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New challenges for marshals as Shrovetide policing is reduced

By Ashbourne News Telegraph  |  Posted: February 19, 2013

  • Ashbourne Shrovetide Football - Tuesday..

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AFTER a warm welcome into the posse of marshals who give their time and energy to Shrovetide football last year, News Telegraph reporter, NATALIE WAKEFIELD, rejoined the ranks of the volunteer stewards for the 2013 game.

“VOLUNTEERING as a marshal at Shrovetide is more challenging than ever, after police numbers for the event had to be cut.

This year policing levels were reduced by 10 officers after a series of funding cuts to police meant resources for the game had to be reduced.

Despite a massive behind the scenes operation by police in conjunction with other emergency services, marshals were drafted in to support officers at strategic points around the town.

Only a police officer can officially close a road, but in order to spread resources as widely and effectively as possible, marshals were asked to volunteer to assist officers at eight specific road closure points on each of the two days of play.

On Shrove Tuesday, commitments to reporting meant I remained out in the field for much of the game, teaming up with fellow marshals Adelle Fernihough and Helen Fearn where possible.

Just minutes after the John Tomkinson turned up the ball we were called to a man down not far from the plinth, with a young man taken ill shortly afterwards on the edge of Shaw Croft.

The closer relationship between marshals and police was immediately apparent as I was able to telephone straight to a Shrovetide committee member at silver command based in Ashbourne Police Station and request medical assistance.

Within minutes medical staff were on the scene and as we waited to assist them turning back out into Park Road, I certainly felt better at having a closer link with the emergency services and assistance just a phone call away.

Throughout the day, whenever I could get out to the hug, I simply kept a watch on the game and spectators as the hug pushed its way up to Sturston, doing my best to be wherever I was needed.

Ash Wednesday was another matter altogether.

I had volunteered to help at a road closure and was assigned the post at Madge’s Corner.

PC Sarah Moore and I met at the Memorial Gates at 1.30pm and waited until the order came through to close the road. The snow and bitter cold made standing in the same spot very unpleasant and although we could just about hear the words spoken from the plinth, followed by the roar as the ball was turned up by Nigel Brown, not seeing the turn-up was more disappointing than I had expected.

The determined Down’ard drive meant Park Road re-opened fairly quickly and before long, PC Moore was re-assigned to Market Place where I was asked to accompany her in case we needed to get back once more to close the road.

We met up with her colleague, PC Jamie Millard, who has been moved to Ashbourne Police Station following the retirement of PC Ian Cooper.

Driving wind and snow still managed to cut through us and, as we were stood virtually outside the News Telegraph offices it seemed an opportune moment for me to nip in and make a brew.

As the hug moved down towards Station Road and then through towards Mayfield Road, we agreed to meet again at Madge’s Corner if the play moved back as far as Nat West.

Having hurried down to the fields behind the Henmore Trading Estate and caught up with the hug, it wasn’t long before I ended up near another road closure point on Carnation Way near Homebase. Standing at the roundabout for several hours, in the cold and once again meeting up with PC Moore and PC Millard, the road re-opened and was closed several times as the hug shifted back and forth across and under Carnation Way.

Eventually as play moved into fields behind the Travelodge and it became increasingly clear that the hug was moving rapidly away from the road, I made my way along the A515, watching play from gateways along the way.

By now my toes and fingers were numb and I was fairly sodden.

As I arrived in Clifton I was also getting somewhat desperate for a trip to the ladies room and quickly nipped into The Cock Inn to ask if I could borrow their facilities.

A very welcome pitstop, complete with a plastic pint pot of hot coffee from very kind landlady Lorraine Garside, was enough to set me back on my way to the Down’ard goal.

Working with the police was interesting as the feedback over the radio kept us informed as to where play was headed throughout the day, but I will admit I found it difficult to stand in such awful weather for hours at a time.

I also felt completely out of the loop at times and will admit to some frustration at being afraid to leave my post before given the say so from police, but at the same time knowing that the hug was moving ever further away from where I was stationed.

But, while standing in the cold and directing motorists away from the hug, I did console myself with one thought. As an in-comer to the town, the only physical contribution I can make to Shrovetide is volunteering as a marshal. And if that means doing an inadvertent impression of an ice sculpture, so be it.”

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