Friday 17 May 2013

Sometimes I start something in one of these and then don’t actually do it. The picture of the park in Tuesday’s blog was just a picture I took of Platt Field as I walked through it hungover the other day. But what it made me do was think about how I used to love the park when I was little.

The park I loved was Stamford Park – on the Ashto-Stalybridgian border. As a small child this represented ‘the park’ to me, it was my idea of parkness parksonified in a park. It wasn’t even the nearest park – there are parks in Stalybridge (a park*) that aren’t tainted by Ashton-ness like Stamford Park is.

If I reminisce about Stamford Park now – I’m using the word if here as though I am not in the middle of the act – I fail to remember what seemed so brilliant about it.

It had a boating lake. I don’t like water. A big treat at the time would have been going on the boat that circled the boating lake. Maybe I wasn’t that scared of water back then, though it seems unlikely as I have been mostly been scared of most things, mostly. The main activity while you are on the boat is throwing bread to the ducks. Why are small humans so impressed with giving bread to birds? I might have to try this again soon, perhaps it is just that I don’t do it anymore that makes me think that it is a particularly dull thing to be doing with one’s existence – even at three years old.

The boating lake was definitely ‘the big sell’ from what I remember. What makes this even more unbelievable is this: THERE WAS A CRAZY GOLF COURSE. That’s right. There was a crazy golf course in the park and people were getting excited about a very slow boat taking them not far away and then bringing them back. I definitely played crazy golf there but I don’t think I did it a lot. Sure, we weren’t rich, but we weren’t poor-poor. Why wasn’t I at the crazy golf course every weekend? [The short answer is that I was probably just playing football or even just running generally, there’s a lot of pretty aimless running about one’s childhood.]

Other than the boating lake and crazy golf I can’t think of anything much more about Stamford Park. Of course there was a slide and swings and a roundabout – and some of those things where you’re essentially sat on a big spring. But that’s all here nor there. I think there was a bowling green as well. I never bowled there – though I did once bowl when I was about eight or nine at Lime Park or Manor Park, on what must have seemed like a journey to a brave new world for my Stalybridge eyes.

There was also a couple of tennis courts. They were mainly occupied by leaves for the majority of the year – save for Wimbledon fortnight when there would be queues waiting around the park for a turn on the courts. However come the weekend of the final the court would be locked up again and the town’s tennis rackets collected up and burned, this being the days of wooden tennis rackets**.

That was about it for Stamford Park. It’s wonders contained some other things – that much is true. A duck pond, a cafe. Probably some toilets where drugs and occasional sex happened in the winter/later in summer days.

In many ways it was just a small municipal park in Tameside. (In all ways.) And still is to be fair. It’s not dead. Lovely little park. Have a walk around it if you’re passing. If you get assaulted or see people in leggings so tight you can kind of make everything out then don’t blame me.

*I’m thinking of Cheetham’s Park here Stalybridgians. There are other parks but they’re not proper parks. Millbrook had a park. But it wasn’t a park. There was some concrete a couple of swings and lots of broken glass, with some trees down the bottom. Essentially it was a small place for people to play football, cricket and, when times were good, golf. Golf just involved people hitting the ball very hard down ‘the park’ – at the bottom of which was the main road. Indeed.

** It was no such thing, how old do you think I am?

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