AS SUMMER approaches, it seems appropriate to turn our thoughts towards parks and green spaces.
Sue Hogben, a member of Weymouth group the Friends of Radipole Park and Gardens, got in touch to see if we could help raise awareness of the wonderful community spaces we are so fortunate to have in Weymouth and Portland.
She is also asking readers for some old photos of Radipole Park and Gardens as part of a project to compile a comprehensive history of the park.
So what better way than to look at a potted history of this green space - one of Sue's favourite childhood stomping grounds because she lived just across from the park.
Sue refers to Radipole park as 'the Cinderella of Weymouth' - beautiful but hidden well away from main bustle of court life.
She recalls: "As children we’d race across the bridge and hurtle down the scarily steep flight of steps in our haste to be free of any constricting adult supervision. We’d often play hide and seek amongst the bushes, climb the trees at the back of the borders, trying (but failing miserably) to scare passers-by with wailing ghostly sounds.
"We’d go with tennis rackets in hand hoping to bag a free court in the warm summer evenings…though we tended to spend more time swatting pesky mosquitoes than actual tennis balls!"
Sue discovered the park was partly built to provide employment in Weymouth after the unemployment rate rose from one million to two million after the Second World War.
With Weymouth built on a narrow sand spit,Weymouth Town Council set its sights on reclaiming land from the Backwater. The town was burgeoning and there was the need for expansion.
The first project in the 1920s was to build Westham Bridge with its sluice gate, and then Melcombe Regis gardens with their immaculate bowling green, tennis courts, glasshouse and the wonderful rose walk - a favourite with many of Weymouth’s more mature residents. Sadly, all that’s left of the pretty gardens is the bowling green.
1923 saw the start of the new road that would skirt Radipole Lake, named Radipole Park Drive.
Sue takes up the story: "This left a large area of land between the new road and the raised railway embankment. A dredger was duly brought and set to work filling that space up with gravels, mud, clay, small boulders and pudding stones from the floor of the lake.
"Problems included large boulders blocking the pipe and cutter heads being broken. In the end they resorted to dynamiting the lake floor to try and break up some of the larger obstructions.
"Then there was the pipe itself, having to be laid across the new road, a ramp was created for traffic to flow, but as you can see from the cartoon here in what was the the Carnival Distorter of its day (1934), even that was fraught with danger for unwary motorists. Slowly the land was infilled and left to drain.
"This eventually became the beautifully laid out gardens that so many of us know and love today."
The tennis even boasted a championship court where many a well-known player graced their asphalt.
They are thankfully still there, as is the children’s play park and playing field. The play park used to be a boating pond, Sue says.
*If you have old photos of the park and gardens or had your wedding photos taken there amongst the romantic weeping willows, the Friends of Radipole Park and Gardens are keen to hear from you. Sue says the Friends would also like to know more about the far end of the play park being taken over by the military during the Second World War.
Search for Radipole Park and Gardens on Facebook to get in touch with the Friends and you can also find out about upcoming events, including a grand open day for all community parks and gardens in Weymouth and Portland in the summer.