This was Ashbourne on the Tuesday before Christmas. The children's play area is deserted.
The swings are stilled, the springs of the rockers are sprung and the slides devoid of "Wheeeee!".
The words of the carol, 'Earth stood hard as iron, Water like a stone' come to mind with new clarity.
Through the hedge, the Ashbourne Memorial Gardens are quiet. Dedicated to those who died for their country, they are an oasis on the edge of the town, a peaceful place to walk, sit or just use as an alternative through-route into town.
During the annual two-week long Ashbourne Festival, events are held here; musical and visual, usually ending with the 'Picnic in the Park', which has free entertainment and is open to all.
Within the memorial Gardens is the bandstand. Opened in 1952, it is used regularly, including by the Ashbourne Town Band, which traces its history back to 1861. Not surprisingly, the band have been particularly busy for the past few weeks with a series of Remembrance Day and Christmas engagements, though mostly in church and village halls around the area.
There are many minor entrances to the park and gardens, but these are the main Memorial Gates, against which are laid the poppy wreaths each Remembrance Day. The plaques alongside the gates, list the names of the local soldiers who died in the world wars. There are many family names here which are still common in the town; names like Wibberley, Bunting, Dykes, Fearn.
Ironically, these gates are rarely open. Alternatives are no more than 50 metres in either direction, but I often wonder how many new visitors to the town arrive at this view of a potential place for a stroll or a picnic, and stand here having a discussion about how to get in!