My back garden
The Level was almost my back garden in the 1950s, living as I did in Prince’s Crescent. Prominent memories include bonfire nights, in an age when fireworks were cheap and ubiquitous and every local family went to The Level to let them off. They were usually accompanied by a huge bonfire built mostly out of old sofas collected by locals over the preceding week.
In the name of public safety
The magnificent boating pool, now almost completely filled in by the health and safety obsessives, was originally about eighteen inches deep, filled with opaque green water and extending under the two now high and dry footbridges. Tadpoles and newts lived in the pond in those days. And of course there was the equally ‘dangerous’ swings and slides, notably the ‘umbrella’ and the ‘swingboat’ whose massive, highly mobile ironworks could leave you with a fair-sized bruise (or worse) should they catch you unawares on the back of the head. They are all gone now, of course, in the name of public safety.
Where is the excitement now?
I well remember the annual takeover of the whole northern section by either Billy Smart’s or Chipperfield’s Circus. The gravelling-over in around 1962, of one quarter of the above to make an all-weather sports pitch, was much appreciated by teenaged lads for an evening kickabout. And of course the Park Keeper, a truly godlike, wrathful figure who periodically terrorised us small children into sensible behaviour. The Level is still a valuable green lung, but somehow the excitement is now largely missing. Or am I just getting old?