An early morning trip into the centre of Ipswich for a medical appointment gave an unexpected period of free time.
Parking in Fonnereau Road, I made my way into Christchurch Park, walking initially towards Christchurch Mansion. The sun was rising above the tower of the adjacent St Margarets Church gradually illuminating the soft red Tudor brickwork of the mansion and casting shadows over the front lawn as it made its celestial trajectory upwards. A chance to stop and savour the good fortune of Ipswich in having such a beautiful historical house right in the town centre which, with the park, provides a much needed area of peace and tranquility. The knowledge that it could once have been built upon by developers would be horrific now.
Turning around I walked back past the restored Round Pond, now complete with flourishing fountain. In my schooldays a location where we fished for sticklebacks-that would not be allowed nowadays. I stopped to look at the seats, all dedicated in memory of long lost family members. I wondered whether Mr S. T. Baylis, who ‘loved Ipswich’ would mind if I made use of his seat? There being no objection, I took the opportunity to rest. Nearby the leaves of the horse chestnut trees were turning gold and amber: a last golden hurrah before winter. On the ground open horse chestnut shells disgorging shining brown conkers, bringing back memories of my foray into the competitive world of the World Conker Championships near Peterborough a few years ago – I was knocked out in the first round by questionable gamesmanship, but enjoyed the experience.
Walking past the Wilderness Pond I recalled that many years ago there were information panels so it would be easy to identify the different species of ducks and other birds. As well as the usual suspects, I remembered seeing Mandarin Ducks and Teal. All there was on this day was a few mallards and honking Canada Geese. I wondered what had happened to all the different species that used to visit the Wilderness Pond – gone to sunnier/better climes perhaps. I also recalled that for many years there was a terrapin which used to bask on the bank; probably an outcast from a former well-meaning home. No sign of him now.
Up the hill and turning right into the Mayors Walk, trees with green cast iron plaques at their base, planted by mayors to celebrate their term of office. The walk was well-populated with Cobbolds, Churchmans and Grimwades. Long gone local dynasties who did so much to shape the town. Amongst them, J.M. Stewart, mayor in 1963-64. John Stewart lived in Belstead Avenue, Over Stoke and when I was growing up I was friendly with his third son Keith. John Stewart kindly gave me a reference for my first taxing job in the Inland Revenue. It was good to see the plaque and rekindle my memory.
A short distance away was the now sadly empty lawn and pavilion which for many years was the home of Ipswich Croquet Club. I was fascinated as a child watching the members play this game; my only knowledge had come from Alice in Wonderland! It is sad that the club is now located at Finn Valley, with possibly less opportunity to recruit those with a passing interest.
Along the Upper Arboretum to the tennis courts, scene in 1966 to an epic battle, not David v Goliath, but David v David.
The first David, in my classes for several years, had decided that he wanted to play tennis and had avidly watched the Wimbledon coverage so he could learn. After a while he was a fairly accomplished player. The second David was an all-round sportsman, good at everything; after leaving school had a very successful career in local non-league football. Modesty and understatement was his trademark.
There was some good-natured banter between the two, and the first David threw down the gauntlet of a competitive match, which was gladly accepted. However, first David loudly proclaimed in good Muhammed Ali (then Cassius Clay) style for several days that he would win the match convincingly. On the day, the inevitable happened, we watched and looked on in amazement as point after point slipped away from first David, his face getting redder and redder as he was soundly beaten, eventually slinking quietly away.
Leaving the vivid memories of past ghosts, I walked towards the Lower Arboretum, stopping to admire the restored armillary sphere sundial, dedicated to the memory of Dr John Blatchly. The Greek astronomer Hipparchus credited Eratosthenes (276-194 BC) with the invention of the sphere. What a treat this was on a bright sunlit morning, a shining time-piece standing proudly on its pedestal – a fitting tribute to Dr Blatchly. Strange to think that this sundial had once been in danger of decaying away; a real treasure would have been lost.
Then it was time to return to the gate into Fonnereau Road and exit the park. I was grateful for the memories renewed at this testing Covid time. Ipswich is blessed with a rich variety of parks which add to the atmosphere and facilities of the town. Life would be far poorer without them; long may they continue to be an important part of the townscape.