The weather is not really an issue this year though in the evening of the day before the UK Open started we had quite a strong wind in Minehead and my window rattled loud. But with this exception it is almost spring here, not cold at all and the daffodils run a blooming race against the camellias. When I think about it that would really be the ideal weather to take a hike! There are two hiking paths here around Minehead - The South West Coast Path and the Coleridge Way. The South West Coast Path leads along the English coast with glorious views all the way from Minehead around Land's End till Bournemouth.
The Coleridge Way is not as much about the beauty of scenery - it runs from Nether Stowey to Lynmouth through the Exmoor National Park and links places which were relevant for the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Coleridge - 1772 - 1834 - is especially well-known for his poetry though not in Germany. Coleridge himself was interested very much in German literature and philosophy and lived for some time in Germany. He visited lectures at the university in Göttingen. He even learned German, translated Schiller's Wallenstein and probably Goethe's Faust as well into English. In the years 1797 and 1798 he lived in a cottage in Nether Stowey. The little town is situated near the Quantock Hills, England's first "Area of Outstanding Beauty". There can be found the relicts of a fort from the Iron Age. During the Middle Ages Nether Stowey was a market town were mainly textiles and pottery were traded. The Normans had built a castle there as well but there are more or less no remains. Should you walk from Nether Stowey to Lynmouth during the third day of your hike you could reach Minehead with a small detour.
I didn't hike on the first day of the UK Open on the traits of any poet but on the traits of the darts players and my own small detour led me to the supermarket for food and water as it would be a long day of darts. Compared to last year Butlin's was more than crowded and more than well heated and not only the thrilling darts matches made me sweat. So my short walks outside were rather refreshing. As usually on the first day it was almost impossible to have an overview - at least in the afternoon session - especially as neither in the Reds with the second stage nor in Centre Stage with the boards 3 - 8 one could get any information about what was going on. I decided to take pictures of players I didn't know and of course of those who everybody knows. As good as dart connect is for statistics and for the chalkers - in a crowded room when you stand miles away you really can't read it. That had been easier with the scoreboards at least when the chalker wrote legible...
All three venues were crowded and the atmosphere was great. The first real upset was the early elimination of Glen Durrant but I can't help the feeling a tournament were the noisy crowds are so close to his oche is not what he likes. Even earlier Rowby-John Rodriguez was eliminated; he didn't survive the first round and as one heard it got even a little bit nasty. Cameron Menzies survived the first round but was timed out in the second. Probably he couldn't find the board. I had seen him roam about near the main stage and wondered what he was doing there but it would have been too late for his second match anyway.
The two German players, Robert Marijanovic and Christian Bunse didn't survive their first matches either. I did see Gabriel Clemens who had no problems at all against Zoran Lerchbacher. I watched a little bit of the match between Kirk Shepherd and Bradley Brooks on the second stage which was quite a good one - and followed the thriller between Conan Whitehead and Michael Rasztovits. The first match on the main stage I spend some time with was the one between Ricky Evans and Jose Justicia - quite a close affair.
During the evening session it got easier to follow the action as only one round was played. Especially in Centre Stage where you only with some luck from time to time could see a player's head with all the crowd, it had been difficult during the afternoon session to find out which player was playing in which round and who might be already out...
The matches of the fourth round had a longer format as well and I could watch for example how a not motivated Raymond van Barneveld lost to Simon Stevenson and immediately disappeared from stage not giving his many fans any chance to take a picture with him or even get an autograph in his last UK Open. I watched Gerwyn Price win against Joe Cullen and later the start of the van Gerwen v King match before I walked on to Centre Stage once more. Van Gerwen had some problems at the start of the match but when I left it looked he was getting into the match finally.
I don't know what happened after I left as I got stuck in Centre Stage for quite some time. A person had taken a fall on the steps and was treated by some paramedics - no one was allowed in or out for some time. So I watched the matches in there during that time and saw some one-sided matches with commanding wins by Madars Razma, James Wade, Kim Huybrechts, Jermaine Wattimena, Josh Payne and Jonny Clayton. When we were allowed to leave van Gerwen was out of the tournament.. At stage two the Lewis match had started which in fact was won by a Lewis - by Jamie Lewis. I didn't return to Centre stage but moved on with the crowd to the main stage where Gary Anderson just lost to Steve Beaton. It was a great match from both players but probably Anderson was a little bit rusty due to the break he had to take from darts because of his back injury. The last match of the fourth round was the match between Mensur Suljovic and Peter Wright. Wright gave it his best but it was not enough and he lost.
So after the first day from all the former UK Open winners only James Wade was still in the tournament. The amateur qualifiers were all out. The most consistent high class performances we did see came from Jamie Hughes, but in the crazy event where a lot depends on the draw that's not saying much
On my way home the weather was an issue after all- it rained quite heavily and I reached my luckily not too far away Bed and Breakfast dripping wet. Once again I was grateful for the hospitably try with tea and coffee, sugar, milk, a few biscuits and an electric water kettle you always can find in British accommodation.