Wednesday, 30 April 2008

A Cambridge sanctuary

I have known Allan for a good few years now, but we have never met. We know one another because Allan is one of the best local historians in the country and contributed articles to Local History Magazine in the days when we were its editors and publishers. We soon found that we shared other interests as well and when he saw my park blog he told me about how his local park has been helping him to recover from a serious operation and illness, so I asked him to write about his park, which he described as his 'sanctuary' and to send some pictures as well.

This summer we are planning a visit to Cambridge to see another friend and will make sure we meet Allan for the first time and visit Romsey Recreation Ground. By coincidence, our friend Angela knows Allan and lives close by. I am sure that there are many millions of similar stories waiting to be told across the country. The more we talk and write about the parks we love the more likely they are to get the attention and funding they deserve. We should not be ashamed to make parks political — as Councillor Dave Trimble made clear in my blog last Saturday (26 April). In the meantime enjoy Allan's story about his local park.

Romsey Recreation Ground, Cambridge,
was my saviour and my sanctuary when I emerged from three long weeks in the local hospital. Everyone should have one within five minutes walk of where they live.

Banned from driving or cycling while I recovered, I was pedestrianised. Used to ‘home’ being a retreat for evenings and weekends, ‘home’ became the centre of my now very shrunken world. I couldn’t go very far - it hurt! And I didn’t want to go very far –the idea of someone knocking into me while negotiating the busy main streets full of jostling people, noisy traffic and erratic drivers was scary. From being fit and in a hurry, I suddenly became one of the people whom I’d always rushed past before, often invisible to the active - the elderly, the disabled, young parents with small children. The local pavements, not the road with no horizon, became my way of moving around, and everything was very, very different.

The nearby park was my daily excursion beyond the security of the front door. I could reach it without crossing a main road, and it became a destination for a walk, to see people, for a sight of the sky, and for a sense of space in a very urban environment of terraced housing.

Go through the park gate, past the hedge and the small tree that succeeding generations of children clamber to the top of, and there is a large square of grass. It is used for informal games of football, and by adults throwing balls for their dogs while they stand around talking to each other. Ball games were beyond me, but it was liberating in the early months of the year to be in a wide open space and to sense the winter light, away from the confines of small houses and narrow gardens. It made me feel good.

The path around the central square of grass became my daily route, shared with the occasional jogger or passer-by to whom I could nod, or have a brief conversation. It provided contact with people again, with the knowledge that I could always get home if I needed to. Walking round once was a triumph to begin with. Slowly it reached five circuits, and then five circuits twice a day. It takes being unable to walk to appreciate just how good it is to be able to do this.

There would always be someone in the park, whatever the weather. Children on the way to and from the local Primary School, teenagers playing basketball daily, or once a week a group of young mothers who left one of their number guarding their parked buggies while the others went running together.

Low railings surround a fenced off children’ s play area which even in the depths of winter was frequently alive with pre-school children and their parents. Not so long ago, before local authority budget cuts, this was the bowling green where older men and women in immaculate ‘whites’ patiently rolled their bowls in a captivating ritual. Beyond lies the former allotments, now an informal ‘wildlife’ area of trees and brambles where dens are made in the bushes and where you can sit quietly and not see a single house or roof top.

The park looks like many others. It’s kept clean, the kids use the playground equipment, the grass is cut regularly and the trees are maintained. It could be better. Why the park isn’t cleaned at weekends when it is most busy remains a mystery. Now the bowling green has gone, what is provided for the elder generation ? The playground equipment could be modernised, new tree planting would be good, and so would be some colour - flower beds can’t cost much? Hopefully these improvements will happen. But for now this is no Victorian gem. It is a very ordinary 20th century ‘recreation ground’. But for me, walking round in the winter months, this was a very special place.

Being outdoors, surrounded by green grass and trees, and seeing the sky, the clouds, and the sun when it came out, all made me feel much, much better. Seeing and chatting to people helped me reconnect with the world.

It is easy to take for granted what we have. But I’m immensely grateful to those long dead councillors and local people who fought to establish this park. It is here because people argued and lobbied for it. It could have been used for housing. Today it probably would. The new developments I see have only token play areas, no where big enough for football, or for my daily perambulations, or to sit undisturbed away from hard surfaces and buildings. But we need all these. Not a car-journey away, but close to home so that children and the elderly (or recovering hospital patients!) can get there safely on foot. Today high density housing is the mantra of the planners and the delight of developers. But to make it work we need well maintained, easily accessible, attractive open spaces too. Others fought for these in the past. We need to leave our mark for the next generation. You never know when you will need it yourself. I do now.

Allan Brigham, Cambridge, April 2008.

Lollipop men and women are about to undergo a Robocop-style makeover: their signs are to be equipped with cameras in an effort to combat "lollipop rage" by aggressive drivers. The new 'lollycams' cost £890 each and will allow lollipop men and women to record dangerous driving and capture car number plates.

Saturday, 26 April 2008

Nottingham Open and Green Space Forum

Members introduce themselves at the first meeting of the Open and Green Space Forum.

On Thursday evening I attended the first meeting of Nottingham City Council's new 'City wide Open and Green Space Forum'. I left the meeting thinking that it had better than I had expected. Of the 23 people in the room, I identified thirteen as community activists of some kind, most of whom were also a member of their local city council area committee, although some areas were not represented. All of us were genuinely concerned about Nottingham's parks and open spaces and those concerns were more than parochial. By any measure this provides us with a good starting point for future discussions.

I was very pleased that one shared view which emerged very quickly was that the city's parks should be looked after and managed by the Parks Department instead of having to share responsibility with Neighbourhood Services and Streetscene. During the presentation at the beginning of the meeting there was a reference to a 'one custodian department' and although an attempt was made to defend the present arrangements for parks maintenance by saying that if you have 'transparency' then it doesn't matter how a service is provided, the fact that the issue came to the fore so quickly, in my view, reveals a common experience across Nottingham by park users and community activists and a collective recognition that common sense and good practice dictates a 'one custodian' approach.

I am confident that this is an issue which will be addressed as it is problem which is recognised not just by Dave Trimble, the City Council Portfolio Holder whose brief includes parks, but by Jon Collins (the Leader of the City Council) and others as well. As Dave said in his introduction at the beginning of the meeting,'Parks are becoming a political issue because public concern about parks is increasing'. He also said 'We need more people working on parks who do the graft — that is my priority' and concluded by saying that 'Parks are and should be a real symbol of civic pride (and) to make this happen I need the help your help'.

To be continued… …As I was typing this blog my sister telephoned to say that James, my step-father, who was in hospital after suffering a severe stroke, had taken a turn for the worse, so we stopped everything and spent the next hour making all the arrangements you have to make when you leave home suddenly. My son, Owen, was brilliant and immediately volunteered to take us down to Eastbourne, where James lived, and to stay with us. James felt well enough to try and speak, despite his loss of speech, and he actually looked quite well, so we left thinking he might just surprise us all and pull through despite his age (he was 83), but it was not to be. He passed away this morning (Wednesday 30 April). His was a life of service to others in every sense of the word — a Red Cross volunteer and activist from the age of 19 until the day he had his stroke. A hospital porter for most of his working life and Head Porter at three hospitals, he cared about people in every sense of the word. On the day of his 83rd birthday (19 April) he received an invitation to a garden party at Buckingham Palace this coming July. I think we all hoped life would be kind and that he would be there. Enough of this for now and back to my blog about the 'Nottingham Open and Green Space Forum'…

Councillor Dave Trimble's introductory address set the tone for the day and, yes, it was, in part, political and this may well have offended some, but I am with him 100% in his attitude. The demise of parks can be traced back to Mrs Thatcher and the 1980s and her legacy is still with us.

Despite the fears of some I think the meeting avoided becoming too parochial and did spend most of the time addressing broader issues. Perhaps the best evidence of this came out of the session where Forum members divided into four groups and fed back their ambitions for parks and open spaces over the coming decade. the 'ambitions' included 'Something for everyone', 'High standards', 'Adapting parks to individual community needs', 'Link all parks via green corridors', 'The chance for all park users to make a difference' and 'Spaces of beauty'.

These are ambitions which the Forum will return to again and again over the coming years, together with many other ambitions. Now that we a city-wide forum we need to keep it and develop it. Eddie Curry, the Parks Director, made it clear that this was his ambition too and suggested that we invite speakers from other parks forums (like Bristol and Manchester) to come and tell us about what they do. To keep the momentum going, the Forum's second meeting will be on 15 May 2008 to learn more about a Nottingham open spaces 'audit' by consultants, who have undertaken a 'mapping exercise' using various measures and standards. I am a great believer in spatial aids and mapping as a way of understanding and seeing the challenges which confront us, so I am looking forward to the next meeting. This very fact in itself makes the Forum's first meeting a success by my standards. I am sure that most of the other people there left feeling the same way.

A survey of 2,500 adults, published today, shows that only one per cent of under-30s would consider visiting an end of the pier show on holiday, two per cent would send a novelty postcard, three per cent would ride a donkey and two per cent would sit in a deck chair and watch a Punch & Judy show.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

A park against a wall

Greenholme School playing field, Johnson Road, Lenton, view.

Open space between Lenton Business Centre and Sandpiper Way.

The field behind Lenton Business Centre. No ball games are allowed!

Back in the 1970s when I was a young Birmingham city councillor, a respected planning officer I knew described signs like this as 'municipal fascism'.

Last month I took my camera across the Derby Road into that part of Lenton which is in Radford and Park ward (until the new city council wards came into existence in 2003 Radford was in 'Lenton ward' and most of Lenton was in 'Park ward'). Historically, much of Lenton extends as far as the Ilkeston Road. Until Lenton became part of Nottingham in 1877 it included much of The Forest and Hyson Green areas and Bestwood. These were 'detached' parts of the parish and have long lost their links with Lenton, but the same is not true for the area immediately to the north of the Derby Road. Many old-time local residents still regard themselves as 'Lentonians' and gravitate towards Lenton Parish Church, The Lenton Centre and the Dunkirk and Lenton Partnership Forum.

On reflection I am surprised that it has taken me so long to include a picture of Greenholme School Playing Field, which they bought from Nottinghamshire County Council in 1994 just days before Nottingham became a unitary authority again (in 1974 it lost its county borough status and became part of the county). Local people campaigned to stop the sale, but the Labour controlled county council went ahead with the sale anyway. It should have been returned to Nottingham along with the Sandfield School site (which was). It is a visible reminder of the fact that open space needs protection from all politicians. If the playing field had remained with the city council it could have been put to good use as an additional. much needed, playing area.

Perhaps the fact that land a few yards away at the end of Johnson Road and behind the old Raleigh Cycles Head Office, which became the Lenton Business Centre, was being turned into open space allowed them to believe that it was OK to sell the old Sandfields School Playing Field. As open space the site can best be described as 'sterile' in appearance. There is a poor quality playing area at one end, some neglected ground cover in the middle and a large grass area with signs on the wall at the back of the Lenton Business Centre saying 'No ball games allowed' at the Johnson Road end, which is separated from the open space by a 'Berlin' brick wall.

If this open space was in the Forum's area there would be a campaign to get it improved and lots of trees planted to soften up that ugly wall and, hopefully, the 'no ball games' signs removed. It is amazing what people will put up with. Years of indifference and neglect result in residents accepting what they see and experience as the norm. What concerns residents have are often overwhelmed by a cynicism leading to apathy.

Tomorrow evening I am attending the first meeting of a new Nottingham city-wide 'Open Spaces Forum', so it will be interesting see if other community activists share my concerns about the kind of open space I have been discussing in this blog.

Nepal's Maoist Communist Party will be the largest party in the country's new parliament, winning 220 seats in the 601-member assembly and a third of the 335 seats allocated under proportional representation.

Monday, 21 April 2008

There's initiative and there's trying too hard

The lads from next door show initiative and buy their own goal.

There are three of these new signs in Lenton Recreation Ground and they do nothing to benefit the park or its users. If this is someone's idea of being helpful then they are trying too hard and are making problems where none exist.

The lads who live next door to us spend a lot of time playing football in the park and they don't wear studded boots. They go to the park to have fun with their mates and on Saturday just gone they took their own goal with them. Only one. They told me that was all they could afford this week, so there may be two goals next week. Of course, if others follow their initiative we could soon have a park full of portable goals.

There's a phrase about 'over egging the pudding' and it came to mind on Saturday when I saw the above sign just inside the Derby Road entrance for the first time. There's also one by the Church Street entrance and the bowling green. If this is someone's idea of being helpful then they are, in my opinion, trying too hard and need to be found something more constructive to do before they do some real damage to Lenton Recreation Ground.

The signs are quite high up and not that easy to read. The two walking routes marked are confusing. There is information on the noticeboards in the park telling you the length of the path around the edge of the park and that six laps equals 1.96 miles. So, these new signs tell us nothing new and all they bring to the park is clutter. It's bad enough having our streets and roads littered with signs and marked with lines. I come to the park to escape all that and I see view the three existing signs about playing in studded boots as temporary. The information about the ban on studs (and barbecues) needs to be on the big signs by the two entrances so that the smaller signs can be removed.

A few weeks ago I took some pictures of the playing area between nearby Sandpiper Way and the back of the Lenton Business Centre and have been waiting for an opportunity to blog about the space, which has a fine example of what was once described to me as 'municipal fascism' by a Birmingham City Council planner I knew in the 1970s, so come back on Thursday and learn more.

As for the new walking signs which have got me going, I wonder how much time and money has gone into getting them in place? Some officers sitting around talking about the idea, then writing a brief so they could be designed, getting prices, getting them made and put in. As far as I am concerned it's all time and money which could have been spent doing something far more useful.

A former bishop has ended Paraguay's 61 years of one-party rule by beating the reigning party's candidate to win the country's presidential election. Fernando Lugo, a mild-mannered leftist, who quit the clergy three years ago, saying he felt powerless to help Paraguay's poor, was announced as the winner of the elections after some uncertainty.

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Sponsor's Day in the park

2.15pm. Dave's friendly colleagues from surrounding parks have been drafted in to help tidy Lenton Recreation Ground for a special day.

2.20pm and park users begin to gather for the formal part of the afternoon.

2.30pm. Dr Paul Greatrix, Nottingham University's Registrar, addresses the assembled park users and tells them why the University believes the park matters to them and the local community and that they are proud to be sponsoring Lenton Recreation Ground.

2.30pm. Paul Greatrix's words are filmed and recorded for posterity.

2.40pm. An oak tree is planted to commemorate the occasion and an official group photograph is about to be taken, but not until Dave, our groundsperson, has nipped into the spot Melanie has reserved for him.

2.50pm. Now the oak tree has been firmly trodden into place by the stamping of many feet, it's onto a mass planting of Bluebells, but not before a lesson in bluebell poking from an expert.

2.55pm. The task of Bluebell planting is in full swing. I have a lovely picture of bottoms, but I'm saving that for a competition at Christmas.

2.55pm. Dave Trimble, our local Dunkirk and Lenton Labour Party city councillor gets to grips with digging the dirt. At times like this experience makes all the difference. Dave is also the City Council's Portfolio Holder for Culture & Tourism (which includes Parks).

2.57pm. It won't be Dave appearing in the local newspaper tomorrow. The man from the press has found a far more photogenic pair to captivate the readers.

2.58pm. The perfect picture, taken in one. Don't they look lovely with a handful of bluebells for planting?

3pm. Now the second most serious part of the afternoon begins — bending ears, as the peace lady takes her opportunity and begins bending Eddie Curry's ear about why the delay in getting the Nottingham Peace Garden in place (Eddy is the Head of Nottingham City Parks and is very approachable).

3.15pm. By now the main business of the afternoon is under way and everyone is busy eating cake (and delicious it was too). Dave Trimble is another person who people always want to talk to about something.

3.30pm. I have saved the best for last. Philippa from the Dunkirk and Lenton Partnership Forum office came along with her new baby and let me take their picture. Philippa is a real stalwart and a lovely, lovely person. Lenton is blessed by the quality of people working for its Forum.

Melanie and the University organised a lovely afternoon to launch their sponsorship of Lenton Recreation Ground, even managing to conjure up sunshine and a blue sky. As a local resident who can be critical of Nottingham University at times, I have to say I am delighted that they are sponsoring the park and as I said to the Registrar, today I have seen a pig fly and it is a wonderful thing.

The Office of Fair Trading has named and accused 112 construction companies of conspiring to rig thousands of public sector contracts worth billions of pounds, including tenders for schools, universities and hospitals.

Monday, 14 April 2008

A new season begins (sort of).

No, it's not Darth Vader behind the mask — it's Dave on Monday morning giving the bowling green a final trim before the first game of the season.

3pm Monday afternoon and none of the men from West End have turned up to launch the 2008 bowls season at Lenton Recreation Ground (except me and I've only come to take pictures). Instead the honour will be going to two ladies from the Hillside and Sherwood bowling clubs — once the rain stops and they can leave the Club House!

3.15pm and the rain has stopped. It's wet under foot, but the ladies are determined to play their first outdoor game of the season. Well, a few ends anyway, so they make a start. They asked me not to show the bowls around the jack and how could I refuse — given that it's the first end of the season.

3.30pm and the law arrives, alerted beforehand to possible crowd control trouble on the first day of the bowling season. James watches the ladies and decides to show them how to do it. He's never played bowls before, but no matter because he's a fast learner — his wrist action and the bend of the knee suggest a champion in the the making! I can read the ladies' minds. It's written all over their faces, but as to what they are thinking I leave it up to you.

The pictures tell their own story. Officially, the bowling greens at Lenton Recreation Ground opened for business on Saturday, but such was the weekend weather that there were no takers. The West End men play every Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoon during the season, so I fully expected them to turn up this afternoon no matter what. Last year they played the first games of the season, but this year they were nowhere to be seen. All of them had a good reason for not being there.

I learnt all this when I arrived to take their pictures for this blog. Instead I found two ladies sheltering the Club House waiting for the rain to stop. Then, as I was about to leave, the law arrived in the shape of James and he started to do what he does best — public relations. It was an example of community policing at its best. If the chief constable of Nottinghamshire or the Home Secretary had seen him mount his charm offensive on the bowling fraternity they would have awarded him a medal on the spot!

So, on an afternoon when the most I expected was a bunch of old men I found myself in the company of two delightful ladies and James. It was, with apologies to the West End men, better than I had expected and, all in all, a lovely start to the 2008 bowling season in Lenton.

Islamist gunmen have shot dead two Somalia-born Britons in an attack at a school in the east African country.

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Vaisakhi Sunday

People clamour around the float with the Holy Book.

Vaisakhi day participants are interviewed for local television news.

Just a step away from the celebrations, these lads sit outside their home beside the Gurdwara on Church Street catching the sun and reading the Sunday papers.

Just yards away from the Vaisakhi celebrations, Lenton Recreation Ground looks brilliant in the midday sun.

The copse beside Devonshire Promenade is the nearest the park comes to having a wood. Perhaps space could be found for another copse? I'm not sure where.

Vaisakhi has come and gone for another year. You have to be in the midst of the throng to feel the energy and to be dazzled by the rich colours. That this happens in Lenton and beside our park is a truly amazing thing. This is the England I love, where I can witness Vaisakhi, then turn and see two lads sitting outside their front door as if nothing was happening before taking three steps off Church Street into the park and another world.

Dawn Butler, only the third black woman ever to have become an MP, said she faced such frequent racism from politicians of all parties that she had to 'pick her battles' to avoid being constantly in conflict with her colleagues.

Saturday, 12 April 2008

A Saturday morning of change

Kevin's back for his 7th summer working weekends in the park.

Signs telling park users that the University of Nottingham are now the sponsors of Lenton Recreation Ground were put in place on Thursday.

The bowling greens this morning waiting for their first customers of the season. Given that it's a real April day today — heavy rain showers and brilliant sunshine have been leapfrogging one another this morning — the first players may wait for a better day. On Monday members of the West End Bowling Club will be coming along for sure and I will be with them, but I can't play until June because my left-foot is still healing after its bunion operation seven weeks ago.

The flag pole at Lenton's Gurdwara on Church Street beside the park is washed and purified by milk before it receives a new flag as part of the preparations for the Sikh Vaisakhi Festival tomorrow

Other members of the Gurdwara join in the washing of the flag pole in milk.

Having Kevin back with us for the summer is a good thing. It means the park is staffed every day and the toilets are open at the weekends. To those who are not park users this may seem a trivial observation, but a busy little park like Lenton Recreation Ground needs good, clean, modern toilets. There is talk of refurbishing the old toilet block on the Derby Road side of the park. If and when this happens, I hope they will install the kind of toilets you find at places like Rutland Water. They are made of stainless steel and there is a minimum of moving parts for vandals to trash. In the meantime the toilets attached to the Club House (I keep calling it the 'Pavilion' but the signs have always said 'Club House') are now open every day. Thanks Kev, it's nice to have you back.

In my last blog I included a picture of the arms which appear at the ends of a couple of very old cast iron benches. My friend Rosie offered a few ideas and my Susan used her hand-held Palm to have a wander round the web and found, which showed that the crowns and ragged cross are part of the City of Nottingham coat of arms. The entry on the web says 'the design is similar to the arms of Colchester, but there is no connection between the two places. It is probable that the ragged cross simply refers to the Forest of Sherwood'. Cologne in Germany also has the same symbols. So there you are, an answer to my question.

I just hope the weather is better tomorrow (Sunday) for the Vaisakhi procession around Nottingham's sikh temples, which starts from Church Street.

Deploying troops on military operations without adequate equipment could breach their human rights, the high court ruled yesterday in a groundbreaking judgment which has widespread implications for defence chiefs and opens the door to potentially huge claims for compensation.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

A bubble and a question of arms

A coat of arms with three crowns and a cross. Whose coat of arms are they?

The Magnolia tree in full bloom lights up the park — even in bright sunshine!

A view of Lenton Recreation Ground from Church Grove showing a new bed. I wonder what Dave, our groundsperson, is going to plant?

A runner in the park seen from the Derby Road. Behind me, the traffic is at a standstill, even the buses have stopped in the bus lane, such is the volume of traffic this evening. The runner in the park could be a million miles away.

Three lads play a game of football, oblivious to the noise and traffic on the Derby Road this evening. They, and the runner in the above picture, have Lenton Recreation Ground to themselves. Today, I am on onlooker from the Derby Road.

Have you ever watched a science fiction film portraying a far away planet or Earth at the end of its days, when what life there is lives inside a bubble of sorts? Well, that is how Lenton Recreation Ground seems to me at times. Sometimes I am inside the bubble. This evening I was outside looking in, jealous of its four inhabitants as my journey took me away from the park. The noise from the traffic along Derby Road made me wonder how many of the pedestrians who passed me by realised that one step through the park gates and they could escape to a different world?

Life is full of diversions, but few, if any, can rival a park for so many reasons. The quiet, the smell of blossom or, today, the Hyacinths that Dave replanted last year in the Derby Road border and the scent which drifted across me as I walked along the Derby Road. I couldn't quite believe how strong the scent was, so I went back a few steps and caught the smell of the Hyacinths again for a minute or two, although it seemed like an age. If anyone on a bus or in a car noticed me, they
may well have wondered why that man was standing on the pavement sniffing the air!

Finally, a mystery which I will have to find an answer to. I have looked at the older park benches in the park for ever and I have noticed the coat of arms which adorn the ends on countless occasions, but only today have I wondered who or where they represent. Is it a family or is a place? I will have to find out. In the meantime there may be a blog reader who already knows the answer. If so, please tell me so I can share it.

Rising food prices could spark worldwide unrest and threaten political stability, the UN's top humanitarian official warned yesterday after two days of rioting in Egypt over the doubling of prices of basic foods in a year and protests in other parts of the world.

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Picnics and daisies

Visitors enjoy a late lunch in the park.

The first daisies.

I took these pictures on Friday afternoon at the end of a wander down Gregory and Church streets photographing old houses for inclusion in my Discovering Lenton Healthy Heritage Walk notes. As I came into Lenton Recreation Ground I saw the young couple above sitting at a picnic table enjoying a late lunch (or was it an early tea?). The looked very happy, so I asked if I could take their picture. They told me they had come from Radford because they like Lenton Rec better and that it is a nice place to have a picnic.

The picnic tables have been a great success and Dave, our groundsperson, has scattered them around the grassed area to create smaller playing spaces in an effort to reduce the number of big football games. It works to some extent, but there needs to be a few more tables still. Friday was quite a mild day when the wind dropped and the sky was bright blue and almost cloudless — perfect weather for a spring picnic!

I also noticed something else, close to the
Pyracantha bush. The first daisies. Not many but enough to attract my attention. Because the main part of the grassed area gets so heavily used by footballers, the daisies don't get much of a look in. Around the edges and in the corners by Church Grove they thrive. I did ask Dave once about whether he could seed a wild meadow area, but he explained they wasn't enough space. Perhaps the natural place to create such a feature is in The Meadows?

From today there is no longer a 10p Income Tax band, which will hit low paid workers and pensioners who are ineligible for, or do not claim, benefits. From today capital gains tax on housing investments falls from up to 40% to 18%, which will be to the benefit of buy-to-let private landlords. This weekend has seen the Labour Government defending these decisions.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Having a laugh at the punters

Priory Park locked gate on Abbey Street, Old Lenton.

Priory Park locked gate on Gregory Street, Old Lenton.

This afternoon I did the longest walk since my bunion operation in February. I walked down to Dunkirk Post Office to post some books now that Lenton Post Office on Lenton Boulevard has gone. On the way I delivered Labour Party meeting notices to the few members I can't send emails to (I even send one to Chris, my next door neighbour). I saw a couple of people and stopped to chat on the way. I also called in at Parker & Collinson, our local stationers and printers on Church Street, to see if they had printed my four-page 'Lenton Healthy Heritage Walks' insert for the next issue of the Forum newsletter and came away with a few copies. I hope people like it when they read it. Someone has already asked me if one of the captions is correct (it was) as they have lived in Lenton twelve years and never noticed that a large Victorian house on the corner of Derby Road and Lenton has a turret. Already it's been worth the effort, but more about this next week.

Today I want to concentrate on a topic which, for me, is a measure of Nottingham City Council and how it treats its 'punters' — for I am sure that is what we are to all too many City Council managers and, perhaps, a few councillors as well. Anyone who been reading my blog for the past year will know about the plight of the little Priory 'pocket' Park at the junction of Abbey Street and Gregory Street in Old Lenton. Neglected and padlocked for much of the time I had hopes that my efforts of continually drawing attention to its plight had finally brought it the care and attention it deserved. Silly me. The park has been locked every day I have seen it this year and so it was today — as the above pictures show.

I have come to the conclusion that Nottingham City Council is having a laugh at our expense when it comes to our parks. They seem to have dazzled the councillors and the local media with a few 'Green Flags' and the promise of a few more. So much so that they are blind to neglect being shown to other parks in Nottingham like Priory Park. Over the next few weeks I will offer a few more examples of neglected parks in support of my argument, so watch this blog! I'm going to email the City Council's new temporary Chief Executive, Jane Todd, and ask her how much has been spent over the last two financial years on the Green Flag Awards.

In the meantime I offer you the locked gates of Priory Park as my first piece of evidence. I can already hear the derision in City Council offices. With me it's parks and community empowerment. For others it's child care and housing and so the list goes on. All too many Nottingham people don't complain because they have no belief that the City Council will take any notice of them. Having said this it would be unfair to leave you with the impression that all is lost, because this is far from the truth — you only have to look at how many good City Council workers and managers were given Community Awards by the Dunkirk and Lenton Partnership last month to know this. I just want the same level of commitment and service to Lenton and the city from all City Council employees!

'Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, the First lady of France, has been appointed by Gordon Brown to spearhead a government initiative aimed at injecting more style and glamour into British national life'. The Guardian