Listen. What can you hear? This part of the park is full of life. Listen carefully.
It was 1940. That is the sound of an air-raid siren going off. Down Cardiff docks, the bombing was about to get bad. That was when Sion’s Mam decided he needed to go somewhere safe, to get away from the bombs.
“You’re going to stay with your Aunt Maud for a bit,” she told him. “In Lisvane.”
You see, in those days, this part of Cardiff where we are now was still a little village. Surrounded by green fields and thick woodlands. The rest of the city hadn’t grown big enough to join up with us here.
But Sion didn’t want to go to stay with Aunt Maud in Lisvane. He didn’t want to for two reasons. One was that all of his school friends were being evacuated to towns in the Valleys, and he wanted to go with them. The second was that he didn’t like Aunt Maud. Not one bit.
Aunt Maud was very tall and thin with a permanently sour expression. She was extremely rich, much richer than Sion and his Mam, and she lived in a big house surrounded by green fields and woodland. Perhaps you came past it on your way to the park today. It won’t be surrounded by fields any longer, but it’s probably still as big and grand as it was back then. It had lots of windows and lots of dark corridors in it and was surrounded by a thick dark hedge.
Up until now, Sion had only ever gone to visit Aunt Maud on special occasions, like her birthday. She would make him take afternoon tea with her in the conservatory. She was very strict about things like sitting up straight and using the right knife and fork. When Sion tried to use his finger to scoop up the stray cake crumbs, she nearly fainted with horror.
And now Sion had to live with her. He wasn’t happy about the idea.
“Can’t I stay with you, Mam?” he pleaded. “I’m not afraid of bombs.”
Mam looked as sad as Sion felt about having to leave him at Aunt Maud’s. But she wouldn’t back down. She gave him his suitcase, and a big hug, and told him to mind his manners. And then she said thank you to Aunt Maud for taking care of Sion and left them both to it.
Sion couldn’t believe it. She’d really done it. She’d left him stranded with Aunt Maud of all people, in the middle of nowhere.
He hated the first few days. He hated his Aunt. He hated his mam for making him be here. He hated this stupid big house. The house was creaky and old and filled with things that he wasn’t allowed to touch or play with. In the mornings, Aunt Maud made him do his sums and reading so he wouldn’t fall behind in school. In the afternoons, Aunt Maud rested in her bedroom for hours and Sion was left with nothing to do. Nothing at all. He was so bored.
The only thing he liked about the house was that from his bedroom window he could see Cardiff. Perhaps you can find a spot in this park where you can see the city? There are some amazing views from here. Sion could see all the way down to the docks on a clear day. He could imagine he was back home with his mam.
But imagining stuff wasn’t really enough. He wanted to DO something. So, it was on the third day that Sion decided to go on an adventure.
The bottom of Aunt Maud’s garden was enclosed by the same big, thick, dark hedge. The hedge was made of lots of trees with thick stubby trunks and there were gaps in between them. One gap was just big enough for a medium-sized boy to squeeze through. That’s what Sion did. When he was sure Aunt Maud was fast asleep and dreaming during her afternoon rest, he squeezed through the hedge and popped out –
In what seemed to be a park. There were trees and small winding paths and flowers and birds and it was incredibly beautiful.
He walked and he walked. Wandering and taking it all in. it was magical. It was his own secret, magical park.
He walked until –
Until he ended up right about –
Here. right about where you are.
So why don’t you walk with Sion as he explores deeper? Keep walking up this path now, until you come to a pond.