Radipole Park was created nearly one hundred years ago. The years since have seen many changes.
We asked local people to tell us their memories of the Park. Some sent in written accounts and others gave interviews. A big thank you to everyone who took part and agreed to share their stories here.
From waiting with anticipation to see the steam trains chug in and out of Weymouth station, to splashing about in the paddling pool during the heatwave of 1976, their stories offer a fascinating glimpse into the part the Park has played in local life over the years.
During WWII I lived in Alexandra Road. As a child, Mum would take me and my sister Jean down to the gardens. Where the large oval shape is now there was a barrage balloon on it and when the air raid sirens went off it would go up in the air and the three of us would get behind a tree.
When I became a teenager I met a young lady at a party in town and I asked if I could walk her home and she said she lived in Ullswater Crescent. I had no idea at that time where Ullswater Crescent was, so when I walked as far as Radipole I thought I am not going to do this often, but I did, many times.
When I was almost 20 years old we decided to get engaged and on Christmas Day 1957 I left my house in Park Street at 12 noon, and Jan left her home in Ullswater Crescent at 12 noon, and we met in the Gardens and exchanged rings. We got married a year later on 27th December 1958 at St Ann’s Church, Radipole. When I completed my national service we bought our first house in Spa Road and soon started taking our own children to the park.
Now on the 27th December this year, we celebrate our 65th Wedding Anniversary. In our mid eighties we still like to walk through the Park and sit and enjoy the Gardens. The thing we both like most is the Willow Trees.
My sisters, Mary and Kay Boissé, and our friends and I spent many happy interludes at Radipole Park in the late-1940s to mid-1950s. We lived on the Dorchester Road, opposite the small Saint Augustine Catholic Church. It was just a few minutes’ walk from the Park. Some of us would meet up by chance or we would make arrangements to meet up there or at the playpark, which is still there out past the tennis courts at the far end of the park.
First of all, we had the exciting prospect of crossing the old iron bridge (The Alexandra Bridge) that spanned the main railway lines coming into and out of Weymouth. Invariably a steam engine would appear and we would stand on the bridge where the train passed below us, covering us in steam and smuts from its smoke stack. We could see and wave to the driver and his fireman. The memories this invokes are awesome even over 70 years after they happened.
We then carried on over the bridge that led us down into Radipole Park Gardens. Here we played hide and seek behind the huge fir trees that grew majestically all around the edges of the Park. Depending on the season, my sisters and their friends would make daisy chains whilst sitting on the grass under the crab apple trees near to the present site of the memorial to Princess Diana.
Later we would gravitate towards the playpark where we would use an old bit of candle to wax the lovely high slide which would hurl us off the end of it at a great velocity and we, being ‘experts,’ would land on our feet if we were lucky!! Then we would run over to the swings where we never quite managed to ‘loop the loop’, but we did fly a fair distance as we swung high in the air and let go to arrive a long way off, on our feet hopefully!! Then we ran over to the roundabout for an attempt at ‘the whirling speed record’ as we tried to force our friends to tumble off as we put all our efforts into turning the roundabout as fast as possible. The seesaw was next and it was great fun trying to ‘bump’ your friend off their end, but never quite succeeding. The ‘piece de resistance’ was the large paddling pool. We would run around the raised edge while dodging water splashed by our friends. We paddled around with our boats or just tempted the water to pour over the edge of our wellington boots as we thoroughly enjoyed our simple carefree pursuits.
In the summer, we could always climb up through a gap onto the path that ran to Radipole Halt and clamber around the embankment if there were no trains coming to search for slow worms. This was very exciting as we always had to make sure we didn’t try to pick up an adder! I never did see one around that area, but there was always the chance! We let the slow worms entwine themselves around our fingers for a while, and invariably placed them back in the grass where they disappeared quite quickly into the undergrowth. My sister Mary tells me that I once put a slow worm down the back of her dress, which invoked much screaming and panic. I don’t remember that.
At the end of our visit to Radipole Park Gardens we chatted and played as we made our way back to the railway bridge where we would say our goodbyes as we took our separate routes home. Tomorrow or within the next few days we would meet up again at our favourite venue for more fun and games.
These events happened at a period when life was simpler, we had far less material things and were very happy living and playing in an environment which was of our time.
Back in 76, when I was 10 years old, I was living in Bath Street near the bus depot in Weymouth town centre. It was the year of the hottest and longest summer I’ve ever known, then or since.
After a gulped breakfast, all the kids from around the neighbouring streets, about 10 of us in total, would grab our towels and meet up outside the long since demolished putting green on Commercial Road to begin a long adventurous walk that seemed to take forever. First stop though was a quick detour to the Bon Bon newsagents by the train station for a handful of penny TipTop ice poles to keep us cool on the hot arduous trek, then it was past the old Centenary Club that was near where MacDonald’s now stands, and into the endless Radipole Gardens.
The continued baking of the hot dry summer heatwave had long bleached most of the grass verges around town straw yellow, yet here in the well maintained and beautiful looking gardens, the grass was a luxurious green and the air was filled with the sweet pungent scent of thousands of pretty flowers which alone could transport you away to far-off exotic destinations.
After a swift break to swing on the drooping branches of a large Weeping Willow tree near the railway bridge, it was back onto our journey. Eventually our little band of happy travellers came upon the tennis courts and an excited tingle would run down our spines as we all knew that our destination was only five more minutes away now. It was the laughing and excited screams of the children already having fun at the park that greeted our arrival, and at long last the vast open area of Radipole Park was spread before us.
The first thing we did, as we did each and every time we visited the park, was throw down our towels and run towards the welcoming cooling water of the huge paddling pool and I’m sure the water actually sizzled as our hot bare feet were plunged in to it. This was it; this was what made our long, long journey worthwhile. We danced around and splashed each other, then lay on our backs in the six inch deep water and enjoyed the sensations on our sun-dried skin. After an hour of fun and games in the pool, it was time to hit the swings, the seesaw and the other exciting ‘rides’ spread around the park.
Around midday (no one knew for sure as none of us wore watches in those days), we’d all walk to the furthest end of the park, turn right, through some bushes and onto a dirt path which led up a hill to a little sweet shop where we’d restock on TipTops, or the little home-made coke flavoured ice lollies that they sold (they were two pence each so were a bit of a luxury), little square cartons of orange squash with free plastic straw, and packets of crisps that came with a little blue sachet of salt. Then it was back to the park with our haul where we’d sit in a tight circle scoffing our nosh and telling each other tales of imagined bravado and heroics.
After a few more hours back in the paddling pool and on the swings, repeating the mornings activities, we’d all moan that it was time to leave the park. So with heavy hearts, we’d begin the never-ending trek back to town in silence, our adventures over for that day.
Our trips to Radipole Park continued all that summer until the heatwave finally broke and thunderclouds appeared with a vengeance and it began to rain which filled the air with the dirty clawing stench of pavement dirt, and the return to school beckoned.
Imagine our horror and dismay when a few years later we arrived at the park only to discover that some bright-spark had removed all the water from the pool and filled it with sand – Noooooooo!!
We never returned to Radipole Park after that cataclysmal event and began visiting Weymouth beach instead, but the beach never held the excitement or the camaraderie that our group of friends had enjoyed when we visited Radipole Park. Happy days.
Lorna and her husband visited the Park from when they were little. Many years later, a hot summers day inspired her to write a poem about crossing Radipole Lake on her brother’s back as a child.
I definitely remember the gardens from the late 1950s to 1966 when we lived in Hanover Road. We went over the railway bridge down to the park most days.
I was reminded of the circular planting around the blossom trees whilst planting out some big fat daisies the other day. We used to go to see the flower displays after Sunday School in our best clothes before going home for tea. My most lingering memory is of the beautiful blossom and fragrance of the flowers.
During the week we went past the tennis courts to the pond where we paddled and sailed motor boats. Once the motor cut out halfway across the pond and a kind man rolled up his trouser legs and retrieved the little boat for us.
As we grew up, we were more independent, offering our services as ball boys and girls on the tennis courts and searching for lizards with our friends. Wonderful times!