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Non League Football Under The Microscope

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Eastbourne Borough fans celebrate - August Bank Holiday Monday 2003                                Photograph by Sam Hicks

Falmouth Town FC

Bickland Park
Bickland Water Road
Falmouth
Cornwall
TR11 4PB

Telephone: 01326 375156

Website

Nickname: Town

The old paybox

Main stand

Behind near goal

Far touchline

Behind far goal

View from corner

Falmouth Town joined the old Cornwall Senior League in 1950, before becoming founder members of the South Western League in 1951/52.  Until This time near neighbours, Falmouth Docks provided the only Senior Football in the town.  The Club has played under the banner of Falmouth Town FC on and off since the turn of the century and after WW2 were playing junior football in a midweek Wednesday league.

Town’s place in Cornish football history was assured in 1962/63 when they secured a place in the First Round proper of the FA Cup, a feat no other Cornish team has achieved to this day. Having overcome the challenge of Barnstaple, St. Blazey, Bideford and Bath City to reach this stage, Town put up a brave fight against league newcomers Oxford United.  In front of a record crowd of 8,000 Town finally succumbed 1-2.  This feat was repeated in 1967, when Town lost 2-5 away at Peterborough United, and in 1969 when the same team visited Bickland Park emerging 4-1 victors.

By this time Falmouth Town had become a dominant force in South Western football, and in 1973/74 joined the Western League in search of a greater challenge.  Making an incredible transition, they completed the League and Cup double without losing a match.  It was in January 1976 that Town’s first defeat, at this level, was inflicted upon them after a mammoth 58 League and Cup unbeaten run.  Three more consecutive Western League titles were won, making it eight league titles in a row, and establishing an English semi-professional record that is unparalleled in English football history.

Increased travelling costs forced Town to withdraw from the Western League after nine seasons, but upon their return to Cornish football, found their application to rejoin the SW League refused by member clubs. Instead the Combination League was duly won and Town’s application to the SW League was granted the following season.  In 1986/87 Town reached the quarter finals of the FA Vase before bowing out at Bickland Park 0-1 in a replay to eventual winners St. Helen’s Town in front of a 1,500 crowd.  In 1999/00 the SWL was won for a record fourteenth time, and 2001 saw Falmouth Town achieve another record.  This time it was for the furthest recorded distance travelled to undertake an FA competition tie when the club trekked some 500 miles north-east to meet Bedlington Terriers in the Fourth Round of the FA Vase, eventually losing in extra time.

The club has had a number of home grounds over the years. Eventually a home was obtained at Union Corner, close to where Bickland Park now stands, and where Falmouth Town’s first ever SWL home game against St. Austell (a 3-3 draw) was played.  Bickland Park was officially opened on 28 August 1957 after their riverside Ashfield Ground (Town’s third home and used from 1952) was sold to Shell-Mex BP for £20,000, a small fortune in the mid 1950s. Before moving into the purpose built Bickland Park, Town had a second short spell at Union Corner.

Peter Miles describes Bickland Park as ‘a classic’ and ‘a real gem’. Kerry Miller meanwhile states that it is ‘without question the finest football ground in Cornwall’. Wilst there are other worthy candidates, it’s hard to disagree with those eulogies and the ground should feature on the ‘must see’ list of any serious grounds enthusiast visiting the Duchy. Cornish weather has an awesome repution and cover on three sides of the ground has all been repaired at various times following storm damage. The cover on the far side of the ground was in fact rebuilt in 1984, and replaced a more extensive structure.

The ground is entered from the left hand side, adjacent to the smart clubhouse that stands outside, via a pay box that previously saw service at Ashfield, and was originally a gift from a supporter in 1953. Along with the rest of ground, this is now painted in the club colours but not too long ago was pink in colour!

Spectators using this gate enter on to the large bank that runs the length of the near touchline into which is set the main stand, which is as old as the ground itself. In recent years this has been painted in the club colours with the intials FTFC picked out on the benches within that provide seating for 350. The view is not the best and is obscured by the glass sides and supporting pillars, but it is an impressive structure at this level of the pyramid nevertheless.

Behind the near goal is a quite an extensive staggered terrace that runs down towards the far corner. This is partially covered by a roof that follows the downwards incline of the terrace.

Floodlights arrived at Bickland Park in 1973 but were not used until 10 April 1974 when Porthleven were the visitors. They were eventually officially inaugurated with a friendly against Bristol City.

There is further rather basic cover at the two remaining ends of the ground, making this the only ground in Cornwall to provide shelter on all four sides. It has to be said however, that on the evidence of my visit (June 2004) spectators wishing to occupy these areas would have been well advised to take a machete with them in order to hack through the undergrowth - a serious assault with a strimmer was urgently required!

However, even with the proliferation of local flora does not detract from (and may even add to) the attraction of a ground that oozes character from every corner.

Much of the historical information about the club has been edited from the extensive club history on the Falmouth Town FC official website.

Ground details
Capacity: 6,000
Seats: 350
Floodlights: Yes

Directions
From the A39 at the outskirts of the town look for signs for the Industrial Estates (Falmouth). Follow these directions and you will shortly pass the ground on the left.

By rail
1.5 miles from Penmere Halt (BR) on the Falmouth-Truro branch line.