One man went to row…
On display at this year’s Shrewsbury Flower Show is a garden designed by local duo Pippa Willcox and Warren Vette, themed around the historic past of Shrewsbury Town Football Club and our home of 97 years, the Gay Meadow.
The garden is inspired by the legend of Fred Davies and the history of Shrewsbury Town Football Club during their tenure at Gay Meadow, in the town centre and alongside the river Severn. The site, occupied by STFC from 1910-2007, was regarded by many as one of the most picturesque in the football league, with trees along the riverside and iconic floodlights towering into Shrewsbury’s skyline. Because of the riverside location, footballs often ended up in the river, where Fred Davies – a local coracle maker – positioned himself in his coracle to row out and collect the balls.
Due to frequent flooding of the pitch, the site was abandoned in 2007 for a new home (on higher ground) but the memories and the legend of Fred live on. The title of the garden is based on the old nursery rhyme, ‘One man went to mow, went to mow a meadow’; but here at the Gay Meadow one man went to row! The purpose of the garden is to see ‘Times Gone By’ at the Gay Meadow; history, legend, and nostalgia.
Seen through the lens of the now abandoned goal net we revisit the site – flooded of course – and relive some of the memories. The pitch is overgrown, and no longer mown and marked out, but scuffed grass around the goal bears testimony to the years of play. The goal net may be growing weeds, but look through it towards the terraces, where lively planting evokes memories of a packed stand cheering their team on. Perennials and annuals in blue and gold (and closely related colours) reflect the home colours of STFC, though some away fans may also be in the stand! Perennial and evergreen grasses in the mix bring rhythm and movement, both of the game itself and of the passage of time.
Some of the floodlights remain, though adventitious plants have claimed them to climb up.
Stroll around the ground and see from the riverside a reference to Fred, waiting in the river and surrounded by naturalistic river and wetland planting. Glimpse a memory of home and away fans, in their separate entrances, evoked by colourful meadow style planting. Look closely and you may see a beautiful, rusty ‘turnstile’, discarded ‘scarves’, tickets etc., and of course a reference to the old Shrewsbury Loggerheads logo depicting three yellow beast heads on a background of blue.
Memories flood back: the beauty and challenges of the site, the happy times and the clashes, and all those balls that went into the river.