During these uncertain times, many of us are taking the time to explore the pathways of our local parks.
Some of us might stop and reminisce about our childhood and comment about the size of the climbing frame in the park’s playground: ‘It must have been higher than that.’ Or perhaps we might utter: ‘ I didn’t even notice that building in the middle of the park when I was child!’
For me, I have had the opportunity to share in my husband’s memories of his childhood in Longford Park in Stretford, a place where he and his brother and friends spent many summer hours.
I had never been in the park but had once visited the stadium, many years ago. I had heard, on several occasions from my brother-in-law, David, about ‘the hole in one’ he had executed on the Pitch & Putt golf course – David has never let my husband forget about it!
On a beautiful sunny day, we took a stroll in Longford Park.
On entering the park’s main gates on Edge Lane, we noticed the very detailed map of the park and realised there was a choice of routes to take, as we were faced with a right-hand or a left-hand path. We chose the latter and after walking down the archway made by the trees, we were delighted to find a wooden building from which refreshments could be purchased and there was a wide choice of take-away drinks and snacks on offer. The café – at present a take away – is run by volunteers.
We perched on a low wall by the building while we enjoyed our cappuccinos….not something Bob and David would have contemplated nor wanted 50 years ago when they were in the park. They probably wouldn’t have even taken a bottle of water with them in those days, nor would they have worn sun cream, although there was no doubt an orange ‘Jubbly’ would have been a welcome treat on the way home.
On the right-hand side of the cafe we noticed a Pets Corner, somewhat bereft of pets due to Covid-19 but exciting enough for eager children to make for when they saw the goats and ducks. One of the goats came near to the fence to check us out but found us wanting of any tasty morsel, he nodded in disdain and walked away. We, on our part were keen to observe the ‘Please Don’t Feed the Animals’ sign, but that didn’t spare the haughty look he threw at us as he turned around before ambling back to his enclosure.
We were delighted there were other residents in the park in addition to the four-legged and webbed feet variety in the park, there are some lovely cottages, known as ‘Sunnyside Cottages.’ and also ‘Longford Cottages.’ I am sure the present incumbents of these rose adorned cottages are not as haughty as Mr Goat, on the contrary, I am sure the inhabitants feel very happy to have such a lovely place to live.
At this point I should mention that a stately home once stood in the park, who knew? I certainly didn’t and it came as a surprise to my husband too, when, on reading the plaque on the wall on one side of the remaining portico, we found out that Longford Hall was only dismantled in the 1990’s.
The Hall was built by John Rylands, the businessman and philanthropist, born in 1801 and died in 1888. After his death, John Ryland’s widow, Enriqueta, founded John Rylands Library in his name.
We now understood that the cottages we had seen earlier had been built originally for the staff of Longford Hall all those years ago. The Portico and Hall foundations and steps are all that remains of the Hall, apparently, according to our trusty Park Map, Film Archive shows Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth, walking down the steps in 1977 for the Royal Garden Party.
The Gardens, now cultivated on the Hall’s foundations are known as Larry Sullivan Gardens, created in 1996 in recognition of Larry Sullivan’s strong public service to the area of Trafford. He died in 1992 but during his esteemed career was the Mayor of Trafford, a Council Member of Stretford Borough Council, and a member of the Passenger Transport Association to name but a few of his many credentials. There is a plaque in memory of him.
The accolade of my brother-in-law’s hole-in-one meant that we had to visit the small golf course, which is now a ‘Disc Golf Course’ the discs looked very much like frisbees to me.
There are so many areas to explore that sharing them all here might take some of the fun away however I must signpost the art deco buildings in the former Longford Hall Gardens, known as the Japanese Gardens, there are not many flowers there at the moment so I struggled to connect the area with any area I saw on our Japan travels, however a small area around a pond took me back to a tiny corner of Claude Monet’s Gardens at Giverny near Paris. I believe the impressionist painter might have wholly approved of this tiny oasis of calm; the bees certainly do.
There are lots of play areas doted around and the Climbing Boulder looked like great fun, sadly not for grown-ups, but I was able to admire it, and, to my inner child’s eye, the boulder minded me of a kindly elephant.
I mentioned the detailed map at the a gateway to the park, there are a number of these dotted around the park and there are lots of signs inviting visitors to become more involved with life within the park, such as a allotment group, general volunteering, Pets Corner, café and many more.
My family and I, like many other people who discovered or rediscovered Longford Park, look forward to exploring and enjoying more of this huge area of resource for recreation and wellbeing that to many, had become almost invisible until now.
Visit the Friends of Longford Park for more details about the park and its events.