Thursday, 14 August 2008

Caversham Park Village - Phase One

After a short ride further along the Henley Road I turn left into Caversham Park Road and left again into Lowfield Road. It's an almost dream-like experience. A route I remember exactly whilst looking out of a car window as a small boy. It feels strange now all these years later and still yet so familiar. The part of the then modern estate was called Phase One and Phase Two was still under construction. Looking at Google Earth, it looks like several more 'phases' have been built since then.
I pass the turning down into Corfe Mews and continue along Lowfield Road a little further before turning right into Farnham Drive and the small shopping precinct that used to be the focus of Caversham Park Village. My first impression after sidestepping the skateboarders skating under the 'NO BALL GAMES - NO SKATEBOARDING' sign is that this place has not aged well. When we lived in CPV (Caversham Park Village), it was newly built and some of the shops were empty shells yet to become inhabited. Although it was a Sunday and some shops were shuttered up I could see that several were now empty again in a rather more dilapidated state.

'Martin's The Newsagent'

One of the main shops used to be called 'Martin's The Newsagent' and contained the local Post Office. The Post Office counter has gone but amazingly the shop inside has changed very little in all this time. I must have spent a fortune on sweets in here over the years. There used to be a 'Budgens' small supermarket but that has long gone.

Farnham Drive Shopping Centre

I have a quick look around the back of the shops as we used to play there and I'm quite shocked to see how run-down it all looks. The rotten fencing in the photo below was brand spanking new white paint when we were there. It all looks a bit sad now.

Urban decay - click on image for close-up

At least the adjacent woods are still intact and haven't been bulldozed to make way for more housing. A particular favourite tree for climbing facing the shopping precinct is still there and still used by today's kids by the look of the rope swings hanging from it.

I walk a few hundred metres down a path leading from the precinct towards where we used to live.

There in front of me is No.7 Corfe Mews. The huge chestnut tree that was 'half in' our back garden towers over the house and has grown enormously. The house looks in pretty good shape from the front anyway. The only thing that seems to have visibly changed is the PVC front door.That was my bedroom, top right. I remember having a catapault and acorn fight with some 'friends' who had laid siege to the house. They were sent packing I can tell you!

A quick excursion 'round the back reveals the garden in which my dad had spent quite a bit of time building a pond surrounded by crazy paving and a bench around the trunk of the tree . He'd also built a rockery with a waterfall and stream which ended up in the pond. The rockery made a great bit of terrain for all those airfix soldiers etc.My dad laying the crazy paving, closely watched by my brother Jon...

The garden as it is now - rockery still visible and showing the young trees from the older photos having grown somewhat.

Family photo with us perched on the rockery 1968-69

A Quick Trip to Sonning

After a bit of a wander around the area around the house, which is looking rather tired it has to be said, I decide to make one last port of call before heading home to Bath.

Sonning is a pretty little village a couple of miles from Caversham on the banks of the river Thames. It was always a little posh but now I would imagine you would have to be pretty rich to afford to live there. It was lunch time so I decide to have a pub lunch (well, it was Sunday after all). Right in front of me appeared the familiar sign of The French Horn right on the edge of Sonning Bridge. I parked the bike up and strolled into the main reception area to be greeted by a waiter wearing a green blazer. Suddenly I felt like I was in the wrong place as I looked at all of the elderly diners sat out in the garden. "Is sir dining with us today?" came the enquiry. I stood there in my motorcycle leathers, crash helmet under my arm and looked nervously around me. "I'm not sure actually" I replied realising my mistake. "If sir wants casual, there is another public house just over the other side of the bridge which serves lunch" he informed me as I thanked him and turned on my heels to escape as quickly as possible.

"Casual? Casual!?" I muttered under my breath as I got on the bike and nipped across to the safety of the other side where I had a delicious 'casual' lunch for probably one fifth of the price they would have charged at The French Horn.

I have memories of swimming here in the river (once unintentional - I had a rubber dinghy which decided to suddenly split open whilst I was rowing whilst my parents were off walking. I managed to drag it's remains to the bank without drowning fortunately!) Aside from that, I used to go to cub scouts for a while here.
Sonning Bridge and the spot where my dinghy burst.

As part of the Berkshire, Sonning 1st Scouts I managed to make the rank of 'Seconder' and amassed a fair collection of 'proficiency badges', including Art, Entertaining, Sport, Cycling etc. Good fun at the time but we must have looked like a bunch of little green elves running about in our cub uniforms doing 'bob-a-job' on Caversham Park Village estate.

The Ladybird book of Boy Scouting - essential reading at the time. The uniforms were practically identical too. Our scarves were green and yellow though. These Ladybird books were everywhere at the time. Another topic for another time maybe.
The Berkshire Scout Badge we all had sewn onto the sleeves of our uniforms.

I've spent far too much time trying to find photos of the old Scout hut just off Pound Lane and I have failed. I've no idea who the people above are but I would put money on this being taken in the old scout hut. Same colour walls I remember and everything. There is a new building there now and the scouts are still going strong by the look of it. Akela!


Frank Heyes said...

Hi Its Frank Heyes formwrly of Galsworthy Drive Caversham Park nice Pics Thanks

Anonymous said...

It made me smile reading your CPV memories. I used to live in Blackwater Close and I remember your house clearly, you had an electricity sub station at the bottom of your garden with a high brick wall, on the side facing the path was a small wooden door, maybe 2 feet high. I was convinced this was a house for goblins! I think I was reading the same books you were...