This post is a result of the second Writing 101 prompt. The prompt is to write about the place I would want to go now, if I could go anywhere, with a focus on writing the setting. This was not easy for me – I had difficulty choosing a location.
Near my childhood home there was a park that we would often visit. The path to get there went along beside the graveyard, through a big five-bar wooden gate and around the back of the village school. The last part of the journey was a narrow path, often overgrown. On the left a line of brambly bushes curved up and over head, dark leaves sagging heavily and gnarled tangles grasping at clothes. To the other side was a wire fence beyond which was a field, tall with overgrown grass. Sometimes there were goats in the field, just visible through the grass. They didn’t come close, happy to stay back munching on the ever-present supply of food.
Upon reaching the end of the field the path turned away to the left. Nettles and ferns grew thickly on either side. The dusty path reached an equally dusty bridge, so short and well camouflaged under years of mud that it was crossed before it was noticed. Below the bridge was a kind of ditch, the perpetually dried up bed of an old stream that had more nettles than water.
Once the bridge had been passed you were suddenly there, without warning. The path disappeared beneath your feet, replaced with grass. The growth on either side drew back, opening out and revealing the park.
There was a huge field with goal posts for playing football on one side, and an area to play cricket – complete with a cricket pavilion – on the other. In one corner of the field, to the right just after you left the path, was a fenced off area with the play equipment – swings, a roundabout, see-saw and slide. A second slide got added at some point – a big plastic helter-skelter type. It was blue and gave nasty friction burns if you didn’t slide carefully.
Just behind the play area, and running along the edge of the field behind the cricket pavilion and further still, there was a woods. My older brother claimed to know it like the back of his hand. He liked to go exploring in there. In Spring it would be full of blossoming bluebells. In the summer, teenagers on motorbikes.
Though my older brother liked to explore the woods I usually preferred not to go in so far. My favourite place was just inside the wooded area. There was a clearing with a big tree on one side, or at least it seemed big to me, which isn’t saying much considering how little I must have been! The tree was on the left hand side, and leaned far over as if it was trying to slowly pull itself out of the ground so that it could leave the woods and go on to the field. We called it the Climbing Tree. A very original name. The kind of tree that children in stories would climb up to sit and read their books. I didn’t take books to the park with me, but I liked to climb up and sit there nonetheless.
The canopy of leaves gave the clearing a soft green and golden glow. The bark was rough which allowed good grip for climbing. My brothers would climb over it like little monkeys. Especially my older brother. He loved to climb. I was happy to stay lower down, sitting on the trunk and enjoying just being. That didn’t stop me from feeling hugely accomplished when I did finally manage to make my way up to the main branch.
It’s a long time since I’ve been there. We’ve walked there with my younger brother’s dog once or twice in the past few years when we’ve visited on holidays. The path to the park is more overgrown then ever. Although it might just be that I’m now tall enough to truly appreciate how much the overgrowth looms at my head. I don’t know if the Climbing Tree is still there. I wouldn’t be surprised if it wasn’t. More than likely its gentle lean increased until it fell completely, or perhaps it was removed to prevent that from happening. I’m not sure I want to see, if I’m honest. I’d much rather remember it as it was.
Did you have a favourite place to visit when you were growing up? How has it changed over the years?