Sunday, 9 June 2013

Playing Field Memories

King George V Playing Field Cottingham East Yorkshire, a side entrance view
When King George V died in 1936, the mayor of London at the time thought rather than having statues of the King made, he would rather have one statue just for London but leave a more appropriate lasting memorial to him across the UK.  So he and others formed a foundation with the aim of:

"To promote and to assist in the establishment throughout the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland of playing fields for the use and enjoyment of the people."

When the King George's Fields Foundation was dissolved in 1965 there were well over  450 playing fields across the UK. There is one where I live today and one in my childhood village of Cottingham in the East Riding of Yorkshire which I visited today. They are now run by the National Playing Fields Association and maintained mostly by the local authorities.

Part of the boundary woodland walk
The playing field to the north of Cottingham on the edge of the countryside holds many many happy memories as you would imagine playing fields would. The heady sunny days of summer spent kicking a ball about, games of cricket, hanging around with my mates (never getting into trouble), playing on the slide (long gone - it was huge and had a polished brass bit you slid down) and paying a few pence at the keepers hut for a game of pitch and putt.

When I was very small, my grandfather took me there once for  a picnic and to fly a kite; I took a bottle of water and dropped a few liquorice sticks in it to turn the water to a colour to look like coca cola. It tasted disgusting, but it looked grown up.

I played real team cricket there as a teenager and an adult and spent too many hours trying to find opponents cricket balls hit into the ditch on the edge of the boundary.

There was a brick built pavilion where footballers got changed and where I went with my father when he played football for Cottingham and the pervading smell of soil (off the boots), damp boot laces, liniment rubbing oils and sweat in the changing rooms is a unique smell never to be forgotten. That has long been demolished and a new modern pavilion with gym and community facilities has been built in its place.  

A view to the north through a gap in the woodland  boundary walk

The tennis courts have gone - now a five aside football pitch and the long wall me and my mates played slam football against has also been demolished. The parkies (park-keepers) hut has gone and the ice cream kiosk has been gone these last fifty years or so.

A sculptured squirrel
The park is surrounded by gorgeous mature trees through which you can walk and the wildlife is lovely to see. Today I heard a song thrush. It was truly amazing to hear its tunes. I came across some lovely wooden sculptures today situated on the woodland walk and have taken a couple of pictures for you. Nettle, mallow, dock, fern, and a white flower which I used to know as goat's beard I think but can't find the name of (you can see some behind the squirrel). The perfume of all these flowers combined are unique and beautiful. 

Historically, Cottingham once boasted that it had every species of European tree planted within its parish boundary because of its connection with the university's botanical gardens and the variety of trees in this park today is still staggering. 

A sculptured woodpecker
Fortunately, today in the light of disappearing sports facilities in the UK as councils are selling off land used for sport because they can't afford to maintain it and desperately need money in the light of Government austerity,  there are strict covenants and conditions that ensure that the public will continue to benefit from these open play areas popularly known today as 'King George Fifth' or 'rec' when i was a kid.

Hope you enjoyed your weekend

Chat soon


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