10th April 2020
The Northamptonshire Telegraph has launched a search for Wicksteed Park’s Number One fans and appealed for people to get in touch with their stories. Here Mick and Lesley Burdett reveal how their 50-year love story began at the park – under a conker tree!
Mick Burdett and Lesley Barlow were introduced by a mutual friend while sitting under a horse chestnut tree at Wicksteed Park, one Sunday afternoon in 1969.
Wicksteed Park was a regular meeting place for 100s of local teenagers during the long school holidays and the couple met for the first time near to the large round cycle shed, adjacent to the swings and slide area.
Lesley recalled: “I was 13 and Mick was 16. He walked me home that afternoon, and we have been together ever since. He is my first and only love.”
The couple’s links to the park have remained with them throughout their relationship – and they still have a young tree in their garden grown from a conker picked up from under the very tree where they met.
Lesley, 64, said: “When we met I was at Kettering High School for Girls and Mick had just started an apprenticeship at British Steel in Corby.
“We spent many happy Sunday afternoon at the park. In those days we were too young to have a car and had very little money, so free entertainment at “Wicksteeds” was all we could afford!”
The couple, who now live in Lindisfarne Drive, Kettering, were married at Carey Church in Kettering on September 6, 1975 and held their wedding reception in the Wicksteed Park pavilion. (see photo)
Mick,67, said: “Over the years Wicksteed Park has been the venue of many aspects of our lives. We visited with our children in the late 70s and early 80s, then with our grandchildren in the early 2000s.
“Likewise over the years we have attended many functions in the Pavilion, such as the Weetabix Christmas Dinner & Dance every year for 32 years.”
Lesley added: “Our favourite part of the park are the beautiful gardens. We have always loved walks with our dogs in the park, whatever the season, be it in the spring, seeing all the new shoots on the trees and all the daffodils, or in the summer when the beds are a riot of colours, in the autumn taking photographs of the leaves falling or in the winter with the frost on everything.
“Every part of Wicksteed Park seems to hold some sort of memory.
“My grandfather told me stories of helping to stock the lake with fish, my mum used to use the Cycle & Running Track as she was the 1st Lady Member of Kettering Harriers, our Son worked as a Ride Operator when he was a teenager and now our grandaughter, Illaria, is doing the same.
“Whilst on holiday in Great Yarmouth in the 1960s, my Nan, who also lived in Kettering, went on a Coach Mystery Trip, and where did she end up....yes, Wicksteed Park!! She nipped home for a cup of tea before
returning on the coach to Yarmouth for the rest of her holiday!!”
“Wicksteed is with us even when we are at home as we can hear the train, from our garden, tooting as it trundles around the lake and the sound of the Water Chute each time it plunges into the water.
“Our garden wouldn't be the same without the sounds from the Park and our Conker Tree reminding us of where we first met over 50 years ago!”
Anyone who would like to share their stories of Wicksteed Park can email firstname.lastname@example.org marking their email Wicksteed Park’s Biggest Fan.