Thursday, 13 September 2007

The wisdom of 'a silly old woman'

3pm, Wednesday 13 September, 13 cars in the park.

3.01pm, Wednesday 13 September, no cars in the pocket park.

3.02pm, Wednesday 13 September, 1 white van in Church Street.

This blog was going to be about 'Grubby goings on in the park', but you will now have to wait until Sunday before you can learn more. So what changed my mind? The answer is 'a silly old lady' in her eighties. That is what she says a visitor to our park called her, adding 'Go home'. She was in the park yesterday afternoon and saw thirteen cars park on the grass. She also noticed that there were no cars parked on Church Street beside the park or the car park in the pocket park opposite the entrance to the park. When she asked at the park pavilion beside the bowling greens why cars were parked on the grass and added that they could be dangerous to the small children in the park she was called 'a silly old woman' and told to 'go home'. When she spoke to Dave, the groundsman, he explained that parking was 'necessary to raise the profile of the park', but it was only allowed when it wasn't wet because he didn't want the grass being churned up.

I know all this because the 'silly old woman' came and knocked on my door, somewhat upset at being made to feel bad about herself. She came to Susan and me because she wanted to tell someone about what had just happened. The person is question has lived in Lenton most of her life and over the years we have got to know one another. She has a name I remember because it's the same name as my mother, who died last October. We used to meet swimming lengths in the old Lenton Baths and we continue to see one another at meetings, on the bus, in the street and sometimes we have tea together. She is one of the many reasons we love Lenton and I could name another hundred reasons like her. She is an interesting, caring person, who deserves to be respected and listened to on the few occasions when she has something to say.

Until she knocked on our door, I had not had the wit to photograph more than cars in the park. Yesterday I took my camera a few yards outside the park gates on Church Street and captured a scene I have seen on other occasions when cars have been parked in the park — no cars, or hardly any, in Church Street and none in the pocket park because it has not been open. The next time I see cars on the grass I will repeat the exercise and there is a good chance it will be much the same, as it has been on previous occasions.

Those of you read my blog on 22 August after the last Park Consultative Group meeting will know that parking came up there as well. One had hoped that a compromise had been reached that was more than favourable to the bowlers who wanted a permanent car park. I was against it at the time, but in the end I went with the compromise. Now I'm not so sure. Why? Because, sadly, unreasonable people always want more and are often bullies to boot and I think some of the bowling fraternity who use our local neighbourhood park may be both if the experience of the silly old woman and the evidence are anything to go by.

Lenton Recreation Ground is a local park serving a neighbourhood and is the kind of park which every person living in Nottingham should be within walking distance of. In other words, you don't need a car to reach it. Visitors to the park, if they are reasonable people, will understand this and when they choose to visit such a park as ours they accept that if they come by car they will have to find somewhere to park it. Of course there are going to be occasions when car parking in the park has to be arranged. Visiting bowlers, if they are reasonable people, will understand and accept this approach.

There are other kinds of parks in Nottingham. Highfields Park a mile to the south-west of our park is a city park and should have the facilities which go with that status. Wollaton Park, with its industrial museum and the wonderful Tudor Wollaton Hall, a mile to the west of here is Nottingham's 'showcase' park which, because of the hall, is of importance to the East Midlands region, if not nationally. With such neighbours, it is important that Lenton Recreation Ground has its own unique identity and I am in no doubt that we should aspire to be a model local park which wins Gren Flag after Green Flag not just because Nottingham City Council spends money on it, but because the local community it serves care about it and the staff who work here remain committed and are empowered to do what they do so well. Our park is truly a partnership of councillors, council, users and employees.

The 'silly old woman' spoke words of wisdom and I have asked her to come along to the next Park Consultative Group meeting this coming November and I will make sure I sit beside her and encourage her to have her say.

As for car parking, look at the evidence presented above and ask yourself if we really do need parking in the park?

Paddington Bear has changed from marmalade to Marmite sandwiches so that he can earn a crust.

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