirkily supported on animal feet. These include a horse, crocodile, lion, bird of prey, cow and a primate’s hand.
This incredible work by Tony Cragg was made between 1993 and 1997 and they are a visual reflection of the industrial history of the region.
They sit on the site of the original Consett steelworks, next to the old Stanhope and Tyne Railway line. This was the oldest commercial railway line in Britain, opened in 1834 and closed in stages throughout the 20th century.
Terris Novalis translates from Latin to “the new land” (according to Google anyway!)
Local M.P. Hilary Armstrong unveiled the sculptures on 22nd September 1997.
Just a Little Further…
Now this is where our plans went all to pot and the Grey Horse was the casualty.
With the clock still thirty minutes shy of opening time, we made the fateful decision to carry on along the Coast to Coast cycle path and have a look at the Hownsgill Viaduct.
The viaduct is located a further one mile down the track and the better part of two miles from our eventual destination of Belle View Stadium.
We set off in the beautiful northeast countryside and the sun beamed its approving smile upon us…
It was lovely to see this path being used by locals and tourists alike. Cyclists, dog walkers and just people generally enjoying the walk passed us by.
We arrived at the viaduct and were disappointed to find the view somewhat spoiled by fencing erected along the length of the structure. Due to the amount of people taking their own lives from the top of the bridge, it is, however, understandable.
To get around the disappointment, we decided to view it from below instead.
My legs are still very angry with me.
Having found a path to one side, we safely descended the one hundred and fifty feet drop to the bottom via luck, curses, laughter and sliding.
Would I do it again? No, but I’m glad I did this time.
At the bottom of the steep incline made by mountain goats (it’s true!), we were rewarded with some stunning views of the viaduct.
Originally a part of the aforementioned Stanhope and Tyne Railway, it was opened in 1858. The railway track itself was closed in the early 1980s, with the tracks lifted by 1985.
Spanning the ravine below, the Hownsgill Viaduct is 700 feet long and 150 feet high. The completed bridge is made up of over three million white firebricks and has twelve, fifty-foot wide arches.
It is a stunning piece of architecture.
After admiring the viaduct, we were faced with a problem… getting back up!
There was no way I was getting back up the way we had come down, so we set off along the ravine floor and found a gentler-looking path leading in the general direction we wanted.
It turned out to be a good decision because we came across another interesting feature I hadn’t heard of before, the Hownsgill Caves.
The ‘caves’ aren’t actually caves at all. Rather, they are the remains of an old quarry where the sandstone was removed while leaving the rock in place.
The end result is an exposed cliff face with cave-like excavations.
Mrs Hopper was a big fan of this area and all the graffiti that covers the remains.
We followed the path that goes past and over the quarry and eventually came out back where we had started the descent.
By this time the gentle rumbles of thunder that had been growling in the distance brought a welcome relief in the form of a light shower.
As we walked along back into Consett, the light shower became a moderate shower and more thunder and lightning heralded our return to the town.
Only one thing for it, find a watering hole.
Consett – Traveller’s Rest
At the end of the path, we came to a roundabout on the A292. Crossing straight over it and following the A292 to just short of the next roundabout, we turned right onto Gill Street and our destination, the Traveller’s Rest.
A welcome sight it was at this stage, too.
Inside a huge open fireplace dominates the right side of the bar, while tables and chairs dot the rest of the room.
At the bar, we ordered a Neck Oil IPA and a Stella which came to an expensive total of £9.70.
After giving Mrs Hopper the order to “sip it”, we took our seats on the left of the bar.
On the TV was the Bournemouth versus Spurs game, while upstairs, a hen party was in the embryonic stages of a wild night out. The chairs moving about on the floor above us were reminiscent of the noise generated by the great wildebeest migration back to the Serengeti.
The welcome respite was over and time was ticking on, so we made our way across the road, to Belle View Stadium.
Consett – Belle View Stadium
A short walk down Delves Lane, a left turn into the road that doubles up as a continuation of the C2C cycle route and the Consett ground was ahead of us.
A large car park fronts the stadium and beyond that, the main building at the club.
A large brick building with the club crest on it, which is the epicentre of Consett AFC.
It houses the social club, a snack bar, the dressing rooms and presumably the administrative office.
To the far right of this building is the turnstile.
Entry is by cash or card at the gate and costs £10 per person.
Also for sale at the gate, is the excellent matchday programme. For just £2 you get a programme that matches and in some cases, exceeds that of a more expensive issue from bigger clubs.
Well done Consett!
If Consett can produce a programme like this at level eight of the football pyramid, why can’t more illustrious clubs even produce one at all?
The answer? There isn’t enough profit in them so they don’t bother.
In my opinion, this profit-at-all-costs reasoning is indicative of why people are turning their backs on top-flight football in exchange for their local non-league teams.
Once inside, we found ourselves on the south side of the ground.
However, to simplify things, I will start with the east end of the ground.
It doesn’t get much simpler actually.
With just a path and a large net behind the goal, that’s the east end.
Around the path and onto the north side of Belle View, not a lot changes.
There is a small seated, covered stand that spans the halfway line.
The stand provides seating for approximately 95 spectators.
Having initially decided to sit in this stand for the match, we changed our minds after trying it out. On top of the perimeter fence being quite high as perimeter fencing goes, there were also bars that obstructed the view in the centre of the stand.
These are due to the club admirably providing seating for their disabled supporters.
Admirable, but it does detract from the experience for other people in the stand in my opinion.
It should also be noted that the wind and rain easily find their way into the stand due to there being nothing on the sides to keep the elements at bay.
The west end of the ground is a mirror image of the east end.
A net and a path around to the south side.
This brings us back around to the main centre of activity at Belle View, the south side.
There is a retractable players’ tunnel that comes out of the brick building and onto the pitch. Beyond that is the entrance to the social club and a window for snacks.
At the eastern end of this side of the ground is another small stand, that is very similar to the one on the north side.
There are also some very nicely decorated technical dugouts with the club crest festooning them. These are situated on either side of the halfway line.
The pitch is a 3G playing surface, while six floodlights provide illumination to Belle View Stadium, three on each side of the pitch.
A high green metal mesh fence runs around the perimeter of the pitch and a wooden fence runs around the outer limits of the stadium.
The club played at Belle Vue Park until November 2013 when they moved to Belle View Stadium. Belle View is a purpose-built community sports facility that is now home to Consett AFC.
It has a total capacity of 3,770, with seating for up to 250 spectators.
The club was established in 1899 as Consett Celtic, only changing the name to Consett in 1922.
Consett’s record attendance of 7,000 was set at the old Belle Vue Park in 1950 when they entertained Sunderland Reserves.
The Steelmen earned promotion to the NPL Division One East in the 2021/22 season after defeating Histon in a play-off game.
Consett AFC – Belle View Stadium Gallery
Consett AFC – Pre-Game View of the Belle View Stadium
Consett AFC Social Club
After walking around the ground, we decided to treat ourselves at the snack bar. A cheeseburger and chips each cost us just over £13.
After checking that it was okay to do so, we took our food into the club and found a seat to eat. We then changed our minds and ate the burger and chips instead.
We also managed to get a lovely teamsheet from the gentleman who was putting them up on the walls in their dedicated wall box, so thank you to him for that,
The club bar is modern and efficient but lacks any character.
Rows of tables and chairs populate the room and the bar is located to the left as you enter.
By this point, we were wet, tired and just wanted to eat our dinner, so I completely forgot to take any photographs inside, my apologies.
It was nice to meet one of the Consett fans who follows our Twitter page while we were inside the club. After saying hello and having a quick chat, I had a go at the football card he was selling for £2 per team. Of course, I selected Stoke and of course, Stoke never won.
After eating our lunch, we went back outside and stood by the fence to the right of the home dugout.
Consett AFC v Sheffield FC – The Game
Coming into today’s game, Consett were unbeaten in the last four league and cup matches.
A 0-0 draw against our friends from Dunston (Hopper Tales #78) in their last game, was preceded by two FA Cup wins against Kendall Town and Penrith, plus a league win against Winterton Rangers.
There was also a game against Pontefract Collieries that was abandoned due to floodlight failure in the 82nd minute. Consett were leading the game 1-0 at the time.
Visitors Sheffield FC have also had a decent start to the season, with progress in the FA Cup coupled with seven points from a possible twelve in their opening four league games.
They would be hoping to extend their good start after travelling 127 miles for today’s game.
Personally, my pre-match prediction was for a 2-1 home win. Though, as Mrs Hopper will testify, I was torn between two and three goals for the home side.
Turns out I was wrong either way!
The first half was largely dominated by the weather.
We began the half-standing to the right of the home dugout but as the rain came teeming down, we walked to the stand in the southeast corner.
I say ‘walked’ but the reality is that we ran like the rain was scalding us.
I would say more about the first half but I think rain is about all that I remember about it, to be honest.
We stood in the far corner at the back of the stand, with the wind whipping the rain through the sides and making it feel more like the end of autumn than summer.
Then the halftime whistle blew… at least, that’s how I remember the first half.
Halftime – Consett AFC 0 Sheffield FC 0
At halftime, I went through the ritual of checking to see how Stoke City were faring.
A tough away game at The Den, where we lose more often than not, didn’t have my hopes up. My hopes were realised as I opened the LiveScore app. Millwall 1 Stoke 0 and that’s how it stayed at full-time despite a better second half from the Potters.
Despite the disappointment, for the first time since relegation from the Premier League, I feel this could be a year where we have a chance.
I will go as far as to say watch out for us in the playoffs! (I really shouldn’t have said that!)
Conditions were improved in the second half and that’s when all the action took place.
An exciting fourteen-minute spell saw five goals scored.
The hosts took the lead in the 52nd minute before an equaliser brought Sheffield parity in the 57th. (See video below.)
Sheffield’s joy lasted all of thirty seconds as Consett retook the lead immediately from the restart.
They added a further two goals in the 61st and 66th minutes to wrap up a dominant second period.
It should be noted that a number of injuries to Sheffield FC saw their numbers reduced to ten in the second half after running out of substitutes.
Throughout the match, there were intermittent showers, including a first-half downpour that was reminiscent of the Indian monsoon season.
Players struggled to cope with the conditions as they ran around with their sodden shirts clinging to them like me holding on to my last steak bake.
The surface, despite being ‘all-weather’, sounded soggy and sucking noises came from it whenever the players were nearby. Small puddles had started to gather along the edges.
As for the goalkeepers, I have no idea how they were able to hold onto the ball during that particular downpour.
At one point, we were treated to a rainbow, barely poking over the fence on the far side. Another indicator that we were higher up than it felt.
It was a bit of a surprise that the referee didn’t call the players off the pitch at one point, with lightning being a very real danger to their safety.
All in all, a huge well done to everyone who coped with those atrocious conditions.
Full-time – Consett AFC 4 Sheffield FC 1
Attendance – 217
Entrance Fee – £10.00
Programme – £2.00
Consett AFC v Sheffield FC – Match Highlights
I don’t think there are any official club highlights available from either team but if and when they become available, I will add them.
Next up for Consett is a visit to Woodhorn Lane, home of Ashington (Hopper Tales #75) on the 28th August.
This is followed by two Cup matches. First, an FA Cup tie at home to Bradford Park Avenue on September 2nd. This is followed by an FA Trophy meeting at Bootle a week later.
Consett then return to league action as Hebburn Town (Hopper Tales #37) visit Belle View.
For Sheffield, it is a swift return to action. They face Stocksbridge Park Steels tonight (August 28th) and I hope that injury list isn’t too bad for them after today.
On September 2nd, they face an FA Cup game away at Worksop Town before returning home the following week for an FA Trophy match against Spalding United.
September 16th sees a return to league action with a visit to Liversedge.
When funds allow, I would advise Consett to think about a separate stand for disabled supporters. This would allow them to remove the black bars and give an unobstructed view for other spectators. It would also allow disabled supporters and carers their own dedicated space.
I would also put some kind of cover on the sides of those stands to help keep people protected from the harsh northeast weather during winter.
It was harsh enough in the summer! 😂
Another recommendation I would make to the club is to show off their history somewhere.
The club was formed in 1899, yet there is nothing visible (that I saw) to show this. A graphical timeline could have a great visual impact without costing a fortune.
Consett is yet another typically friendly northeast ground, where you are sure to find people happy to chat football with you.
A pity the weather didn’t match the hospitality!
Consett – After the Game
Following the final whistle, I suddenly remembered I had forgotten to get a pin badge. I knew they were on sale behind the bar in the social club, so we headed that way.
As we approached the club, Jason, our Twitter friend saw us coming and asked if we had got a pin badge as they were now sold out.
Is he psychic?
Having told him we had only just remembered, he kindly offered to send us one through the post at no cost to us. This is indicative of the sort of people we have been experiencing on our footballing odyssey across the northeast and Scotland.
Football fans are often given a bad name, in some cases rightly so, but for the most part, football fans are just one big friendly family.
Thank you, Jason!
We headed back up the road to Consett bus station and after a short wait, caught the 17:19 X15 bus to Durham.
We arrived in Durham shortly before the 20A to Houghton arrived, so the timing was good there.
Another short wait in Houghton and we were on the X1 back to Hetton.
In through the front door before 19:00 is always nice. It’s especially nice when your clothes are sodden and your legs hate you for putting them through torture.
Cheese sandwich, feet up, another successful hop in the books.
Next Up for Hoppers Guide
Next up for Hoppers Guide will be another short trip due to the ongoing train strikes.
We will be travelling to Whickham for their huge FA Cup Preliminary Round tie against Macclesfield.
Can the northeast minnows pull off a shock against the Robbie Savage-led Macc Lads?
I’m excited to find out!
Onto the next!