I first started ground hopping during the summer of 2016, attending my first game of my travels at Park Hall where I watched the champions of Wales,
The New Saints take on Tre Penne of San Marino in a UEFA Champions League qualifying match.
It was never my intention to start this fantastic hobby of ground hopping but I think something told me that it would be a good idea to start. I really enjoyed the experience of attending a new ground for the first time, I decided to explore travelling to different grounds more often and on a fairly regular basis.
I have always been some what of a football fanatic, my earliest memory of a football related matter was the famous Diego Maradona hand of god incident during the 1986 Mexico World Cup. I was aged 5 years old at the time, from then on it was – football, football and more football.
I started playing for a local junior side when I was 9 years old and played for the same team until I was 16 years of age as a goalkeeper.
From the age of 16 to my mid-twenties I played at a decent level of adult football for, Shifnal Town. For the vast majority of my time at Shifnal I was the reserve team goalkeeper, however, I did play two games for the first team. One memory that I always treasure was playing in a pre-season friendly against Wrexham, who, at the time were a football league club.
Unfortunately, I broke my wrist in my mid-twenties and spent a long time out of the game, I returned for a brief spell at Shifnal and then spent a few seasons playing both Shropshire County League and Sunday league football.
I never really got back to the same level I was playing at before my injury and decided to stop playing around 6 years ago. Since I stopped playing football, I have always enjoyed watching football at any level, this then led onto me undertaking the hobby of ground hopping.
My hobby mainly involves visiting Non-League grounds, I have always admired Non-League Grounds and how much hard work that goes into the running and organisation of clubs throughout all non-league football pyramids throughout the United Kingdom.
To date I have visited 35 different grounds sine my travels began, two years ago. Most of my ground visits have seen me travelling to clubs across Shropshire and Mid-Wales.
My most recent ground visit came on the 16th May 2018 where I visited, Treflan, the home of Llansantffraid Village Football Club. The home side entertained Abermule in the Semi-Final of The E.R. Jenkins Cup. I was amongst an attendance of 46 and watched an entertaining game of football, Llansantffraid eventually winning 4-2 after extra time.
Other clubs that I have visited in the Mid-Wales area and to name a few are – Four Crosses, Montgommery Town and Llanrhaeder.
As previously mentioned, I have also visited grounds in Shropshire. On of my favourite grounds in the county is, Yockings Park, home of Whitchurch Alport. I attended three games at Yokings Park during the 2016/2017 season due to enjoying the ground so much.
People often say to me – ‘Gareth, why do you do this hobby’
My answer is simple – Ground hopping takes me to towns and villages that I would probably never had visited if it was not for this fantastic hobby. I have been to some quite beautiful locations and met some lovely people from all over the United Kingdom.
I am not sure where my travels will take me to next, but what I do know is, I will thoroughly enjoy where ever I end up going.