Back To Childhood

This is the second in a series of detailed posts about my artistic responses to former Scarborough attractions.

To see the first – The Making of a Chairlift – please click here.

Although I still regularly visit Scarborough as an adult, and am moving to the town this summer, most of my most enduring memories are of childhood visits during the late 1980s and early to mid 1990s.

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Above: In Kinderland (from the author’s personal collection)

As an artist who wears costumes and performs characters – it made sense that I should create a child character for Stories From Scarborough. Indeed, the imagined rider of my chairlift costume is a child:

Above: As shown in the previous post (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

The pigtails, dungarees and frilly collar are references to a childhood outfit I often wore. However, I wanted to design something slightly different for the adult ‘me’ – still dungarees, but white or gingham ones with patches; worn with a t-shirt, pumps and frilly white socks.

The first step was to design some memory-inspired patches for my costume – I combined existing images, my own drawings and photos to create a series of digital patterns inspired by Marvel’s Amusement Park and its predecessor Scarborough Zoo.

Above: One of a series of Marvel’s memory patches (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

Below: Combined patterns (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

If you look closely you can see chairlifts, promotional material from Marvel’s and references to Scarborough Zoo. From a distance I imagined a series of these patterns resembling red gingham. I wondered whether they should cover the dungarees or not.

Above: Dungaree pattern superimposed over a template (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

But more importantly, was I to make the dungarees from scratch, or to buy a plain white pair to experiment with? In the end I found an affordable pair of white builders’ dungarees on eBay, with a handy pouch in the front. I also paired them with a cheap red t-shirt and summery pumps, similar to those I sometimes wore as a child during the summer.

Above: Costume paired with a handmade sign (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

Even just wearing these new clothes made me feel like a child again – my whole body language changed. The handmade sign is a nod to the Kinderland March – I decided that Marvel’s deserved a protest against closure, even over a decade after the occasion!

So what about the memory patches?

Well, after making the digital design I printed an acetate positive to create a screenprint of the pattern onto a cut up white cotton bedsheet. Not all of the prints turned out quite right though:

Above: An artistically imperfect print! Oops! (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

Nonetheless, I got enough decent patches to sew some onto the dungarees – I opted against completely covering the white, instead settling for a series of strategically placed samples.

Above: Costume plus patches but minus pigtails (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

I was very happy with how it turned out and even customised the costume with a handmade badge or two:

Above: Dungarees with badges and memory patch (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

And some more:

Above: More badges (Copyright: Stories From Scarborough)

This character will be hoping to have some adventures in Scarborough this summer and beyond, and she might be doing a sneaky preview performance in Manchester before I leave. Watch this space!

Great Crested Newts at Kinderland and Marvel’s

Great Crested Newts, otherwise known as Northern Crested Newts, are a type of aquatic amphibian found across Europe and parts of Asia. In England, Wales and Scotland they are a protected species.

Above: A male Great Crested Newt (source)

Although primarily land dwellers, these newts breed in water (mainly ponds and pools), where the female lays her eggs on sub-aquatic plants. Due to their vulnerability to fish predation, great crested newts tend to steer clear of areas of water in which fishes dwell, hence there preference for smaller inland pools and ponds.

Above: A great crested newt egg on the leaf of a sub-aquatic plant (source)

In this respect, the boating lake in Northstead Manor Gardens, Scarborough, has traditionally provided an ideal breeding ground for the great crested newts, in spite of the fact that it is man-made. The frequent draining of the lake – an important part of its upkeep over the years – has maintained a safe and relatively fish free environment for newt reproduction.

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Above: Northstead Manor Gardens Boating Lake – in the background (source)

The boating lake has long been a fixture in Northstead Manor Gardens, formerly known as the Pleasure Park, and is an artificial feature created specially for the area in the 1930s, along with a miniature railway, water chute and open air theatre. The park was completed in 1935.

Above: Old postcard showing the boating lake (source)

Going back to the great crested newts…

From the 1940s onwards, loss of natural habitat (along with other factors) severely curtailed numbers of this amphibian species, and the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act pledged to protect them; requiring their preservation by law.

Above: A page from the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981 (source)

Due to this obligation to protect the newts, they were moved to specially prepared locations for safety. One of these was the popular children’s adventure playground – Kinderland, a company that took over the operation of the nearby boating lake and  water chute in 1984.

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Above: Reproduction of the sign from the newts’ area at Kinderland (from the author’s personal collection)

Some of the newts travelled to Marvel’s instead – the amusement park on the other side of the boating lake, formerly known as Scarborough Zoo. It has been difficult to establish whether this occurred before or after the site closed to the public in 2002.

Above: During its tenure as Scarborough Zoo, the site was home to many different animals (source)

According to the Yorkshire Post, the newts at Marvel’s occupied an area close to the former chairlift route, their presence leaving developers unable to fully dismantle cabling after the theme park’s closure in 2002. When Kinderland closed several years later in 2007, similar problems emerged. Obliged by law to ensure the continued survival of the newts, both developers and Scarborough Council (owners of the lease for both sites) were faced with finding and preparing new habitats.

Above: An overgrown Kinderland – prior to the clearing of the site (source)

This challenge was further complicated by the hibernation cycle of the newts – all had to be captured prior to their winter retreat.

Above: The former Marvel’s site – now derelict (source)

According to the Scarborough News, the remaining newts were rehoused in specially designed habitats – including one located in the Northstead Manor Gardens, and another at the North Cliff Golf Club.

Above: North Cliff Golf Course – a picturesque setting for a new habitat? (source)

As for the boating lake – where the story began – this is now owned by North Bay Railway, and is due to re-open in May 2014. Like the water chute, it has survived long before and after its affiliation with Kinderland. Hopefully the great crested newts also will remain an enduring part of the natural landscape.

Any nature experts out there? Are there any mistakes in this post – if so please leave a comment. The same applies if you know anything about the newts and their Scarborough story – information seems to be rather sporadic and difficult to verify. Alternatively you can also comment via the Facebook Page.

Sources

Scarborough News

The Yorkshire Post

Scarborough Biodiversity Action Plan

The Sands

DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981

The Historic Water Chute

One of Kinderland’s best loved features was the Water Chute.

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Above: The Kinderland Water Chute (from the author’s personal collection)

Passengers boarded this boat-shaped vessel and were swiftly transported, via tracks, down to the nearby boating lake in Northstead Manor Gardens.

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Above: The former Kinderland boating lake – the Water Chute tracks are just on the left behind the trees (source)

The descent ended with a huge splash, and the ride was completely free for Kinderland ticket holders.

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Above: Another view of the Water Chute (source)

Although the Water Chute was acquired by Kinderland when the activity park opened in 1985 – the chute itself had existed since 1932, operating independently for over 50 years.

The Historic Water Chute

Above: An early postcard featuring the Water Chute (source)

The earliest water chutes were developed during the early twentieth century, and by the 1920s were making their way into fairs and parks across the UK.

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Above: An early Water Chute in Southport (from the author’s collection)

Blackpool, Southport, Southend-on-Sea all had one, and North Yorkshire was no exception, with chutes opening in both Hull and Scarborough. The design is often attributed to Charles Wicksteed, who founded Wicksteed Park in Kettering. This park also, unsurprisingly, features a Water Chute – one of the first to be built and one of only a few still in operation today.

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Above: The Water Chute at Wicksteed Park – very similar to the one in Scarborough (source)

Below: Charles Wicksteed (source)

Wicksteed

In 1928 construction of the Water Chute in Northstead Manor Gardens (also known as Scarborough Pleasure Park) began, taking four years to complete and eventually opening alongside the nearby Open Air Theatre in 1932.

Pleasure Park

Above: Water Chute (centre), Open Air Theatre (background) and the miniature railway on the left (source)

One year earlier, the miniature railway had transported its first passengers past the Water Chute site, then under construction.

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Above: The early days of the North Bay Railway (source)

Northstead Manor Gardens, which also featured a boating lake, was built on Hobson’s Slack – the geography of the area was ideal for an amphitheatre. The Open Air Theatre has been recently redeveloped following its closure between 1986 and 2010. It has since hosted a range of big name acts including Status Quo and JLS.

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Above: The new Open Air Theatre (source)

The Water Chute has also benefited from recent regeneration in the Manor Gardens area. Having suffered vandalism and disrepair following the closure of former operator Kinderland in 2007, the attraction was restored and reopened in 2008 with funding from The Sands redevelopment project. It is now owned by North Bay Railway.

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Above: North Bay Railway logo (source)

Whilst advances in engineering and design have since produced ever more complex and thrilling water rides, there is still something to be said for the simple pleasure of the original Water Chute experience. Indeed, its endurance as an attraction (for over 80 years!) is testament to this fact.

Have you taken a ride on the Water Chute? Do you remember it being part of Kinderland? Are there any mistakes in this post? Please comment below.

Sources

North Bay Railway

UK Rides Info

National Fairground Archive

Wicksteed Park

The Kinderland Protest

On February 23rd, 2003, hundreds of parents and children attended a march to protest against the proposed closure of Kinderland – Scarborough’s treasured attraction for children.

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Above: Kinderland promotional material (source)

Marketed as a ‘fun, play and activity park’, Kinderland opened in 1985 and had welcomed thousands of children over the years. You can read more about it here and see pictures here.

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Above: One of the play areas at Kinderland (from the author’s personal collection)

By 2003, following a brief closure in 2001 and years of financial difficulties, Kinderland was sought after by developers Benchmark for the proposed North Bay Project, and  Scarborough Council were considering offering the lease.

The Sands

Above: One of the many proposal plans for the North Bay area (source)

Concerned at the prospect of losing Kinderland, local lady Norma Fedorowycz set about organising a petition and protest, eager to preserve the area for future generations of children. The (then) 67-year old, assisted by son Neil, managed to accrue 800 signatures within a matter of hours, and a website – Scarborough For Kids – was set up detailing the campaign. Unfortunately the site has long since been taken down.

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Above: Kinderland frisbee (from the author’s personal collection)

Following plans made in early February, by the day of the march (on Feburary 23rd, 2003), the petition had over 1000 signatures and counting. Evidently Kinderland was held in high regard by local people.

Whilst acknowledging the possibility of redevelopment, the campaign emphasised that any future use of the Kinderland site should ideally provide a clean, safe and supervised area for children to play – affordable family-friendly entertainment. With the loss of popular attractions such as Marvel’s, Millennium, Atlantis and the pirate-themed trips along the Mere, Scarborough’s reputation as a family (and child) friendly resort was under threat.

The march was reportedly a well attended event.

Outside the Kinderland site on Burniston Road, children and parents sported handmade signs and chanted ‘Save Kinderland’ to the accompaniment of supporting hoots from passing motorists. One lady came all the way from Lancashire to support the march. Protestors proceeded from the park to the Corner, where, according The Scarborough News, supporters were to be rewarded with free ice cream and a magic show.

Corner Cafe

Above: The Corner Cafe, where the march ended – the cafe was demolished in 2007 to make way for flats (source)

Over ten years later, the site remains empty, although is reportedly still earmarked for development, as part of The Sands project.

On one hand it is very sad that Kinderland has been lost – it was popular with tourists and locals; a beloved part of Scarborough’s recent history, and yet its financial viability was arguably at odds with the rapidly changing tourist industry. Seaside resorts such as Scarborough now face stiff competition from bigger regional attractions, which are now widely accessibly to an increasingly mobile cohort of visitors. Likewise, affordable foreign holidays also continue to threaten the traditional British seaside holiday, and both councils and developers alike must seek out new ways to attract visitors.

My memories are of a Scarborough for children – there were lots of attractions specifically aimed at kids. When I return now, it seems to be moving towards embracing a more adult audience. Perhaps this is my imagination – resorts are constantly changing to stay financially viable, and as I don’t live in Scarborough (yet!) I’m not as knowledgeable about recent developments as I eventually hope to be. However, one of my aims in creating Stories From Scarborough is to find creative ways to celebrate Scarborough’s reputation as a magical place for children.

Do you remember the Kinderland march? Did you take part? Please comment below with memories, opinions and/or corrections!

The above text is largely based upon articles published in The Scarborough News

Remembering Kinderland

Kinderland was a children’s activity park that stood on Burniston Road, Scarborough between 1985 and 2007. Originally proposed in the early 1980s, Kinderland was the creation of Dudley Wallis, who had formerly ran the Wallis Holiday Camp at Cayton Bay. The plans were met with letters and petitions from local residents. A councillor who supported it was purportedly booed off stage at a public meeting, and the council was accused of ignoring local opposition.

Wallis Holiday Camp

Above: Dudley Wallis previously ran the Wallis’ Holiday Camp in Cayton Bay (source)

Reports indicate that many believed Kinderland would be a tacky venture – a cross between ‘Battersea funfair and and amusement arcade’. Nonetheless, a model went on display at the town hall, and the attraction was built anyway. Children queued for hours to enter the park when it opened during the May Day Bank Holiday in 1985.

Battersea Funfair

Above: Battersea Funfair (source)

Kinderland was far from being either a funfair or amusement arcade, with ‘not a slot machine in sight’ according to the Scarborough News. Instead the attraction became a reputable and well-loved place for children and their families – popular with locals and tourists alike.  In 1989 Kinderland received an award from Scarborough Civic Society – for outstanding contribution to the town. It had only been open for four years.

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Above: Kinderland postcard (from the author’s personal collection)

Fees were only £2 when the park opened, with a staff of approximately 46 people. Tickets ensured unlimited use of the facilities, which included slides, climbing frames, a pedal car track, clock tower, water chute, boating lake and much more.

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Above: The Water Chute (from the author’s personal collection) – its existence long pre-dates Kinderland

My family and I visited Kinderland at least once every year during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Our yearly summer holiday in Scarborough was never complete without a day riding the water chute (or water splash as my brothers and I called it), clambering through tunnels in the indoor play area and hiding inside the tiny model castle with its barred window.

Kinderland was brilliant for kids – there was plenty to do; lots of play opportunities to explore and children could easily spend entire days there with their families. One family reportedly visited up to 60 times in one year alone.

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Above: The miniature castle (from the author’s personal collection)

The Wallis family were all involved with running the park, but in 1991 funding difficulties emerged. Although the park continued to run, it briefly closed in 2001, which is also the year in which park founder, Dudley Wallis, died.

Dudley Wallis

Above: Dudley Wallis – far right (source)

Inspired by his visits to the park as a boy,  Scarborough’s own Kevin Sykes, along with his father Stuart, mother Christine and wife Joanna (operations manager at nearby Atlantis) took on the lease. The family, who owned the town’s M&M Discount Store, wasted no time and re-opened Kinderland the following year, although soon became frustrated by a lack of support and assurance from the council regarding the lease.

Like the Wallis family, they persisted against growing losses, and faced constant threats of closure. A well-attended protest in 2003  highlighted strong local support for Kinderland, and the Scarborough News documents fierce opposition to the eventual closure in 2007.

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Above: Local newspapers report Kinderland’s demise (archived articles photographed with permission from Scarborough Library)

The site was cleared for the Sands redevelopment project, although currently remains empty.

This post is only an introduction to Kinderland and its history, based mainly on local newspaper reports. The author is aware of potential limitations/inaccuracies and welcomes feedback. More details will be discussed in upcoming posts. This research is only in the early stages.

See any mistakes in this post? Want to share any additional information or memories? Please comment below – all contributions are very welcome!