Anyone who takes ‘a trip to Scarborough’ will include the North Bay’s Peasholm Park in their list of places to visit.
Free Visitor Attraction
Peasholm Park is still somewhere I visit regularly, in all seasons and all weathers. I also worked at Peasholm Park Cafe from 1987 to 1990, when Scarborough Borough Council owned most if not all of the sites in and around the park.
Back then, outlets included the Buttercup Kiosk, Cotswold Farm and others. The council also organised a wide variety of entertaining shows, attractions and amenities in the park during the height of the summer season.
The Naval Warfare
The Naval Warfare was and still is the key event and it always attracted the crowds. ‘Back in the day’, a Tuesday evening featured Water Ski Nights, again very popular. The show included ramps and costumed water skiers, entertaining youngsters and their families as the sun went down. And then, as today when it is possible, brass bands played on Sunday afternoons, the musicians being transported from the lakeside to the bandstand in a boat.
To make the most of the brief yet busy summer season, we as council employees were asked to manage outdoor facilities. These included hot dog stalls, ice cream trays and refrigerated ice cream selling points. We also offered cooked food in the cafe which over-looked the lake and Peasholm Island. It was a pleasant place to work, even though the hours could be very long. The park always looked pretty, the boat deck crew were a great bunch, and of course there was the putting green too.
The Summer of 1990
There was one incident I clearly remember from my days at Peasholm Park. I worked there until the end of the 1990 summer season: I forget which summer it was, but as I recall we had two good summers. One summer took place in 1988 and the other in 1990. Whichever year it was, sometime during the summer holidays, we had the most terrific thunderstorm. There was one particularly loud peal of thunder and we heard afterwards a thunderbolt had landed in the South Bay. To this day, I don’t know if this is true, but it was suggested it landed near one of the amusement arcades on the south side.
Well, then the rain poured – I don’t think I’ve ever seen a cloudburst like it before or since. The lake quickly flooded, overtopping its banks and swishing around the benches. People out walking in the park crammed into the cafe, absolutely sodden. I struggled to close doors, normally kept wide open all day.
The sky was black and the rain was so heavy, Peasholm Island couldn’t be seen. The roof of the cafe just about held its own – the noise of the rain on the tiles was tremendous.
Eventually, the storm subsided, and the rain eased. It was then time to assess the damage.
The devastation was plain for all to see. Muddy waters swirled around the seating area, branches had been ripped off the trees and countless leaves littered the ground. Some of the canoes were completely flooded, and the boat deck was underwater. The lake looked to be twice its normal size. There was nowhere for the water to go, the park gardeners opened the sluice gates. The allowed thousands of litres of water to make its way from the lake and presumably out towards the sea.
Not a problem, you would think, in fact, an excellent idea – except, on this occasion, no-one shut the sluice gates once the flood waters dropped. As a result, the water level fell to an abnormally low level. It was so low that the planned Naval Warfare the following day had to be cancelled. So as the rest of the town dealt with the flash flood aftermath, in Peasholm, we didn’t have enough H20 to allow the Naval Warfare to take place!
Yes, I have great memories of working at Peasholm Park. Now I can enjoy it as a place to relax and admire, thankful for all the hard work that goes into maintaining a place that in my opinion, is Scarborough’s Gem.