Why are parks important? What makes them special? What is the basis of the deep connection which people have with them?
Growing up on a farm in Aberdeenshire, a trip to the park was a very big deal. It generally resulted in skinned knees, grass stains and hanging off the roundabout and/or spinning the roundabout so that my brother would fly off it.
And Duthie Park in Aberdeen – the gold standard, top rated, five star park in the area – meant a session on the pedalos. For me this was unbelievably exciting and exotic. Coupled with a visit to the hot house to see the Terrapins and snigger at the cactus plants, it was almost like being on holiday in a hot country. Like Spain.
At school, the park in Inverurie generally meant fights. Normally a complete mismatch with a predictable victor and a humiliated loser. And no teachers around. Then a bit later (for me quite a bit later) it was a place to hang out and try to learn from flash and suave mates how to actually talk to girls by forming whole words/sentences, whilst not looking at the ground.
And eventually, once I’d got a bit more comfortable with this formula (the talking and looking thing), and found somebody who didn’t mind my awkwardness too much, the cycle started again. Only this time, I was keeping an eye on my kids in the play area with Shonaidh.
At Victoria Park in Glasgow, my sons Marcus and Jamie realised they could balance on bikes. They went on the boats, and one year when the pond froze over we pretended we were on a skating rink.
Now I’m using the same park in a different way. For Park Runs. Timed 5k runs every Saturday marshalled by volunteers.
What I find interesting is that throughout Britiain these events are reconnecting people with their parks in a new way. And according to Sport England, this is reducing gym memberships by sucking people away from treadmills and bloody awful cross trainers and into the Park again where they can run for free in the fresh air.
Same park, different use. Good news eh?