'Rom': Europe's first heritage listed skatepark / by Tom Oliver Payne

'Rom' is iconic in British skate and Bmx culture. It represents a time when skating was a little more raw – much like its roughness of its own surface.

When I first started sessioning skateparks in the late 90s, it was common to see wooden indoor and pre-fabricated outdoor skateparks in videos and magazines. But every so often an image would pop up of this huge outdoor concrete skatepark in London made up of mogul bowls, pools and downhill snake runs. 

Far from the smoothed surface skateparks being built in the 1990s and 2000s, Rom from back in the '70s was bumpy, rough and raw. I couldn’t wait to one day check it out.

 Built in 1977, Romford skatepark has for decades attracted Bmx and skate talent from across the world. 

Built in 1977, Romford skatepark has for decades attracted Bmx and skate talent from across the world. 

Fast-forward 15 years, and I’d still never visited... 

That was, until a text came through last week, “who's up for a Romford session?” A couple of days later a group of us were jammed into the back of a van, heading east towards 4,000 square metres of pure concrete.

It seems the excitement of Bmx and skating hasn't worn off in our older age. Exploding out of the van, we spent hours carving seemingly endless lines over humps, bumps and massive transitions. 

Everything about this place characterised - to me - the early years of skate and Bmx culture. 

Originating from the surf lifestyle of Southern California in the 50s and 60s, early skaters explored swimming pools and concrete drains to surf. Over time, they began creating purpose built parks, which still gave the sensation of carving a wave. Rom – England’s oldest surviving skatepark – is the perfect example of this.

The bowls and snakeruns weren’t created for the modern, tech kid. But they represented the old-school style of skaters who preferred high speed carving lines.

It was no surprise to me when I heard last year that Historic England would give Rom a Grade II heritage listing. The park has become an icon of the British skate and Bmx culture. Although both sports have blown-up into the mainstream in recent years, the park represents a time when skating felt more alternative and raw .

As we hopped back into the van and drove back towards London, I was so psyched to have finally check out this piece of history. With the threat of destruction of loads of amazing parks in recent years, it's awesome to know that at least place is immune. I can't wait for some solid afternoons here in summer 2017. 

For a complete rundown on other incredible places to visit in England, be sure to check out the Your RV Lifestyle's comprehensive list.

Tom

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