Memories of Childhood

Posted: 1st December 2008 by admin in General, Leicester

This weekend, I did my regular bi-monthly visit back to Leicester to see my parents and catch up with friends. On Sunday, I had to walk the couple of miles to pub where we had left the car the previous night.

When I was growing up in the 80’s around Braunstone Frith, we not only had about 10 parks to play on, of which all but 3 or 4 have gone now, and those which did survive are in a very bad state, but we also had more open fields surrounding us then we knew what to do with.

Where you now find Kirby Frith, was a large open field spanning the width of the estate from Cuffling Drive to Scudamore Road, and running all the way down from the boundary of the golf course to Chevin Ave, split only by the twin rows of trees running down the middle for most of its length. With a bomb hole and obligatory rope swing, and a million places to hide, most kids spent a great deal of the summer holidays finding people or avoiding being found. Games could go on for hours when the summer grass was tall and dense. Woe betide you if you had hayfever, you’d come back each day with red eyes and a runny nose. Only when we had to go home for lunch did you take a break from it. It was meant to be fenced off with 6m wire, but there were that many holes in it, each break in houses along its edge had its own.

On the other side you had the fields going from Tatlow Road down for about 1 mile to Glenfield, flanked by the mudhills and the 4th wood on your left and Ibbetson Avene and Prince Albert Drive on your right. If half of the school holidays were spent at what is now Kirby Frith, then the other walk were spent on here, this is where you came for miles of tracks on your bike, trying to get to the top of the mudhill at the back of the 1st Wood on a single gear BMX, and in later years a 15 speed mountain bike, and then have the balls to ride down the 45% slope. It doesn’t seem that big now, but when you were young it seemed so high. I can remember spending many an afternoon bombing around the tracks on my bike, and exploring woods which flanked the golf course.

Going past the hedges that ran from Cranston Cresent, you headed to the bottom field and the “Haunted Cowshed”. I never knew why it was meant to be haunted, and still don’t to this day.

I’ve still a scar from here as well, a 1 inch one on my hand from when I fell and caught my hand on some broken pottery, I’ve witnessed the Tatlow Road field go up in smoke to some extent a handful of times, and know who started most of them. I could still take you back to where we built a den of pallets and wood one summer holiday in the 4th wood (I think it was also known as Witches Wood) and being gutted when we found it destroyed one day. You didn’t even need to be doing anything, many a time a bunch of you would just walk for hours and hours chatting and achieving absolutely nothing.

Walking through these areas now, you would never know this was ever here, the fields are all tarmac’d over, the mud hills have mostly been flattened, the golf course is now fenced off, so most the woods I explored as a kid are no longer accessible. This started happening around when I was 15 or 16, we didn’t notice it then so much, as suddenly we had half built houses to explore and play in, and half constructed site, gave great chances to set up ramps and obstacles for the bikes.

I actually felt quite saddened on sunday as I walked the roads where the fields once were, and could still see the paths, mudhills and ponds from my childhood. All green areas are managed and made safe, but its not the same as having own small wilderness to explore and make of it what you wanted. Since I have been living alone and with my wife after leaving university, I have always lived in places, with the exception of 6 months, surrounded by countryside.

Where I live now in Southowram near Halifax, I can walk for 7.5 miles without ever leaving the hill I live at the top of, or it surrounding valleys and could probably do 10 miles if really tried. Even now after 8 year of living on the hill, I can still find tracks I’ve never used and can still get lost. I’ve only just recent discovered the great section of downhill through Cromwell Woods, and the track heading down to Shibden Park.

My preference when going walking is going to places with relatively few houses and buildings, prefering to be out in the wilderness. Maybe all this stems from my childhood and having these spaces to explore. This appreciation was something I lost totally when I was 17-23, when drinking, university and computer games took over, and only really came back when I moved up to yorkshire, and a friend called Randolph Graham, who I don’t really see any more, got me into climbing and hill walking. 6 years later, I would rather be in the countryside than a city or town anyday and escape whenever I can to the Dales or Peak District.

What happens when children don’t have these spaces to explore or aren’t allowed to explore them even if they are there, how do we expect them to ever develop a liking / love of the countryside. I encourage my daughter to go out and explore wherever we go, wether it be the local woods at Norland, or exploring classic locations like Gordale Scar or Malham Cove in the Dales, and I think every parent should encourage it, life is about finding new places, experiences and things, children naturally have this curiousity, and it’s adults jobs to make sure it stays with them all their lives.

  1. Aaron says:

    Nice post Lico.

  2. Stu says:

    I remember when it was nowt but fields as far as the eye could see…

  3. This was so beautifully written! I grew up on Chevin Avenue, and walking out of my back gate, you could step through a hole in the fence and be on the old golf course. I remember very fondly the “bomb hole” and the tall grass. I also remember the millions of tiny red ants that used to bite the shit out of me if I wasn’t careful. I know we spent hours and hours of uninterrupted time walking there, and it breaks my heart that my kids don’t have the same sort of thing. The world has changed. I can’t let them have that much freedom anymore. We live in an American city that doesn’t have anything like I did.
    I love your writing!
    Natalie Handley Martin

  4. chris eason says:

    long time no see fun day we had back in the 80’s summertimes

  5. Louise Townsend says:

    it brings back so many memories, mum was forever telling me off for getting covered in sticky weed balls.
    i still live on cuffling drive (grew up on rowanberry avenue) and walk past kirby frith every day & so wish my kids had the same overgrown jungle to play in that i did. its a concrete jungle now with fly-tipped rubbish everywhere & speeding cars…..such a shame.

  6. Carl says:

    How good would it be to live in those times again. The only worry in the world would be that you got back home for your tea at the time agreed with by your parents. I’m sure we all used excuses when we were late.