See-saws and building sites

Who can remember the days when building sites didn’t have; 10 foot fences around them, security guards patrolling them, guard dogs protecting them, flood lights illuminating them and large posters displayed around them suggesting anyone who ventured onto them were at risk of being prosecuted or worse?

‘Back in the day’, many of my fondest play memories are based around the building site at the end of my street. Aged six years old, I lived on a large newly built housing estate in the Midlands, which was continuing to expand. Fortunately it was out of site of my house, so ‘the parents’ couldn’t see what was going on – and yes I was  given the ‘freedom to roam’, without a mobile phone, and with instructions to be home before it went dark!.

Once the workmen had downed tools for the day, the ‘gang’ would congregate around the newly dug foundations and plan our adventures for the evening. The ‘gang’ consisted of upwards of a dozen boys and girls, ranging in age from five to 15 years old.

Some of the best adventures were when we ‘borrowed’ the workmen’s spades, moved piles of loose earth and built huge soil mounds. We would then re-position long scaffolding planks over the soil to create the world’s largest see- saws. Five or six of us would sit on each end of the scaffold plank and we would have hours of fun trying to see who we could send flying through the air as we bumped the plank down on the ground. We would pick teams to decide who sat on each end, and the last person picked was often the one with the highest level of risk aversion.

Another favourite was playing tig around the freshly laid foundations of the new houses. We’d run around the tops of the bricks which outlined the rooms, jumping across corners and becoming increasingly daring as we took more risks, and challenged each other to try increasingly precarious  acts.

We had our own ‘Adventure Playground’ where the best fun was making up our own adventures. No-one got hurt and no bones were broken; we left no damage or graffiti behind; we made friends and fell out; we used our imaginations, tested and challenged our boundaries and learnt how to manage risks. More importantly – we kept ourselves safe.

What fabulous memories this left, but once again raises the question, ‘would I let my children do this today?’

Janet Orrock, Play Development Officer, Exploring Nature Play (North East)  at Play England. To mark the launch of the Policy Studies Institute (PSI) research on independent mobility, Play England staff will be sharing their personal stories and thoughts on the subject on this blog, we hope you enjoy them.

Follow my adventures at:

One Response to “See-saws and building sites”
  1. Another brilliant memory -perhaps we can gather these all up and send them on to someone very important who will begin to listen!!!

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