Football: That was the weekend that was: Fields of dreams and sheep for the hoppers

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The Independent Online
WHILE OVER 6,000 non-League football fans were enjoying the plush surroundings of Rushden & Diamonds' Nene Park Stadium this weekend, around 300 other hardy folk were savouring more rustic fare deep in the West Country, writes Rupert Metcalf from Appledore, Devon.

This Easter the Westward Developments Devon League has hosted its third and last annual Ground Hop. This is the highlight of the social calendar of the groundhoppers, fans who choose not to follow one team but instead tour Britain and beyond visiting new football grounds in their spare time.

This year's Easter escapade started with a quiz on Thursday. Friday started with a match at Dartmouth, where the pitch was next to a field of sheep and a smelly heap of silage. This was followed by two games in Plymouth, at Oak Villa and then Plymouth Command, where naval warships were moored behind the grandstand.

Saturday saw three more games, at Stoke Gabriel, Newton Abbot and Crediton, while yesterday's games were at Witheridge and finally here at Appledore, on an exposed pitch overlooking the Bristol Channel and Lundy Island.

The man responsible for organising all this is the Devon League secretary, Phil Hiscox. It will be someone else's turn next Easter - the Cornish- based Jewson South Western League has agreed in principle to stage the event - as the hoppers have visited all the grounds in his league. "I won't know what to do with myself next year," he said.

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