Benches 154 - 157: Keddington Road Playing Fields


I get off the bus back from Grimsby and turn left into Keddington Road. It's sixish on a wet Monday evening. The calendar might claim that it's July but the barometer's thinking more along the lines of October.

Past the level crossing and the signal box that's been turned into a funky-looking flat. Crusty-ish vans and a vending wagon. The wagon looks like it's being prepped for soup kitchen duty. Across the road, Michael Foale Lane; a cul-de-sac dedicated to an astronaut with a Louth connection. There's a picture of him in the Louth branch of Wetherspoons. He's up there with other local notables: Alfred, Lord Tennyson and the singer out of Swing Out Sister.

A former industrial unit that's been converted awkwardly into flats. A builder's merchants, a fuel wholesaler. Something like that. Then the park.

The Playing Fields - a title, hence the capitals - used to have the biggest slide in the area. I can't remember the other equipment, but there was a football pitch laid out and an ever-present council sign warning about dog poo. Toxocariasis - roundworm parasite infection - was a threat throughout the 1970s. Back then no-one picked up after their dog, and so part of the fun of the park was dodging dog mass left by careless or petty and malevolent pet owners. Now, though, pretty much everyone bags up after Fido. Toxocariasis, like that other 1970s bete noire Colorado Beetle, seems to have shuffled way down East Lindsey District Council's most wanted.

The Colorado Beetle was (and perhaps still is; I haven't kept up on the subject) a major pest to potatoes. Lincolnshire being prime agricultural land, there were ongoing campaigns to report sightings of the beastie. Posters were all over our primary school. Schoolchildren were encouraged not just to report, but to catch and bring specimens into school in match boxes, to be sent off for analysis.

The signs here are of the more straightforward health and safety kind; disavowals of local government liability should little Tammy or Timmy come a cropper on the play equipment.

There's still a football pitch, or at least a pair of goals. I can't see any markings and there's none of the trademark work areas in goalmouth. Maybe footie's out of favour. Perhaps it's merely out of season.

There's a basketball hoop and some hard standing set up for a little one-on-one. Two low benches; three/four seaters. Well-positioned for waiting your turn on the court, for watching a kickabout. A plain view across the field to the backs of the former council houses on Brackenborough Road.

Someone's sat here and had a sweet snack. Empty packets of Cadbury's Mini Rolls and what looks like Twixes. No crack vials here. Not even a crushed Carling can. Good.

There are two sets of playing equipment, both of them fenced off from the wider park and each of them with their own bench inside. Perfect for protective mums and dads. The surface inside each is that odd spongy not-quite-asphalt. Underfoot, it's like being indoors and outdoors at the same time. everything's brightly-coloured, well-maintained, age-appropriate.

It feels a bit churlish to think that this has been risk-assessed to death, but it has. There's not much of the independence and the vague threat of danger that lurked behind the witches hats and suchlike of the 70s. I look, but the equipment here doesn't have the Wicksteed Park Kettering logoes of my childhood.

Still, the roundabout's impressive in its own way; recessed seamlessly into the ground. If I was supervising a toddler I'd be reassured and not at all nervous. There's no way to trap your leg underneath.

So the park's been re-calibrated to make it attractive to families with young children, and any attraction to hanging-out teens has been minimised. It makes a kind of sense.

On the way out, I spot what looks like a ghost bench; the telltale patch of additional asphalt. The park entrance / exit's been altered too. The old one - the one that I came through when I was a kid - is still there, but it's been sidelined. The new one, next to it, lets me out back onto Keddington Road.

It's still raining. I take my glasses off so that I can see better.

---

Google Street View gets as close as the park entrance. The image is from July 2011.

Here's the updated map of sites visited.

Eamonn Griffin

Field notes for a personal geography of a Lincolnshire market town. You can find me here on Twitter: @eamonngriffin and also here: www.eamonngriffinwriting.com
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