Stourport Swifts
Walshes Meadow

Ground No. 201
Visited - Saturday 21st November 2009
Result - Stourport Swifts 1-2 Bury Town
Competition - Southern League, Division One Midlands
Attendance - 63

If you were to ask yourself to name a town that grew up around the railways, then the answers would probably be aplenty, Crewe definitely, Swindon, Doncaster and Darlington to a certain extent as well, but name a town that grew up around another transport industry… the canals, and you might be struggling, Stourport-on-Severn however is one such example. Situated at the confluence of the Rivers Severn and Stour it was largely built from 1772 onwards when the Staffordshire & Worcestershire canal was completed to provide a route for material to and goods from the Potteries and the Black Country. Stourport was its southern terminus, the docks being where goods were removed from the canal barges to river going craft to continue their journey down to Worcester and beyond. At the time Stourport was a real boom town of the industrial revolution, the population exploding thanks not just to the docks providing employment, but other industries that grew up around them, like barge and boat building, but ultimately its future was doomed and before the midpoint of the 19th century, the towns economy was in serious decline thanks to the development of the railway system and its faster, more efficient means of moving freight. The town soldiered on though, with the canal basins still in use right up until the Second World War before commercial traffic finally stopped in 1949 when the transport of coal from Cannock to Stourport power station ceased. Far from a portrait of gloom though, despite this decline, the town is generally considered a pleasant place to live, with its notable Georgian architecture, and it has benefitted from the rejuvenation of the canal network, the docks busy once again, albeit with leisure traffic and the townhouse developments that overlook both them and the fast flowing River Severn, that winds its way just to the south of the town centre, spanned by an attractive nineteenth century bridge. It’s here, just to the other side of the river from the town centre where Walshes Meadow sits, right on the banks of the Severn.

Founded in 1882, Swifts took their nickname from the white swallows that adorned the jerseys of their early strips. The club has spent most its life in local leagues, before in 1979 they stepped up to the West Midlands Regional League, with their progress since then fairly steady, having established themselves over the past few years at Step 4 in the various formats of the Southern League’s Division One.

I’d wanted to go to their ground for some time, mostly based on locality more than anything, although when I did eventually get there, it probably wasn’t a day I would have chosen! In the words of Elvis Costello “I don’t want to go to Chelsea”, or more to the point, I didn’t want to pay the rip-off prices at Stamford Bridge only to see Wolves get stuffed, so unsure where to go instead, I decided to hold a vote online and let other people choose, Stourport’s home game with Bury Town winning by one vote over Ludlow Town’s fixture against Wednesfield. It seemed like a good enough game, but the biblical weather in the week running up to the match made me think it might be slightly dodgy to go to given the grounds location making it prone to flooding and waterlogged pitches, but I had said I’d go to whichever match received the most votes, so off I set!

The journey went fairly well, catching a bus to Stourbridge before a train from there to Kidderminster and back on the roads with another bus on to Stourport, the town having lost its rail station in 1970. The bus passed right by the ground, so I made my way in, arriving at the same time that the ref was inspecting the pitch. Thankfully it passed, so having taken a few pictures I headed off back into town for a quick look round, followed by a mini-pub crawl and back in time for kick-off.

Going in through the turnstiles, you come out at the near end of the ground with the clubhouse and dressing rooms all part of one building immediately on the left. There’s a small training area behind the near goal, as there is at the far end as well. Hard standing runs around all four sides, with the Main Stand sitting in the centre of the right hand side touchline, four rows high with 250 seats. The opposite side is sheltered by some large trees that help enclose what is a well looked after, smart looking ground, whilst there is further cover behind the near goal thanks to an overhang of the clubhouse roof. The inside of the clubhouse itself is worthy of note for its mock-Tudor design, which certainly sets it apart from most.

Since the ref had been out on the pitch earlier, the heavens really had opened, with a damp day turning into a torrential one. The floodlights were on at kick-off with the skies already fairly dark and sitting in the back row of the stand but still hearing the linesman squelching in the mud as he ran by gave the impression that it might not have passed an inspection after such a deluge, especially with the rain only getting worse and worse throughout the game.

Kicking-off, Stourport were in a rather fetching choice of colours, gold and black striped shirts, a design many might associate with some of Hull’s recent kits, but which of course I instantly took to be in homage to Wolves’ efforts of the early 1920s! Having ex-Wolves youngster Chris Cornes playing was another good reason to get behind the home side as the game got underway. After an even start, the visitors (from Bury St Edmunds as opposed Bury in Gtr Manchester) eventually started to dominate, Sam Reed going close on the quarter hour mark, after rounding the keeper on the break only to see his shot cleared off the line by a retreating defender. It didn’t take him long to finally find the net though and it was 1-0 to Bury on 25 minutes when Reed got on the end of a deep cross to tap home at the far post. The rain was really taking a toll on the pitch by this point, and despite it being in good condition beforehand, the ball was struggling to roll or bounce as it might, and so the match was petering out into a sluggish affair with probably none of the 22 players and officials not thinking about being somewhere else in the warm! The second half was much the same, with the increasingly torrential rain ruining any chance of a decent game as the riverside location started to tell, with parts of the ground slowly starting to flood. Bury increased their lead on 60 minutes thanks to Nick Davey and Stourport were down to 10 men shortly afterwards when Chris Duggan pulled down Ben Coker as he looked to be through one-on-one, but the resulting free-kick from just outside the box was skied over the bar. Swifts got one back ten minutes from time, Cornes cutting inside on the left, before slamming the ball home from distance with some venom, showing a bit of the skill that once made him look like he’d make the grade at Molineux, but despite some renewed effort to get a draw in the time remaining, they couldn’t find an equaliser and everyone on both sides seemed happy enough when the ref blew his whistle to let everyone go home to dry off!

Getting back went fine, with hardly any waiting for trains or busses, and I got home glad to have come, even if I did wish that it had been on a drier day! The ground is a neat and tidy venue, and whilst perhaps lacking a little bit of a wow factor for the ‘hopper, then it does provide the club with what they need and combined with a few good pubs in the town, is certainly worthy of a visit.

Welcome to Stourport Swifts

Entrance to the Ground

The Main Stand

The Near End

The Clubhouse

The River Severn Side

The Far End

The Main Stand

Stourport trial German style safe standing!

Ready for Kick Off

The Main Stand

Walshes Meadow Panoramic 1


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