This year, Staverton Playing Field hits 50. Here’s the story of its creation by Kieran Farrell

Ten Men Went to Mow

by Kieran Farrell

An innocuous dive at the feet of Terry Hughes during a soccer game between Watcombe Villa v Newton Dynamo’s on the Dynamo’s Centrax pitch resulted later that evening in a visit to Torbay Hospital where a badly torn cartilage and excessive fluid was diagnosed.                        The fluid was drained off and my leg was quickly encasing in plaster from ankle-to-groin.

It was only early January but my football season was already over. The cast remained insitu for several weeks and finally came off at a time when the South Devon League season was reaching its climax.                                 I was far too nervous to risk kicking a football anytime soon though. Still, summer was just around the corner. I could rest, recuperate and set about building my calf and quad muscles back up in my own time and at my own chosen speed.

At the time, I worked at Staverton Bridge Mill on the banks of the River Dart.        It was only a brisk walk away from the Sea Trout Inn and, it seemed to me, was the ideal place for recuperating at leisure.

A more picturesque and tranquil location I have yet to encounter.                               As a rule, lunchtime would find me exploring the nearby river banks behind the storage sheds, office outbuildings and staff canteen whilst taking photographs of the ever curious swans and ducks as they paddled close to the river bank to check me out.                                            However, with the pressing need to get my strength back I set about exploring the many fields in-between work and the village on a daily basis.

Some days I’d rest under the shade of the trees in the apple orchards. Other days I’d plonk myself down to eat my lunch in one of the meadows and wait, expectantly, to hear the ponderous thud of hooves as two or three nosy milking cows ambled over to inspect the intruder. Irresponsible I suppose, especially when I could hear the bull-tethered in the adjacent field-starting to get restless. Some days I’d walk up river as far as I could go before having to turn back and make my back to the office. On occasions I even saw some dead animals bloated with gasses floating on the Dart’s currents.

It was during this period I had the idea to form a work’s soccer team-ostensibly to play in the Torbay Sunday Football League.                         Several colleagues expressed interest and so, with this in mind, our personnel manager Sam Lewis agreed to try and persuade our managing director Jack Hazlehurst to subsidise the team, provide kit and pay rent for a soccer pitch.

Decent soccer pitches were in short supply.     Dartington United’s pitch was good but I knew their manager John Gallon wouldn’t be keen to share it with a bunch of amateurs!     Thanks to my recent explorations of the Dart Valley between Staverton Bridge and the Sea Trout though, I knew of just the place.   It would need a bit of work doing to it but it was big, almost level and what’s more, in all the days I’d walked through it on my journeys to somewhere else, it was rarely being used for grazing or any other farming activities.                                      I reported my observations to Sam Lewis and he said he would make enquiries next time he went for lunch at the Sea Trout.

Sam was as good as his word and only days later he confirmed the farmer who owned the field had agreed to rent it to our fledgling team.   He also confirmed the MD’d agreed to pay all costs and expenses.   So it was then that whilst older colleagues Colin Smith and Frank Hext were both helping with the restoration of Staverton Station and the Dart Valley Railway, ten men went to mow a meadow somewhere along New Lane.     Work colleagues Colin Hoskins,  Martyn Paddon,  Ray Prout,  Mike Cheakley,  David Crayshaw,  Martin Hodge,  Dave Bannister,  Terry Glanville and myself all set about transforming the field into our very own Wembley.            Refreshments and encouragement were provided daily by Pauline Little, Angela Sly and Deidre Keyes. It was a labour of love but we all sighed with relief when the pitch was finally marked out.       For the first time in 6 months I kicked a ball competitively at the start of Staverton Contractor’s very first game on what is now known as Staverton Playing Field.

The pitch-just like my old torn cartilage-is still in existence and that, I think,is a legacy of which us former employees of Staverton Contractors [Totnes] Ltd have a right to be proud of.

Staverton & Landscove FC who used to play elsewhere back in those days but they took over the playing field as their new home ground.                                             I understand they folded several years ago though.    The pitch was taken over at some time by SHDC and was then once more to the good use it was originally intended for.     In more recent years it was taken over by another generation of footballers in the guise of AFC Staverton.    They were managed by James Stopporton and were very successful for several seasons but, I understand, they too have also disbanded.

In 2019 it will be 50 years since the first incarnation of a ‘Staverton’football team turned up at the Sea Trout to change into their pristine new kit of sky blue shirts and black shorts before the first game on that pitch.

Well, all I can say is here’s to that 1st group of players who mowed a meadow 50 years ago and created a legacy-and here’s to all those that hopefully follow for another 50 years!


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