Monday, 25 May 2009

Shrinking with age

It's half term. This means that instead of our usual Monday afternoon music class, T and I met up with my Mum today for an extra treat, a whole day of Grandma.

Mum suggested we go for a walk at Healey Dell nature reserve, near Rochdale. She played here as a girl apparently. I'm not sure whether my mental image of a Lancashire Lass spinning a top on the cobbled paths (which is clearly something from a Catherine Cookson novel rather than real life, my mother's not yet 60) was wrong though. The reserve bore the signs of being a den of teenage iniquity after dark, daubed in places with grafitti, with empty cans of cheap booze and cigarette butts squirrelled behind some of the trees. I can't quite get my head around my M&S clad, primary school teaching mother as an errant young adult though, so I didn't ask too many questions.

T loved it of course. There were scores of dogs being walked, buttercups to be picked and threaded into his T-bars for safe keeping (I tried not to think of the fact that he could only reach the ones at dog wee height) and dandelion clocks to be blown. We ate lunch on a bench whilst a bird built a nest in a tree over our heads.

We followed the accessible path, the route of the old Rochdale to Bacup railway line. Once at the end, we turned around and retraced our steps. Mum stopped and looked at the map, confused. 'I'm sure there used to be a viaduct here, I remember climbing on it, and looking over the edge'. I looked at her, also confused. 'We walked over it on the way here ... the bit with the railings up?'

As we passed back over what's actually an immense brick structure, it transpired that the viaduct 'used to be much bigger'. The railings weren't always there. Mum clearly remembers leaning right over the two foot high sides to look at the view below. Perhaps people were more sensible in the 1960s. The sign warning that bungee jumping was forbidden wasn't there then either. No surprise that she didn't realise where we were as we walked over the first time.

The experience got me thinking about the monuments of my own childhood. The places and people who were giants to me, the experiences that filled my days with colour and sound. What would they look like now? Sadly my grandad isn't around any more to shake the trees on Chassen Park on spring Sundays, blossom raining down as my sister and I played weddings. In my head these trees are cathedrals, their branches the vaulted ceiling of St Paul's. My grandad was five foot seven though, so my grown-up hindsight says this probably wasn't the case.

When T is grown, when he has children of his own, will he revisit the sights and sounds of Manchester and marvel how everything used to be bigger, brighter and well, better? My experience, and that of my mum, show this to be a fait accompli, but from here it's hard to imagine a time when my little boy wont be amazed by a bunch of weeds, a slick of mud and the sound (not sight) of a plane flying overhead.


Katherine said...

Sounds fab; will try and check it out. Do you mean the park on Chassen Road in Urmston? If it is that's my Sunday stamping ground! ( I love the mini railway - as to the kids!). I always enjoy a trip to Heaton Park but that's about the extent of my knowledge regarding that part of Manc. There's a lovely garden centre in Carrington called the Vicarage Botanical Gardens; the kids love it for it's goats, rabbits etc

Mama B said...

Katherine, yes that's the park I mean! I know it's officially called Abbotsfield Park, but it's always been Chassen to us.

It's so funny that you mentioned the miniature train. My grandparents lived (and indeed my gran still does) on the v end house backing on to the park by the tennis courts. We spent every Sunday for years on that train! I remember going under the bridges and trying to touch the roof, something which I could probably do on my knees today. I keep meaning to take T there as he'd love it.

Thanks for the Carrington rec. If you're after parks to the north of Manc, then Moss Bank in Bolton is one of the best ... they have Animal World (like Heaton Park, but bigger, and still free) and a massive play area with two giant sandpits with wooden boats to climb on in them. Oh, and formal gardens too. We're off there tomorrow in fact!

Mama B said...

P.S. The trees I mentioned were on a formal piece of grass behind the park-keeper's hut, adjacent to the road. I'd love to see if they're still there!

Katherine said...

Cheers will check that out! We should start a Manchester mums on British Mummy Bloggers; Amy at and1moremeans4 is a Manc...there's a few of us around! Yes, it's Abbotsfield now; we call it the train park, rides are only 20p. We have had my son's birthday parties there for the past couple of years, we take a picnic and arrange a price with the train drivers for the kids to have a number of goes; needless to say is birthday is in the warmer weather! I know which house you mean...we looked at buying down there but ended up near Flixton fields; nr the junior school.
Ta for Moss Bank info. will def. check that out.