Sunday, 6 February 2011


Ongoing research; last updated 31 December 2015

This volume continues the historical overview of Selly Oak Park; the earlier years having been reported in the previous volumes and in the book, “The Heydays of Selly Oak Park”. Again the clippings, listed in the column on the right, contain the more extensive detail upon which it is founded.

The formal documents for this period have not yet been researched fully, and so the historical overview has yet to be written.
But read on for photographs and memories ..........

Looking along Harborne Lane towards the park (the trees in the centre of the picture) in the mid 1970s

The daughters of Rest Pavilion (1978)
(Photograph kindly supplied by Peter Rich *)

The Greenhouse at Selly Oak Park (1978)
(Photograph kindly supplied by Peter Rich *)

In December 2015 Peter Rich wrote to me:-

"The photos were taken by Michael Loughlan, Foreman at Selly Oak Park, 1966 - 2006. He still lives in Frederick Road.

"The characters in front of the greenhouse are :-
Philip Simpson, in blue, he still works for the Parks at the Lickey Hills.
Richard Turner, without shirt, he still works for the Parks, Park Keeper at Cotteridge Park
Bill Biddle, in the overalls is no longer with us.
The young lad is Mathew Price, he became a Park worker and works from Summerfield Park.

"As for myself. I worked all my life on the Parks Dept, on the golf courses at Lickey Hills, Cocksmoors Woods & Harborne Church Farm. I live in Corisande Road so I got to know the staff at Selly Oak Park over the years.


Steve Carter, who now (2012) lives in Kidderminster, grew up in Frederick Road, Selly Oak. His childhood stomping ground was Selly Oak Park. He has kindly shared this wonderfully evocative account of his memories with us:-

I can remember coming home from school in the late 70's and hearing a loud revving noise and the smell of cut wood and sawdust. With excitement we ran off down to the end of Frederick Road to investigate. I only lived 150 metres down so we could hear all the noise quite clearly. As we got to Gibbins Road we stopped in shock and were greeted with what looked to be a bomb site. We later learned that the craters we were seeing opposite the park were the remains of what used to be Elm trees. They were large trees and for the small amount of time I witnessed them they were big magnificent and majestic canopies of greenery. We thought it was great when the men went home because we played in the holes left behind. My parents weren't too happy as it was very muddy and, as you could imagine, we were plastered in it. The carnage did not stop there though. I later learned that the same cull took place 150 metres across the road in the park itself. It took nearly 33 years before I saw another elm tree and that was in a nature reserve near where I now live. (Compiler's note - Dutch Elm disease, and its control, was one of the big environmental themes of that time. Many, many trees were lost. Obviously the park was not immune from the problem.)

Throughout the 70's, during my childhood, the park at the lower end by Fladbury Crescent down to Frederick Road was skirted by a hedge. The only way in to the park for us would be at the lodge by the Oak stump or down by Harborne Lane. So we made our own entrance at the bottom of Frederick Road, straight through the hedge. Many a time you would run at the gap and up the slope and be pulled back by a stray branch, or get cut and then have to moan about it during whatever game you were playing at the time.

The park had many an exciting building to play around. The park-keeper’s hut was just as it sounds - a hut! I can remember the parky, but not his name. To the front of the hut, surrounded by a hedge, were the smelliest toilets imaginable. We used to play around all these areas and used to jump a mile whenever we bumped into anyone coming out of the toilets. We were for ever being told to go away by the park-keeper. But if you really wanted some fun you would go over past the middle of the park towards the football pitches and climb onto the roofs of the changing rooms. Guaranteed that the “Parky” would chase us off. Later, once the Park keeper was no longer employed to taunt us, we used to get chased off the roofs by a mobile park patrol. They only ever turned up when we were climbing and we could never know how they knew we were there. Now I understand that they patrolled after school till dusk. The funny thing is they used to chase us in the vans and rarely catch us because they used to always drive on the paths and roads and never on the grass. Nowadays they would go across country to get you and not care about the grass - times change I suppose.

The park held many a mysterious object for us as young adventurers. Down towards the old canal there is the largest rock you could imagine. Rumoured to be a meteorite, “and to this very day I still believe it, as my brother told me when I was 8, so it must be true!” In fact the park has 2 of these, and how very special the park must be for them to land in the same area! The other “meteorite” is behind the lodge near the main entrance. Not only are we blessed to have extra terrestrial matter but we also have a war relic! In the gardens by the canal at the lower end near Harborne Lane there were some huts that I believe to be for pensioners as a day centre. The Garden opposite had crab apple trees in them and was surrounded by a hedge. Below one of the trees there is a mound, and on the top of the mound level with the grass there is …. a machine gun mount. “Honest, truth; my brother told me it was when I was 8 yr old!” What a great place to grow up!

1977 and its the morning of the street parties. We all descended on to the patch of grass opposite Frederick Road for our races and fun and games. A local carpenter made red, white and blue stripped poles for start and finish lines and we had a race area all ready for the running, sack, and egg and spoon races. Another local businessman had made silver medals to present to the was great! I won 3 medals that day and still have them to this day. It was great to think we had a local park so very close that we could use and enjoy. The joy soon turned to sadness as 1 week later I got hit by a car by the Lodge running across the road and was lucky to escape with my life. The ironic thing was I should not have been there - I was too young, but I snook off to play with an older lad I hardly new. The sadness was revisited a week later when they had a Super8 film show of the races and there I was running around. I lost the summer in a wheel chair, with a week stay in Selly Oak Hospital.

The silver medal won by Steve Carter in 1977
(Photograph kindly supplied by Steve Carter)

Septembers / Octobers were very exciting times. By the bridge on the canal leading down to Harborne Lane stood a very large Horse Chestnut tree. We used to collect the “conkers” that fell and if the parky wasn't around, or the mobile patrols, we used large sticks to throw up into the canopy to knock them down. The other one we used was at the back of the changing rooms. We even used to raid our dad’s garage for a drill bit and an old shoe lace so we could put a hole into our quarry and play then and there. One of the few occasions when you played with others that you didn't know..........that and football matches.

I remember my childhood in Selly Oak park the same as the old footage of the cricket.......the grass was yellow and scorched and the winters I can remember always had snow. Lots of snow. We would walk over to the football pitches and sledge down towards the old canal. The only problem being if you got a good lick of speed up you risked the chance of ending up in the old canal. Although this is a dried up cutting it still contained large areas that were swampy and contained 6 to 12 inches of stagnant water. I can remember one year starting a snowball off by the old shelter by the lodge, and slowly rolling it down the hill towards Gibbins Road and Fladbury Crescent. We finally stopped by the site of the old oak stump. The resulting ball was over 5ft high and we could not push it any further. We were so proud of it. Our other favourite sledging place was down the main path that led to the bottom right hand corner near Harborne Lane. There is still now a mound that contained a concrete top with steel lids on. ”This was indeed an underground bunker......I know this, as my brother told me when I was 8!” The problem was if you did not stop in time you hit the mound and stopped very abruptly and ended up head first in the mound.

The summers were great. As soon as school broke up for the 6 week holiday the park was the main place to be. We played football normally on the side of the park that you lived on. But if you knew someone from the other side of the park then you would muscle in with them and create anything from 6-a-side to massive 15-a-side to one goal. Why this happened when we could use 2 goals I still do not understand. I can remember though the Big kids would use the goals so we normally kept away from them and played with 1 goal made from jumpers. The game finished when the owner of the ball had to go home for his dinner. Can also remember cricket games where you had 20 odd fielders and it would take all day to get one side out...... we never had sun block or bottles of water on hand, just stayed out all day and only went in for dinner then back out later. Unless it was TOTP night or Starsky and Hutch on the box.  (TOTP = Top of the Pops)

At one stage in our adventurous youth we made our way out of the park by going under the canal bridge at Harborne Lane. It was like going into another world. It led out on to the back of the Battery and onto the railway line and the area we called Monks’s. You could travel down to the brook and the weir and also up to the Battery. The Battery was the fun one because if you caught them right they would be having a break out the back of the factory and would chase you off. It also felt like the seedy end of town as below the bridge would be used for the local drunks and, as we now know them, Druggies. The odd courting couple could also be seen if you were lucky! Towards the middle 80's the area here became revamped and a garden walk was created and improved the look of the area considerably.

We had tennis courts and a play area with the best ever spider’s web roundabout you could wish for. Spent hours going faster and faster until you were physically sick. If it rained then you could run over to the shelter and hang out. Tried for hours to climb into the roof of the shelter but never managed it. We could play slam against the one side of the shelter; this was when you kicked the ball against the wall and the next one had to do the same from the place the ball would come to a rest. If you were clever or a good football player then you did not need to wait for the ball to stop, you could hit it back rather than waiting for the risk of the ball coming to rest out of range. If you missed then you were out. This was a good game to play with the kids you had only just made friends with, as it was a kind of rite of passage to be good at it.

(Blog compiler’s “magical dream" dashing note!
Undeniably childhood imagination is far more exciting than reality, especially when at the age of 8 years it has the authoritative stamp of non other than your brother! But for the sake of the boring historical record, and – spoil sport! – the prevention of the spread of alarming rumour and myth, especially in the media (!) :
For “meteorite” see glacial boulder, or “erratic” – in the history of 1926 and 1903.
For “underground bunker” see Birmingham Water Scheme – in the history of 1903, and the conveyance map in the history of 1913.
For “pensioner’s day centre” see Daughters of Rest Pavilion – in the history of 1952/3.
For “machine gun mount” see mortar gun emplacement – in the history of 1942 – ah, ah! - sometimes it pays to listen to your brother! )