I was on my travels today and did something I’ve been meaning to do for years – revisit the park where I spent so many hours of my youth. As is so often the case when revisiting the past, it was a bitter-sweet experience. It’s been many, many years since I last went there but it was a second home to me from when I could walk into my late teens, and the memories came flooding back. One of my earliest memories was being told that the little ‘archways’ that you sometimes get at the foot of tree trunks (presumably some sort of deformity) were actually doors to let fairies in and out. I passed that on to my daughter. I recall some mighty trees, and although things always seem smaller when you go back to a childhood place, I think they were very big and mature, and that most of them have gone now. The remains of one really big felled one was hollowed out, presumably as a kind of play area for kids.
Many other memories revolve around swings, giant slides, things that spun round and threw you off and other death-defying contraptions, all set into an unforgiving concrete surface. There were a grazed knees and bumps, but relatively few kids ended up paraplegic to my recollection. That’s all been dug up now and replaced by weird things in grass that hardly anyone plays on.
There were numerous football pitches, cricket pitches, bowling greens and tennis courts. All gone. The sports pavilion, which lived happily with lots of glass windows – no bars or shutters – for many decades, was burned down once vandalism became fashionable and never replaced, so presumably nowhere to get changed meant no more sport.
Looking at it from a practical point of view, it’s amazing to think that developers and planners allowed a site worth tens or hundreds of millions by today’s standards (big enough to contain a small town or large village) to be set aside for recreation. This would never happen today, and yet there were several other similar such parks within easy reach of me that were part of the expansion of Nottingham in the 30s. (I hasten to add that, old though I am, it was well after the 30s when I grew up there!)