I know that I promised an English ground last week then went back on my word and flung Rosyth in your face instead. It was a genuine mistake born out of frustration after realising I’d accidentally deleted evidence of trips to Coventry and Rotherham.
So this week I’m hoping to make up for it with something a little bit special and, more importantly, English. Because the former home of Gloucester City is something of a celebrity stadium.
I was struggling for time and keen to do Bristol City’s Ashton Gate but something in the back of my mind told me this was a far better bet. Most likely a niggling suspicion that it won’t be around much longer but regardless, I can’t recommend this stadium enough.
I’ve had to borrow the above photograph but it’s a well known picture from the floods that hit the South West of England back in 2007. It’s actually of Meadow Park and the resulting damage means Gloucester have never played there since.
The ground has instead lay empty and let nature take its course while the club have tried to survive playing at the homes of Forest Green Rovers, Cirencester and currently Cheltenham. These photographs are basically what happens to a football stadium when it’s left to rot and it made for a fascinating visit.
I went on a Saturday evening when the adjoining skip hire company were closed and that’s probably for the best if you want a decent view inside the ground. Nothing is fenced off but I suspect you’d be chased away so pick your time carefully if visiting.
It’s almost impossible to put the stadium itself into words. Overgrown with trees and bushes both on the pitch and in the stands it’s an incredibly sad but fascinating sight.
I had assumed that one large mound behind a goal was previously a terrace that had become overgrown but no, further examination showed it was literally just a huge amount of rubble that had washed in and landed on the pitch. The terrace was behind it. And so it was possible to stand where fans once had to watch their heroes and instead look out at trees and bushes.
The amount of greenery coupled with a lack of time made it difficult to explore fully but one stand is pretty much ruined along a touchline while the other is standing, but only just. Seats are visible amongst trees growing between them and it’s the same for the other terraced stand too.
Basically the whole thing looks like the scene from a post-apocalyptic zombie movie and it’s incredibly moving. As a Sunderland fan it hurt to see Roker Park demolished but to have seen it locked up and left to rot is a feeling I’d struggle to replicate.
The club themselves seem desperate to move back to the city and plans are afoot to return to the Meadow Park site, albeit completely rebuilt. It must be incredibly difficult to even survive, and I genuinely hope that they do. This is a one of a kind ground that probably won’t be there much longer so it’s well worth visiting. I’d even go so far as to say it’s the most memorable that I’ve been to so far. Favourite seems the wrong word considering its state but it will stay with you a long time.
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