Published on August 25th, 2013 | by Andy Green
Chapel Lane Park, Burtonwood
Parklife 1972 – Burtonwood style!
Long before computers, the internet and games consoles, kids growing up in 1970s Warrington had to make do with public parks, bicycles, footballs and conkers for fun.
And with less than two hours of children’s television a day, once the likes of Play School, Jackanory and The Magic Roundabout had finished, it was off to roundabouts and playgrounds of our own we scurried to while away the hours before our mums called us in for tea.
In rural Burtonwood, the small farming, brewing and ex-coal mining village where I grew up (1971 population just short of 5,000) we were fortunate enough to have two parks, one that lay between Chapel Lane and Colne Road and another on the corner of Clay Lane and Gorsey Lane. Both had climbing frames, swings, monkey bars, roundabouts, see-saws and slides – and I was lucky enough to live in a house that overlooked one of them.
Unlike the multi-coloured, multi-disciplined lottery-grant aided parks we see today such as at Orford’s Jubilee Park (well worth a visit with the kids or grandkids if you haven’t been yet) Burtonwood’s circa 1972 Chapel Lane park was fashioned out of just three materials – grey metal, grey concrete and green grass.
The focal point of the park was a masterpiece of late 1960s/early 1970s engineering – a 20 foot high ‘slide and monkey-bar combo’ sculpted from two big dollops of sand coated with a three-inch layer of concrete.
Safety features were non-existent – not for us were the cushioned floor surfaces or unspiked railings of today – if you slipped when climbing the tall steps to our slide, lacerations, broken bones, chipped teeth and a trip to A&E were a likely conclusion (although given Burtonwood is miles away from anywhere, most of us had to make do with a cotton wool ball smothered in TCP).
‘Dodging the Dog-Do’ was another popular pastime, often leading to our jumpers-for-goalpost football pitches being cone, oval or figure-of-eight shaped rather than rectangular. There would be hours of arguments over whether the ball had crossed the line or not. Scorelines of 23-20 were not uncommon, with 50% of the goals debatable. Sometimes it was easier for everyone just to sack it off and have a game of ‘Benchy’, ‘Headers & Volleys’ or ‘British Bulldog’ instead.
But would I or my friends have swapped the Chapel Lane park of 1972 for the Orford Jubilee Park of 2013 complete with its zip-wires, dog-muck free football courts and skateboarding ramps? Too right we would!
But it was different back then and boy did we have some fun.
Hopefully the above footage, filmed in Spring 1972 back when I was young enough to be one of the kids who would cry when the older kids coiled all the swings up and over the bars so we couldn’t reach them, will help you appreciate why.
Happy days (even if we did cry a bit). And was it really 40 years ago?