As a young child living in the UK I considered my playground to be the grounds of Blaise Castle Manor House at Henbury, Bristol. I would walk through the woodlands and parklands of the estate and also along the bank of Hazel Brook. I would sail my little toy wooden yacht in the wading pool near the child’s playground and also swing on the swings to see how high I could go. For me Blaise Castle was a mystical place where my imagination could run wild.

The grounds contained such features as the Giant’s Footprint (a spot where the brook widened), caves amongst the cliffs. A gypsy caravan stood behind the old manor house when I was a child in the 1950s. There also were the old stables and the old church alongside the Manor grounds along with its cemetery. In the centre of the forest or woods, as we called it there, stood a “folly” which was, and is still, known at Blaise Castle. My older sister once told me a tale of murder and bloodied bodies in the tower which only added to its mystery for me. The folly was built in 1766 as a summer residence used for entertaining guests of the owner and for sightseeing of the ships traversing up the Bristol Channel to the mouth of the River Avon with views over the city of Bristol and surrounding area.

Nearby to Blaise Castle Manor was what remained of the original village of Henbury. The rest of the district having been developed shortly after the end of WW2 into Council housing estates similar to the Housing Commission estates of New South Wales.

But Blaise Castle Manor was a place where one could breathe with its wide expanse of lawn and surrounding forest. It was a magic place for a child such as myself. Goram’s Fair (Bristol’s equivalent to the Royal Easter Show of Sydney) would be held in the grounds. You could enjoy all the fun of the fair including the side show alley and displays by the British Army’s motor bike riders and other displays. Goram was the mythical Giant that supposedly lived in the area, hence the reference to the Giant’s Footprint earlier.

There were various cottages spread around the woodlands and parklands of the Manor as well as the nearby Historic Trust property of Blaise Hamlet

When I lived at Henbury it was a great place where you could pick chestnuts from the trees to play conkers with other kids, throw sycamore seeds into the air and watch as they descended like helicopters with their “wings” spinning around.

From the age of twelve my childhood was transformed as then I was living at Cabramatta, going from streets that had kerb and guttering and concrete footpaths to roads with ditches serving as the guttering and drains and no formed concrete footpaths. My playground changed from the wooded grounds of Blaise Castle Manor and the old cobbled streets of old Henbury to the muddied waters of Cabramatta Creek where I would fish for eels, the forest having been replaced with scattered bushes along the creek bank. The grounds of the Cabramatta hostel also became a playground for me.

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