Saturday, March 13, 2010

A Grand Park

Our little bungalow in Ruislip was situated so that you could see Sacred Heart School over the fence of the back yard (or should we call it the back garden?). We were a few doors away from the curve on Herlwyn Avenue that passed by the park, where my brother and I would spend many weekend afternoons. This was between 1965 and '67, and I would have been 5 years old in '65. My brother was a little over a year younger. The little unpaved path that connected from Herlwyn through a band of trees would give little notion of the wide space beyond. It was mostly meadow bordered by trees. We usually began our ramble by heading for a line of oaks in the center of the main meadow. Each oak was a station where we stopped to play on that tree's particular features. One had a trunk contorted in a way that made it easy to climb half way up and literally slide back down a section worn and polished smooth probably from years of children playing on it. Another was practically hollow and open on one side, leaning at a convenient angle that allowed us to scramble up and sit in a chamber close to the crown.

On one side of the park was a curious hill overlooking the railway, and the train station was just in view, I recall. Here there was a fence preventing us from venturing close to the tracks, but the hill provided enough diversion. There were two ways up and down: a steep exposed rocky slope and a more gentle slope through a tunnel of trees or shrubs. At the top we would pause to watch the trains.

Through another line of trees was an extension of the meadow, and at some points around the border we could peer through a fence at the now empty playground of Sacred Heart, where we would be on other days of the week. The rest of our ramble usually turned into an exploration along the tree border, and little episodes will come bubbling up in my mind from time to time when I think about this park. Sometimes we would meet grown-ups out with their dogs, or we would cross paths with other children on their rambles. It seems now that even if we didn't know each other some automatic temporary bonding drew us into play.

The meadow was allowed to stay wild and unmown, I recall, and was sometimes a sea of buttercups. I have hunted this park down on Google Earth and recognized its configuration from above once found. The hill and the ancient oaks are still there. The meadow appears to have been adapted for athletic use, but otherwise the town has preserved this green space for further adventures.

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