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Great Railway Journeys, Season 2020, Episode 1

The first official ‘Railway excursion’ of the 2020-21 season broke a WTFC record for being the most disappointingly attended in club history with things getting off to the traditional dubious start with Vince arriving at Richard’s house an unacceptable ten minutes early at 7:35am resulting in four bottles of Punk IPA being negligently left behind in Melton, but an emergency diversion to Tesco by Vince’s son Danny replenished the rucksack at Woodbridge station with a full two minutes to spare.

Ben increased the travelling number to three at Ipswich Station, sharing the wisdom that it was traditional on all ‘football specials’ for the first drink of the day to be opened before the London train entered the tunnel, but no sooner than the ring pulls were released came the announcement that due to a fallen tree, the train would terminate at Colchester.

Being only 9:30am, just a minor setback, until underway on the replacement train at Colchester another announcement advised that this train would terminate at Witham with no news on forward travel to London. Seriously understocked for such an inconvenience, the first taxi in the rank at Witham was instructed to make swift headway to the nearest Wetherspoons.

Duly refreshed we arrived in London, but for the inconvenience of the locked conveniences on the trains. Toilets at Liverpool Street Station also being closed, necessitated checking into the Wetherspoon, collecting menus and a table number, before swiftly using the toilets and ‘legging it’ for the underground journey to St Pancras.

Thankfully, East Midlands Railway, although sharing the same locked toilet door policy, had no arboriculture issues, and the three Woodpeckers arrived in Wellingborough, six trains, five hours and three full bladders after departure.

After an impromptu and unhelpful meeting with the local constabulary, we approached the wonderfully named Dog and Duck stadium at Wellingborough Town FC. There was unfortunately no time for another ‘substantial meal’ at the Dog and Duck, so a quick visit to the conveniently situated Lidl supermarket replenished the rucksack with eight tins of unpronounceable lager which Lidl had helpfully disguised as resembling Stella and Fosters.

Being complimentary ticket holders, all three of us bought a fivers worth of unsuccessful raffle tickets and after meeting with the other intrepid Woodpeckers, Keith Rattle, Dave and Sharon Miller, Al and Angela Rea, and Gordon Stronge, the travelling trio settled in for the first half and a tinny in an inconspicuous spot at the far end of the ground,

Although Richard was supposed to be on ‘match report’ duty, he astutely observed early in the first half that Carl Marston of the EADT had things suitably covered and his blank notepad was put away. Half-time saw the trio disperse with Ben slipping off for a ‘lock-in’ in the hospitality portacabin, Vince off to the tea hut for a substantial hot dog and Richard left wondering where the hell the others were. The second half, and indeed the whole match was thankfully well summarised in Carl Marston’s green-un match report, which was just as well as Richard’s entire match report read “we could have won 4-1 but didn't”.

At the final whistle, Ben was again nowhere to be seen and as Vince and Richard were applauding the team off the pitch, Ben was already in the queue at Lidl with a bottle of fake Baileys in his basket. Which sadly only lasted until Luton.

An hour and a half spare at Liverpool Street station enabled another substantial burger, chips, and beer or two at Hamilton Hall, and after a last-minute dash to M&S, another bottle of Baileys accompanied us safely back into Suffolk. Unfortunately, due to the lack of toilets on the train, an unnamed and extremely uncomfortable member of the trio could not wait any longer and hastily exited the train at Manningtree in search of a hedge, upsetting one of the departing locals who vocally expressed his disgusted opinion. Which it was, no toilets on a train, is disgusting.

After parting ways with Ben at Ipswich, the remaining duo arrived back in Woodbridge, 15 hours after departure, bringing an end to another memorable train trip and Woodpeckers FA Vase campaign. Thanks for a memorable day are due to every one of the WTFC team for their 100% effort, our fellow Woodpeckers supporters, and the staff at Wetherspoons, Tesco, Lidl and M&S.

Do consider joining us for episode 2 in January, when we attempt to visit Newmarket.

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