Around the Grounds, No.23: Bury Town’s Ram Meadow and its uncertain future
- Credit: Archant
Football writer Carl Marston dons his anorak to visit clubs in the region (and beyond) in his quest for good football and a good cup of tea. Bury Town‘s Ram Meadow is in the spotlight this week
I am no stranger to the delights of Ram Meadow. It has been part of my footballing upbringing from an early age, and remains a regular stop-off for me on the none-league trail – not least because I can walk to the ground, living less than a mile from across town.
Established in 1872, as then-Bury St Edmunds FC, following a meeting at the Suffolk Hotel (I used to frequent this once-popular establishment for a drink, in my late teens, though not back in the 1870s), the club became one of 11 founder members of the Suffolk FA just 13 years later.
The club used to play their home games at King’s Road, from 1888 through to 1976. My grandad, Cliff Bridges, and my Uncle Stan, were regular visitors to this old venue, which was also known as Cemetery Road.
I have few recollections of this ground, although I did used to swim as a youngster at the nearby open-air swimming pool in King’s Road.
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Bury Town left their old home in 1976, which made way for a new road, and a switch to Ram Meadow was completed the following year.
I have attended more matches than I care to mention, at this cosy ground, squatting beside the River Lark and within a short stroll of the Abbey Gardens and the Cathedral.
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One of my first job’s as a rookie sports reporter, for this publication, was to report on a Bury Town home match, back in 1989, when Chris Symes was the manager. I remember the opposition being Bashley, and that the Blues lost.
“We were bashed,” was Symes’ rather predictable, but welcome, response during my post-match interview. The Ram Meadow press box has not really changed much over the intervening years.
Club: Bury Town
Ground: Ram Meadow (since 1977)
League: (Isthmian) Bostik North
Manager: Ben Chenery
Chairman: Russell Ward
I spoke to Bury Town chairman, Russell Ward, this week, concerning his 18-year-old struggle to either relocate the club to a new stadium, or upgrade Ram Meadow to become one of the best in Suffolk.
“I became chairman in 2000, and I had my first meeting with St Edmundsbury Borough Council in April,” recalled Ward.
“They asked us whether we as a club were prepared to locate a new ground, and I said ‘yes.’ That was 18 years ago, and we are still here, so it’s been frustrating.
“About five or six years ago, we did get close when plans were drawn up for a site at where Sybil Andrews Academy School is now.
“The plans went before the planning committee, but there were issues at the time and it was not passed.
“Finances have always been an issue, but Ram Meadow is on a prime town centre site, so it’s worth a lot of money and we know that we won’t be here indefinitely.
“We are 18 months into our current five-year lease, so there’s just three-and-a-half-years left.
“The Council has indicated to us that ideally it would be best for us to move to a multi-sports site, with rugby pitches and other facilities.
“But the last meeting with the council that we had was last December, and we are no further forward. The current situation is not ideal for us, because we have a lack of funding – we have never had a lease long enough to qualify for funding.
“We have built a new clubhouse, but that effectively came from our own money. Our floodlights need upgrading, and work needs to be done to the perimeter fencing.
“But you need at least a 10-year lease to qualify for funding, and after one day that obviously is reduced below 10 years, so really you need a 12-year lease to have any plans for the future.
“It’s frustrating because we can’t build for the future, whether that be staying at Ram Meadow or moving elsewhere, and in the mean-time other clubs have overtaken us by upgrading their facilities.
“We have 24 teams at the club, but at the moment they are spread throughout the borough because we only have one pitch. The first team has to train on that pitch as well at the moment.
“So there are lots of issues.
“But we made contact with St Edmundsbury Borough Council two weeks ago, and the matter is on their agenda to deal with. So hopefully there will be some news in the near-future,” added Ward.
I have been to Ram Meadow twice in the last fortnight – you can never have too much of a good thing – to report on a 3-0 win over Mildenhall and a 4-1 defeat to Maldon & Tiptree.