EDitorial ± 14-Apr-2003

Sunday In The Park

Next time you find yourself in a park with some play equipment - see-saw, climbing frame, cheesecutter, witch's hat, that sort of thing - saunter over to the swings and inspect the seats. Advisable not to take too long doing this else Percy the Park Keeper will be called and you'll be out on your ear. Chances are that the name inscribed in the rubber will be Wicksteed.

For yonks, that name has held an almost magical attraction for me. See, sometime in the 1970s, and my parents have the slides (a word which here means "mounted transparencies placed in a projector for viewing on a screen") to prove it, I went on a Y(oung) P(eople's) outing to Wicksteed Park with my dad.

I remember a train, a lake, and looking on a map to find out where to go in the park. Bear in mind that this was some years before the words "Alton" and "Towers" were heard outside of Derby. And I recall an enormous playground with huge slides (a word which here means "structures with a smooth sloping surface for children to slide down").

I'm losing on the swings
I'm losing on the roundabouts
— Marillion, Script For A Jester's Tear

Mind you, Mars Bars and Wagon Wheels were also much bigger back then too, and I was quite a bit smaller.

Dodgems (top right) were top fun, though the ride was halted temporarily while one poor girl hobbled off having trapped her leg; but then we all got a new free ride!

So it was a real trip down the memory lane of the A14 yesterday (100 miles to Kettering from Ipswich) to go back there for the first time in perhaps 30 years. It wasn't until relatively recently that I found out that the place still existed. Doesn't exactly get the same press & publicity as Thorpe Park, Legoland, etc.

But I think that's part of the charm. It's squarely aimed at younger visitors, there's loads of open space, and the queues: what queues? What's more, the staff actually smile (well, most of 'em) and are genuinely helpful. Good old-fashioned fun, from the junior roller coaster to the bumpy round-the-lake train to the slippery Astroglide slide. Just what you'd expect from the UK's oldest leisure park.

If You Take Away With You Nothing Else

Foodstuffs beginning with the first letters of Wicksteed (anything to keep the kids awake on the way home, not that it worked):

  1. (W)atermelon
  2. (I)ce Cream
  3. (C)ake
  4. (K)etchup
  5. (S)andwiches
  6. (T)una
  7. (E)gg
  8. (E)ndive (posh leaf)
  9. (D)umplings

Be seeing you!