IT‘S about this time of year many of us start dreaming of distant shores and summer holidays.
In recent years the ‘staycation’ has become popular with many opting to forgo jetting off abroad in favour of a destination closer to home.
They say travel broadens the mind. True – but you don’t necessarily need to travel thousands of miles to find that special somewhere. All of us have been to a place which has struck a chord for one reason or another, the memory of which stays with us for a variety of reasons – as our reporting team discovered when they pondered on a place which meant something to them.
I’VE been around the world, and lived elsewhere in the UK, yet the Abbey Fields in Kenilworth remains among the most special of places.
For me, it’s a place of innocence and adventure – both from my own distant childhood and now my young son’s.
It’s where I first showed him the moon and stars, where he did most of his early running around in open air, and from where he shouted “Buuuusssssss!!” in amazement each time a double decker trundled up Bridge Street.
His experiences have made me see the park from the perspective of his imagination. The underpass under the bridge became an echoey cavern of mystery as we would head to another wooden bridge to play poo-sticks.
Its meandering brook, trees, play areas, fish in the lake, sandpit, wooden hut (“Santa’s house”) the “church and steeple” and the old crumbled Abbey itself are all sources of excitement for him, against the awe-inspiring backdrop of the silhouetted ruin of Kenilworth Castle which equally fascinates my son.
I grew up in Kenilworth, and the park was where my brother, friends and I would head most evenings in the summer – especially to play cricket, tennis and football.
Some of my earliest memories are of going fishing for tadpoles in the brook with my brother and sister. Throughout my life my blind parents have used the Abbey Fields to give their guide dogs some well deserved free running and play. I also sang with my friends in the choir of Saint Nicholas Church in the park until, almost overnight, my voice disappointingly broke!
Anybody who grew up in Kenilworth would probably mention how the first weekend in July was almost as eagerly anticipated as Christmas. It was when Wilson’s Fair came to town and the park would be transformed from a place of relative safety to exhilarating danger, with the Ghost Train, Helter Skelter and Watzers.
Another surely universally treasured aspect of an Abbey Fields childhood is how, when snow arrives, its steep slopes on both sides of the valley offer possibly the best sledging in the Midlands. Families flock from far and wide, just as they do on Bonfire night for the Castle fireworks display. You had to have a curious level of bravery – or a death wish – to take your sledge down the iced footpath, which leads up to the War Memorial.
As I entered my mid-30s after a whirlwind decade or so of hard work and partying including in London, in moments of reflection I thought about how significant the Abbey Fields had been to me and my family. It may not exactly be the Scottish Highlands which we also love in the country of my family’s heritage, but I now see the Abbey Fields as a place of timeless and outstanding natural beauty.
I hope my son, as he grows up, will continue to enjoy a similarly outdoor, active and safe childhood.