Friday, 27 September 2013

Steve's Story



Steve Rabone
One of the things we love about writing for the welovebearwood blog is the people we meet and hearing all about their lives in Bearwood. Recently we got to know Steve Rabone through his son, Conor, the lead singer of Brothers of Caedmon, who played at last year’s Bearwood Shuffle (the one in St Mary’s Church Hall) and at this year’s Warley Woods Picnic in the Park.

Although Steve lives in Redditch now, he spent his childhood in Bearwood and told us about his fond memories growing up near Warley Woods and Lightwoods Park. 

"In terms of my connection to Bearwood, well I was born at St Chads Hospital on the Hagley Road on the 31st October 1968 and returned to the family home in Loxley Road, Bearwood , where I spent the next 23 years of my life before getting married and moving initially to Halesowen and then latterly Redditch.

I lived in Loxley Road with my dad Ron and mum Ann ( also known as the lady with the dog, but more about that later) and younger brother Mark. Loxley Road runs parallel with St Mary's Road and was a great location close to the main shops on the Bearwood Road but also in easy reach of my favourite destinations of Lightwoods Park and Warley Woods.

You have asked me for my earliest memory of living in Bearwood and I must confess it is difficult to pick just one out so here are a few of those moments in my childhood that stand out for me:

At a very early age I can remember a hot summers day and water splashing against my feet. No, I wasn't on holiday in Paignton (a favourite destination for the Rabones) but actually in the paddling pool at Lightwoods Park with what seemed like hundreds of other children enjoying the british weather. Its hard to believe that 40 odd years later the remains of the pool still exist, although skateboards and BMX bikes are now the order of the day next to the play area

I spent most of childhood up 'the woods' with my mates and whilst this evolved from doing the normal boy activities of climbing trees, playing army games and then cricket and football, one particular early evening adventure still lasts in my mind today. One of my best mates had heard about the ghost that was said to haunt the stables near the old Abbey at the top half of the woods near the golf course. Apparently she was called the Grey Lady and we embarked on an early evening trek to see if we could see her. I seem to recall there were about four of us and we quickly reached the old derelict stables that were in a state of disrepair. We crept up to the wooden doors and looked inside, not quite sure what we would see.

The story was that the Grey Lady had died there over a hundred years ago and someone thought that she had hung herself. So we were already pretty spooked but having peered in through the wooden doors into the darkness we could just make out what we thought was a piece of rope hanging down from the rafters....I can't remember which one of us screamed first but before long all of us were running back down the hill, our hearts pounding and sure that we had seen something. I don't think there is anything left of the old Abbey or stables now although obviously we have the constant reminder that it existed given that Abbey Road is still there.




Warley Woods Silver Jubilee
Steve's the one in the large blue E+R hat
The other memory which I have fondness for and the one that my mum will no doubt still have pictures for was the 1977 Queen's Silver Jubilee. (See above!)

I would have been 8 going on 9 at the time and even now I can recall it as a happy time when we seemed to speak to people and neighbours that we hadn't done before. Obviously there were street parties happening all over the country at the time but we joined lots of our neighbours at St Mary's Church Hall where trestle tables had been put out for an indoor party.

This came the day after another party that my school, Abbey Road Junior and Infants had held up Warley Woods.   The school had run a competition to design the best hat and I had proudly worn a large soldiers hat my dad had made from card and crepe paper. Along with my Aston Villa cardigan I felt the bees knees and whether it's the fact there are lots of photographs but this seems to be the outfit that I always think back to when I was growing up. I know it probably sounds quite corny now but as a youngster this did seem like a really happy time with everyone getting on together and it did feel like the whole of Bearwood were celebrating together

To be honest there are so many other memories that I could throw in from the many, many hours playing cricket up the Woods with my mates, swimming at Thimble Mill baths, hide and seek up the Brook off Norman Road, going ice skating at the Windsor to catching the 448 bus to senior school at Bristnall Hall and playing in the school brass band with four of my mates. On behalf of me and my four mates I would like to take this opportunity of saying sorry to our parents for the noise that we must have created during this last endeavour, we were without doubt the worst 5 piece brass band ever to attempt this form of music.

In terms of Bearwood, I suspect wherever you live and grow up has a place in your heart, but I do genuinely think that Bearwood has certain qualities that appeal to many people and I know over the years it has attracted new people to the area, many professionals who like its location to Birmingham and beyond.

I always felt that Bearwood was in some ways a bridge between the posher area of Harborne and its neighbour extension Smethwick, in particular Cape Hill. As a result I think it has always wrestled with a bit of an identity crisis in terms of whether it was joined to Harborne or Smethwick. To be honest when I was growing up it always felt like we were an off shoot of Harborne sharing many of the shops and outlets of Harborne, even the main street looked and felt the same. However over the years this connection did seem to disappear and in my teenage years and certainly after I left for Halesowen it did feel like Bearwood had become more of an extension of Cape Hill rather than having its own distinct look and feel.


Steve at Abbey Road Junior School
There has however also been lots of other changes over the years and I was really pleased to see recently the talk of renovating the big house in Lightwoods Park. For me this Park, the Extension and Warley Woods are the centre piece of this area and its great to see the recent investment that has been made.
There are not many places in and around Birmingham that can boast such an abundance of parks. You only have to ask my mum, the lady with the dog who can testify to this. My mum has owned a dog for many years and now that her sons have left home and my dad passed away it is fair to say that she spends most of her time either walking to, around or back from one these three parks.

As you say my son has recently played at a couple of gigs and for me both brought back great memories for me. Due to the bad weather the Bearwood Shuffle was taken inside and Conor performed at St Mary's Church Hall, which as I said was where we held our Silver Jubilee Street Party.

Similarly the recent Party in the Park at Warley Woods was a huge success and on a personal note was the first time I had been back to Warley Woods in many years. It was slightly odd seeing my son perform on stage just yards away from where I used to play cricket during the school holidays and summer evenings. The amount of people at this event was great and proved that Warley Woods is a great centre piece for the whole of Bearwood to come together and I hope many more events take place.

I now live in Redditch and have a family life centred around here, with its big roads, roundabouts and vicinity to the countryside all very practical for me and the family. However I will always have a real attraction to Bearwood because I do think it has a lot to offer for the people who live there.

The houses, whilst predominately terraced have character and do remind you of Dr Who's tardis...they are definitely bigger on the inside. The Hagley Road is great link into Birmingham although the speed camera's do mean it takes slightly longer to get there these days. It does also boast a close proximity to a Premiership Football team and whilst I am Villa fan through and through I know most of my mates would like me to call out the fact that West Bromwich Albion is literally just down the road. Bearwood Road was also a great place to shop and still attracts lots of shoppers as my mum will testify by the fact it is so difficult to park in her road on a Saturday.

As I said earlier I always felt like Bearwood was a bridge between Harborne and Smethwick and over the years it seemed to move from one to the other. I guess in terms of its future it now needs to have its own distinct identity, it certainly has enough going for it."

P.S. Are you Bearwood Born and Bred?  Would you like to share your memories about growing up in Bearwood?  If so, we would love to hear from you.  Please email us at welovebearwood@googlemail.com

P.P.S You can find out more about Brothers of Caedmon right here!

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