Doncaster Rovers Belle Vue. I was struck last week, by just how much we forget. Memories which are always present, fondly cradled and held dear are sometimes unknowingly smudged around the edges just enough so that the fact remains but the feeling is forgotten. Fortunately, usually not much is required to put sound to the picture or warmth to the fire.
This observation struck me whilst I trudged down an overgrown, dog fouled and litter laden track off St Anne’s Road, Doncaster. I knew the lane was there, it was a path I’d trodden countless times previously, though not for some time, and as such it held no shocks. Although, somehow I was almost bowled over by the surprises, and the details that I previously couldn’t see despite their being in the front of my minds eye.
I approached a clearing on the overgrown nettles and scrub, negotiated discarded lager cans and bottles and realised with a deep breath, that I was home. The clearing was blocked by some security fencing, conspicuous by its cold and imposing glare but the view drifting between its prison like bars at first made my heart sink.
Beyond the barbed wire lay Belle Vue, decaying and overgrown, lost and crumbling. In all honesty I could’ve wept at the sight of it. It was like meeting a boyhood idol as an adult, and realising that the days of glory had all gone, knocked away by a fall from grace, leaving only the frailties and inevitabilities that we all sh
are and must eventually face.
I looked out onto the greying remains of the Town end at Belle Vue – terracing, and concrete which I fondly remembered but which had become simply a memory. Same too the Pop side, who’s red paint had crumbled and faded and now housed only moss and bin bags. Worse still the main stand, now reduced to concrete steps which run into a bank of trees and bushes, still present in my mind to the most minute detail, but consigned only to a recollection. The facts remained, but the feelings had been forgotten.
Standing there in such surroundings, the more intricate, finer details came washing over me and to my delight, my heavy heart lifted. The memories were followed by the feelings of those heady days and I was instantly able to paint the full picture once more.
I’ll be honest, I don’t buy into any spiritual notation, higher forces or fantasy, but standing in front of the scene of Belle Vue, the feeling of excitement and atmosphere was instantly tangible and oozed from every nook and rapidly widening cranny. The sound of a boisterous pop side was almost audible and made me wonder whether the newly installed security fencing was to keep someone out, or to keep something in.
In front of my eyes the weeds and rusted metal became once more the terracing where I’d been taken to see my first glimpse of a club which would be present in my life from that day on. The town end became once more where me, my Dad and some other hardy soles had helped cut back weeds, polish barriers and bring back to life a piece of the club at the start of the new era.
The gap where the main stand had stood once again became proud and perfect. The feeling of climbing up its bouncy, creaking wooden steps and out onto the stand to catch that first glimpse of the always immaculate greenery, before taking my seat on the railway sleeper, like three generations of my family had done previously. All feelings that raced into my head, with a million more of thrilling victories and glorious defeat.
Once again I could remember – the sights, the sounds, the smell and the atmosphere, all of which left me looking out onto a barren, cold waste land, with a smile. It was clear that what mattered most was not where it was now, but those we shared the journey with. Not what It has become, but what it had been. I would urge everyone who can recall Belle Vue, to take a visit down memory lane, either metaphorically or literally, to find that little something, nudge or prompt that kicks the feelings back into the memories and enables you, just as I did, to remember. Even now, it really is such a beautiful view.
Just a pub team – Doncaster Rovers Belle Vue