Why I love Nicholas Everitt Park
- Credit: Archant
In the first of the EDP's series on local places, Lowestoft Journal reporter Polly Grice recalls fond memories of Nicholas Everitt Park.
Growing up in Oulton Broad, I always took Nicholas Everitt Park for granted.
It's where I spent countless happy hours in my childhood playing on the swings, rowing round the boating lake and working up the courage to go down the really big slide which finished abruptly before it reached the floor.
It's not until recently I realised how lucky I was to have all that on my doorstep.
Some of my earliest memories are of clambering up on to the trampolines, bouncing away contentedly until I could be bribed away by an icecream - mixed strawberry and vanilla all swirled together with a flake. Nothing less would drag me away from those trampolines.
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And next to the trampolines is a crazy golf course which, barring a few licks of paint, has hardly changed since I was going round the course with a children's club.
The advantage of that being that I look rather good at mini golf. It's all down to about 23 years of practice on the same course, and not down to any real skill.
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It's the kind of family park every town should have, and every child should have the chance to grow up in.
Afternoon walks through the park watching the tamest squirrels in Lowestoft, summers spent watching the boats sailing on the Broad, Everitt's gave me some of my happiest childhood memories.
And even as a teenager I couldn't tear myself away from the park. At about 16 years old, very early one morning, I came across the park almost completely empty - a very rare sight.
So my friends and I took the opportunity to have a go on the seesaw, the kind of thing you can't really do when it's full of children actually young enough to fit in the seats.
Somehow the seesaw hit me under the chin, sent me flying and knocked me out - blood pouring from my jaw. I came round on the floor laying on that not-quite-soft foam they put down to stop children breaking bones in the event of an accident.
In hindsight I probably should have seen a doctor. Dazed, I stumbled over to a friend's house, checked I still had all my teeth and covered my chin in Elastoplast. I still have the scar. It serves as a permanent reminder that I am definitely too old for seesaws.
Playground equipment mishaps aside, there's nowhere I'd rather spend a Sunday morning than on a bench in Everitt's park looking over the Broad.
Even this time of the year when you need plenty of layers and can't sit for too long before losing sensation in your entire lower body, it's calming. There is no problem so great or situation so serious it can't be overcome by a sit down with a cup of tea in the park followed by a gentle swing in the playground.
But in the summer is where Everitt's really comes into its own.
The Bank Holiday Gala Weekend never ceases to amaze me, particularly since the loss of the Air Show and the Carnival. Two of our most treasured events and they've folded.
The town just is not the same without the Red Arrows, the yearly jostling for position on the beach and the inevitable cycling home in water almost up to your bike seat.
Lowestoft may be bouncing back with the announcement of a new festival somewhat bafflingly-organised the same weekend as nearby Latitude, but you can always rely on Oulton Broad's bank holiday weekend treats - if not the treats of the Great British bank holiday weather.
Last year there were bands, motor boat racing, dancing, singing and the traditional Maiden in Distress competition. As the only female reporter in Lowestoft, I've got a horrible feeling come bank holiday weekend I might find myself in distress. Still, at least I've got the powerboat racing to look forward to.
Every Thursday throughout the summer, the Lowestoft and Oulton Broad Motor Boat club will be tearing round the Broad.
My fascination with them is a bit confusing. I'm not really sure I know what a powerboat is, or how the races work, but you'll still find me, drink in hand at the Commodore with a prime view, or at Everitt's, bag of chips in hand courtesy of the Mermaid.
It's just something you do. An Oulton Broad tradition. And long may it continue.
Because that's the spirt of Everitt's park. It's a landmark in its own right. And while bars, pubs, restaurants and shops around it will inevitably close, reopen and then close again, the park has stood the test of time.
No doubt those more knowledgeable about local history will correct me if I'm wrong, but the story I was always told was philanthropist Howard Hollingsworth was close friends with Nicholas Everitt, and when he died, bought his estate and donated it to the town to be used as a public park in the 1920s.
He apparently insisted that it be named after Everitt and not himself, said that it should be free to the public save a few special occasions each year and was very keen that local people should be able to play sport every day of the week.
I imagine his vision was that the town would not forget his Mr Everitt, who would have a special legacy in the form of a free park the whole community could enjoy.
I wonder what he would have made of the park in 2015 - that it has endured while other town landmarks sadly have their glory days behind them.
That more than 85 years after it was officially launched, Everitt's park is still going strong.
Still the backdrop for family days out, summer picnics and the occasional seesaw-related catastrophe.
And nowhere is that philanthropic spirit more alive and kicking than with the Friends of Nicholas Everitt's park.
A group of volunteers who tend lovingly to the park just so it can be enjoyed by others I expect he'd be rather proud.
I hope so.