One of the best things about the way Stevenage and the other post-war new towns were designed was that parks and green spaces were included from the start. Stevenage has them dotted all over the place, from small areas of grass tucked between houses to Fairlands Valley, the long, narrow park that straddles the middle of the town. To make this better, the network of cycle tracks and underpasses meant that it was easy to get from one to another without crossing busy roads. Consequently, as kids we had loads of safe, accessible places to play in.
My parents live right next to Fairlands and my brothers and I could be found there quite often; playing ball games in the summer or sledging down the big hill in the park in the winter. When it came to football, there were even a couple of well-placed trees that were about goal-width apart. I still see kids using them now, fifteen years later, when I take a walk through the park.
Elsewhere, there were any number of play areas to visit, networks of bushes to explore and trees to climb so we were never short of somewhere to hide and spy on people passing by. A friend of mine called them 'bases' and we used to spend hours racing between them, pretending to be on some secret mission or other, shooting at people with our fingers.
Isn't it great, how kids can amuse themselves with nothing more than a climbable tree and an active imagination? Some people I know would be embarrassed about what they got up to when they were young but I look back on it fondly and think it contributed a lot to my character. I wasn't cooped up indoors all day with a computer or the TV. Instead I was outside, exploring the extent of the world around me and expanding my mind.
I had a great time back then and I just hope that my kids, when I have them, will have the chances to enjoy themselves in exactly the same way.