Saturday, 31 May 2008

A Highfields Park might have been

Searching through my papers for some information about my blog tomorrow on the Dunkirk Fire Station site and the proposal by a developer to build up to 550 units of student accommodation on the site I came across Nottingham Cuty Council's 'Open Space Strategy' consultation leaflet from 1994. It contained the above drawing of what a Highfields Park might look like with the caption 'Improving our parks'. I think even the most neutral of observers will agree that what we got does not match the vision.

There is much in the 1994 'Open Space Strategy' which is still relevant. For example it envisaged 'A network of accessible, usable and safe places, linked by boulevards and green corridors providing a range of quality facilities, spaces of high landscape and wildlife value and 'green lungs' to combat pollution and stress'. The consultation leaflet includes an A2 size colour map showing all the parks and open spaces in Nottingham. If only a map of similar quality and simplicity had been available to the last meeting of the Nottingham Open Space Forum (NOSF). I will remind the Parks Department about the map and ask them if they can produce an updated version for 2008.

David Beckham has been named England captain for Sunday's friendly against Trinidad and Tobago. Beckham, who resigned the captaincy following England's exit from the 2006 World Cup, has been rewarded with the armband by manager Fabio Capello following his recent return to form and fitness.

Thursday, 29 May 2008

After the rain

After a prolonged period of heavy rain Lenton Recreation Ground looks as green and lush as it has ever looked. In the foreground is one of the young Elms that features in the park logo. What the picture doesn't capture is the all pervading smell of warm, damp, grass which envelopes you on a day like this.

Tim, who moved to Lenton from Wollaton six years ago. His home overlooks the park. He had just been to the shops on Lenton Boulevard and goes, like me, the 'quiet way through the park'. He's also a member of the West End Bowls Club like myself. Lenton continues to be attractive and a place to live for us older ones as well as for students. I suspect we could bring back families if the planning laws allowed Nottingham City Council to restrict the number of shared and HMO properties to 25% on any one street. The government talks about 'decentralisation' and 'empowering communities'. Its mantra since 1997 of 'we are listening' has been its biggest lie — a 'listening' government would have placed the responsibility for addressing Lenton's problems in the hands of local people years ago! For my part I remain committed to the idea of a democratically elected urban parish council as the first step towards Lentonians having some control over their own destiny.

Up to 500 protesters gathered outside the University of Nottingham's Hallward Library this afternoon to demonstrate against the arrest of two men under terrorism laws. A mixture of students, lecturers and academics planned to march down to the Trent Building, which is the office of the registrar who is alleged to have contacted police, leading to the arrests of Rizwaan Sabir and Hicham Yezza earlier this month. Campaigners stood in silence at the University of Nottingham for five minutes, their mouths gagged with handkerchiefs, in protest at the treatment of Hicham. Alan Simpson, Labour MP for Nottingham South, addressed the demonstration in support of our civil liberties and the two victims.

Monday, 26 May 2008

A wet forever afternoon in Highfields Park

A week ago I posted a blog about an amble I did along the southern edge of Highfields Park and how I would be back with family on Spring Bank Holiday Sunday (yesterday). In the event I didn't expect to make it. The weather was horrid. Wet, cold and windy at best, but a 2½ year grand-daughter and a 9 year old grandson determined to go to the park whatever the weather ground us down to the point where Owen, my son, and I decided to brave the elements and go to Highfields. This is my account of what turned out to be our mad, unforgettable, adventure.

This is how bad the weather was — empty car parking spaces in Highfields Park!

Owen puts Libby in her wellies.

Lewis and Libby are ready for the off.

Libby steams ahead shouting 'Park park' as she goes.

Libby was making straight for the playground until she saw the lake in front of the Lakeside Arts Centre, so she dashed off for the water's edge and was caught by her dad just before she toppled over the very high steps. Without any warning the wind and rain decided to blow much harder and she caught her hood in an effort to keep it on her head. I was on hand to capture the moment, but lost my Sundowner waterproof hat in the process — into the lake and about five foot out!

As I watched it begin to sink I thought it was lost forever, but the air trapped inside the hat brought it back to the surface, by which time Owen was leaning over the railings as far as he could using his umbrella as a paddle to pull the hat towards him, but it was still out of reach, so he told me to hold onto his legs as he leaned even further and managed to bring my hat closer. After what seemed an eternity he got the open umbrella under my hat and, after several attempts, fished it out high enough for me to grab, but as I did so Owen slid from my grip and was within inches of going headfirst into the lake. By this time Lewis of shouting and Libby was screaming. Whether because they thought it great fun or were scared of what seemed about to happen we will never know, for I somehow levered Owen back in and over the railings still holding my lovely, lovely hat and we were all laughing together and the kids were jumping up and down.

Throughout all this the only thought in my head, apart from trying to save my hat, was that I wished I was getting pictures of this. Then as we turned around and faced the café in the Lakeside Arts Centre, we saw all the customers sitting at the tables applauding and the staff had come from behind the counter to watch the drama which had unfolded before their very eyes. A lady came to the door laughing and shouted 'Well done, that's the best piece of entertainment I've had all weekend'. I put my wet hat back on my head and got Owen to tie its string under my chin so I didn't lose it again and as he did he said 'Dad, now you know why Aussies have corks on their hats — it's to keep them afloat!'.

Once again Libby steamed off, this time heading for the playground. As she arrived she turned around, as in triumph, and shouted 'Swings, swings' and went off with her dad to have a very wet swing.

Lewis found a large puddle at the bottom of a ramp and had great fun making the biggest splashes he could. All the equipment was tried as we all wetter and wetter!

As we left the playground I got them to pose in the mini paddling pool which the rain had created and thought about the old, disused, paddling pool at the other end of Highfields Park. Kids love water and a paddle (so do I) and it seems mean and churlish not to have paddling pools in Nottingham parks anymore.

As we walked around the park in the wind and the rain we saw no one else, until we saw this young couple walking towards us. They looked as happy as us. They let me take their picture. What this picture says to me is that parks are great places whatever the weather. Who needs sunshine when you have a friend to be with?

Owen took this picture of me with Libby and Lewis on the lakeside terrace in front of Nottingham University's Trent Building on the north side of the lake, but before we got here we had another mini-adventure as Lewis climbed up a rock face covered in tree roots only to discover, when he got to the top, that he couldn't get down on his own, so Owen had to go and rescue him and lead him safely down. Unfortunately, all my pictures of this 'escapade' have turned out blurred, probably because I was laughing so much as I took the pictures (sorry Lewis).

We finally made it back to the Lakeside Arts Centre and reached the car soaking wet, but happy. On the way we encountered these young goslings with their adult 'minders', oblivious to us as they munched at the grass. In fact the weather was that bad that not a duck or any other water bird was on the water. All were sheltering under trees and bushes.

As we walked around the park Owen and I told the kids about our own memories of the park and the adventures we have had over the years. Lewis said at one point that he wanted to go in a rowing boat and asked me if I would take him, to which Owen retorted 'All he will do is give you the money and tell you to go on your own, that's how I learnt to row'. I'm afraid he was telling the truth. I did the same thing with my older grand-daughters and the same fate awaits Lewis if he wants to go rowing on Highfields lake!

It was a memorable afternoon and, with luck, even Libby will be recalling the day her dad nearly went headfirst into a lake as one of her earliest memories. I suspect that Owen will recount his version of this story at my funeral (which I hope is a long ways off yet). I also hope it will make him and the kids laugh as much then as it did yesterday!

PS. We did manage to grab a few minutes having a quick look at the history of Raleigh Cycles exhibition in the D H Lawrence Pavilion (part of the Lakeside Arts Centre), which I will visit again quite soon. If you haven't been, then it's well worth the trip.

Between December 2007 and April 2008 Bank executives have been paid £13.2 billions in bonuses. At the same time the Government has given banks £50bn in cheap loans, which they have used to increase their profits whilst charging their customers and mortgage holders higher rates of interest.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Getting the measure of Nottingham's open space

Yesterday was probably the first 'balmy' day of the year, when it was just pleasantly warm. For me it was close to perfection. Susan and I spent the day cleaning in readiness for weekend visitors, so I saw these lads on and off throughout the afternoon, sitting in their camping chairs whilst others played footie and cricket around them. They were oblivious to it all and when I wandered into the park at 6pm to take their picture I could see why. They had their game machines and a beer and needed nothing else.

These lads were just a few yards away, chatting and soaking up the warmth, relaxing whilst some of their friends played basketball. I thought perhaps one of them had cycled to the park from a distance, but it was a friend's bike. By any measure they had it made at this particular moment and I wandered back home to get our tea whilst these lads made me want to just laze around, soaking up what remained of the early evening sun and watching life in the park go by.

The main purpose of today's blog is to give my take on last week's meeting of the Nottingham Open Space Forum (NOSF). The main purpose of the meeting was to hear about a report prepared with the help of consultants identifying the 'typology' of Nottingham City Council's open space. To summarise there are twelve types:

1. Parks,
2. Natural and semi-natural greenspace including 'urban woodland',
3. Outdoor sports facilities,
4. Amenity greenspace,
5. Provision for young children and young people,
6. Allotments, community gardens and urban farms,
7. Cemeteries, disused churchyards and burial grounds,
8. Civic space (formal 'hard landscaped' areas),
9. Institutional (schools, hospitals, prisons etc),
10. Agricultural land,
11. Private (may have public access),

12. Other (closed or potential open space).

Some of the types are
then divided into:

i. Destination (within 5km of all city residents / 1 per 190,000 residents),
ii. City (within 1km of local residents / 1 per 18,000 residents),
iii. Neighbourhood (within 500m of local residents / 1 per 5,200 residents),
iv. Local categories (within 300m / 1 per 2,000 residents).

Already, I am sure, you can appreciate the complexity of the information there is about 'open space' within Nottingham City Council's boundary (the data does not include Newstead Abbey, which is outside the city). The fact that this information was presented to us in a spatial form helped, but it was devoid of roads and other geographical detail because, we were told, the cost of showing this kind of detail was expensive because of copyright fees to Ordnance Survey (for some reason this exercise is not covered by the block licence fee the city council pay OS, but the reasons why were not really explained). On top of this it seems barmy that we or the city council should have to pay OS for a service we have already paid for as taxpayers (The Guardian's Monday 'Media' supplement has been running a campaign about this issue for years!).

The meeting last week spent nearly an hour working its way through a series of A3 sheets showing different types of open space, including maps with 'buffer zones' coloured orange to show us what parts of the city did not have access to different open space types. The exercise generated far more questions than I was able to ask because others in the meetings also had questions. One thing I did notice and challenged was why Highfields Park is not ranked as a 'destination' park. This is an issue I addressed in my last blog. For now all I want to say is that, like any system of categorising services and facilities, it has its limitations. This will only be a problem if city councillors and other decision makers are not flexible enough to recognise this.

Interestingly, Broxtowe Country Park (BCP) in the north west of Nottingham has been ranked as a 'destination park', even though, at the present time, it does not meet the criteria, so why not Highfields? Saying this I fully understand what the Parks Department wants to bring about at BCP and will happily support them. What BCP will need is a major city attraction to pull the visitors in. Given its links with coalmining and the fact that the city's industrial museum will never be developed further so long as it is at Wollaton Park, then why not try and get the funding to move the existing museum and use it as a starting point for a bigger, better, industrial museum more in keeping with Nottingham's industrial history at BCP?

Lenton and Radford, for example, are placed outside the buffer / catchment areas for destination and city parks. This is plainly a nonsense in terms of what I would regard as reasonable accessibility. From Lenton you can walk within 30 minutes to Wollaton, The Arboretum and Nottingham Castle Park (all destination parks). The same is true for Highfields (a 'city' park). Bus services to or near all these parks are excellent. There is no way that Lenton can be considered deprived of anything but some 'local' open space. Even then I think these problems can be addressed with a little imagination and determination. I cannot speak for elsewhere in Nottingham, but I suspect that local residents have plenty of ideas about how any dificiencies in park types can be overcome — assuming that there is a real shortage in the first place.

Typologies other than parks got the briefest of mentions, if at all. There was more interest in nature reserves and natural open space than the meeting had any real time to consider and I am sure we will spend much more time on them at a future meeting.

To help me understand the data about open space typology we saw last week I have bought a large scale folding map of Nottingham which I can put beside another large scale map I already have showing city ward boundaries and to complete my own mapping exercise I also have a Nottingham City Transport bus map and a map showing cycle routes across the city. Without this kind of information it is difficult to make sense of the Parks Department's own mapping exercise to accompany its 'Breathing Space' strategy document.

Another thing which jumped out at last week's meeting was how does all the work on open space typology and the Breathing Space strategy relate to Nottingham's exisiting statutory 'Local Plan'. Fortunately I managed to persuade my NOSF colleagues to invite a city planner to the next NOSF meeting so we can find out for ourselves. All my experience tells me that council departments and councillors are not always thinking the same way even when they tell themselves and others that they are.

'Feedback' from NOSF's meeting was being fed into a 'Champions' meeting of some kind involving councillors and other city worthies sometime this week. It will be interesting to see what was said about last week's meeting, as it was not conclusive about anything to do with the mapping exercise. What we did decide to do was to affiliate to the new National Open Spaces Forum and to arrange a tour of Nottingham open space. We also found a chair, Matt Anderson, who pushed the meeting along, is young and his own person — all positive things.

I think NOSF has come a long way in just two meetings and already has the strength of character to determine its own agenda and ambitions, which augurs well for the future. The stage is being set for some constructive dialogue between the Parks Department and park users in the form of NOSF.

I will keep you posted about NOSF and related issues, so watch this blog!

The oil price soared to a new record for the third day in a row today, reaching $135 a barrel, more than double the price a year ago. The spiralling cost of crude is increasing the pressure on petrol and diesel prices and led today to renewed calls for the government to scrap planned rises in fuel duty.

Monday, 19 May 2008

The dilemma of a park with two names

This is being publicised as the 'Highfields (Park) Week of Action', although the only event I have so far seen publicised is tomorrow's (Tuesday) 'Volunteer Clean Up Day', 12.30–3.00pm, meeting at the Lakeside Pavilion. I won't be able to make it, so I decided to do my own little 'before and after' tour this morning when I walked to Beeston. I walk through the park at least once most weeks, so I think I know it pretty well.

In addition, I've been visiting Highfields regularly for nearly thirty years in the company of my children, then my grandchildren. It is also where I learnt to play bowls and I have attended numerous events in the old park pavilion and tearooms, then in the Djanology Arts Centre and, in recent years, the D H Lawrence Pavilion as well. It is a park I love, not just because of its proximity to Lenton, but because it epitomises everything that a good park should be: beautiful, quiet, serene, fun, educational, life affirming and full of family memories of good times. The list just goes on and on.

There are other parks I love: Wollaton Hall, Cannon Hill Park in Birmingham, Barham Park (if it is still called that) in Wembley, Greenwich Park and, of course, Lenton Recreation Ground. None of these have been in my thoughts as much as Highfields since I attended the second meeting of the new Nottingham Open Spaces Forum (NOSF) (which I plan to blog about in more detail in the next week or so). Last week NOSF was told that Highfields is not considered to rank as a 'destination park' attracting visitors from outside Nottingham. It has been ranked as a 'city park'. To be a 'destination park' it would need to have something like Wollaton Hall, Nottingham Castle or Green's Windmill. The Djanology Arts Centre and the D H Lawrence Pavilion don't count because of a technicality — they are not owned by Nottingham City Council. This is plainly a nonsense and flies in the face of common sense, so I have to suspect that there is more to its ranking than meets the eye.

Before sharing a possible reason I want to share with you a few of the pictures I took this morning as I walked along Highfield Park's southern edge.

The east entrance to Highfields on East Drive. The signage gives no clues as to the park's name. It is all about Nottingham University and 'Lakeside' (the D H Lawrence Pavilion by another name). No wonder many people believe this to be part of 'University Park' — a name which appears on many published maps — and have no idea that they are, in fact, entering Highfields Park.

Through the gate I walked over to the tired playground and saw this man with his metal detector searching for coins lost by park visitors.

Then I saw three City Council trucks. Perhaps the first arrivals at 9.30am in the morning, getting ready to take part in Highfields 'Week of Action'?

Past the trucks I turned back towards the park's boundary with University Boulevard and passed by where Tottlebrook goes underground for a while. It is very overgrown as my picture shows. Once my kids and I could paddle here.

Then a hint of the kind of vistas Highfields can offer. Who would think that I am in a city and yards away from a busy dual carriageway?

Once the rhododendron bushes were something to behold. My mother used to love coming to Nottingham to stay when they were in flower. Over the last ten years or so they have become woody and overgrown, with brambles smothering what is left of them. It will cost a small fortune to save them (assuming it is still possible). Even with my limited knowledge of plant care, I fear the worst. I also wonder if it will be worth trying to save them if they are then neglected for another 10–20 years? It is really very sad to see them in this state and speaks volumes of Nottingham City Council's failure to care for its parks over the last 20 years.

Walking back to the lake through the wooded area and there is another glimpse of the Highfields that used to be. How my kids have loved these paths and trees. I will back here next Sunday in the company of some of my younger grandchildren at the request of my son, who is now 36. The memories of happy times continues to burn bright.

Where Tottlebrook runs through the wood all you have is mud. Once you could walk along this stretch looking for tadpoles and sticklebacks!

I wonder what Jesse Boot would make of Highfields Park if he could see it today? Eighty years ago on 10 July 1928 the park was officially opened at the same time as the then Nottingham University College's new Trent Building was opened by the King. I have a copy of the book published to mark the occasion. By any measure his gift to Nottingham people has been poorly served by its sole trustee, Nottingham City Council. Do they, today, have the will or the vision to address the problems facing Highfields? I suspect they would breathe a sigh of relief if someone else took on the challenge.

Rarely noticed, one of two birds (eagles?) guarding the main entrance.

A lone croquet player getting in some early Monday morning practice.

A little further on and Tootlebrook flows a little freer and clearer than it does anywhere else in the park and offers a small hint as to what once was.

By now it's 10am and I have still have much of Highfields to myself and a vista much as it has always been.

The west end of the lake has been like this for years. This picture tells you all you need to know about the care and attention Highfields receives.

Locked and no longer accessible, the stepping stones are listed, not that the padlocks have stopped someone dumping a large shopping trolley in the rock pool. This is another place my family have loved visiting and paddling in. Now it stinks and is filthy. If the rock pools and waterfall are ever restored to their former glory, I just hope that children (and adults) will again be able to paddle and soak their feet on hot sunny summer days.

The fencing between the campus and the park is slowly disappearing, no doubt stolen over countless nights. Perhaps the two will merge thanks to thieves and inaction on the part of the city council. If this does happen I suspect the university won't be too upset, nor will I.

The Paddling Pool went so long ago that I cannot remember when it ceased to be, although I do remember in the early-1990s asking a city councillor why it was being neglected and I was told that 'The council has no intention of paying for something used by kids from Beeston'. The paddling pool lives on as a bus stop and the in-bus announcer still says 'Next stop, Paddling Pool'. I like that, and although I would love to see another paddling pool in the park, I suspect that 21st century 'health and safety' regulations would forbid such a thing on ground of hygiene and disease.

Finally, the end of my walk through Highfields and what do I find at the Beeston end of the park, but a sign telling everyone the parks name and who owns it. There is a similar sign down the other end, but it is not so prominently located. By rights if the park has been ranked in a lower category because the city council does not own the 'Lakeside Art Centre' of the café, what is it doing advertising them on its signage? If they are part of the park, then, surely, it should be ranked as a 'destination park'?

As I hinted at the beginning of this posting, I suspect there is more to its ranking than a formula devised with the help of consultants. I think it is about preparing us, the people of Nottingham, for the day when all the iron fencing disappears and the Highfields and University parks become a seamless whole. Now there's a thought for us all to ponder and if it were to happen, perhaps it would not be the bad thing I once thought it would be!

Labour's support is in freefall, according to a new Guardian/ICM poll. It shows that the party's position - 14 points behind the Conservatives - is worse than at any time since May 1987, just before Margaret Thatcher won her third election by a landslide.

Saturday, 17 May 2008

A Lenton week in pics

What a difference a week makes. Last Saturday the lads next door couldn't find space in the park for their usual game of footie, so they decided to sun themselves and relax on the scaffolding around their home.

Lunchtime in the park for the staff and their visitors. What snatches of conversation I ever hear are always about some aspect of their work. I suspect the leisurely exchange of information and a good gossip is far more effective than any formal meetings they might have.

Lunchtime on Wednesday outside the Crocus Café and customers enjoy the mid-day sun which warms the Church Square pavement. It's full inside. I know, because I've just come out with some take home food for Susan and me. I understand that they are thinking of expanding in the empty shop next door. Perhaps they could open a summer branch in the Lenton Recreation Ground pavilion and call it 'Crocus in the Park'. They could take pre-prepared food to the park. I'm sure it would be successful and help bring more visitors to the park.

Angela runs Lorna's the Florist on Lenton Boulevard. Her mum started the business nearly sixty years ago and I'm old enough to remember Angela as a schoolgirl helping her mum, Lorna, in the shop. Angela is the best florist I know, who does fantastic bouquets and arrangements for all occasions (tel: 0115 9786462). She also sells fruit and veg and eggs and party balloons etc.

Labour MPs across the land may yet come to rue the day they allowed the government to privatise postal services and begin a nationwide campaign of closing local post offices. Make no mistake the blame for post office closures begins and ends with the present Labour government and, as a Labour Party member, it is something I hate having to say. As Lenton residents know all too well, the closure of the post office on Lenton Boulevard has caused us all no end of problems. For example we don't have any postboxes in Lenton like the one on the left in the picture above. They are all like the one on the right. Can you spot the difference? Well, it's the size of the opening. The one on the left can take A4 size packets and envelopes unfolded. The Post Office should not need telling about what is a common sense problem. I know several people who will not be voting Labour at the next general election, despite our local MP and Labour city council being against the post office closures.

In the early hours of this morning (Saturday) there was a loud explosion at the Henry Road end of Devonshire Promenade, which overlooks the park. A car was torched and completely destroyed. The car next to it was also damaged, as was the tree under which the car was parked. It woke most of the residents down that end of the Promenade and even the lads next door to us heard the bang. Not a good story or picture to end the week on, but it happened and cannot be ignored. Afterall, this blog is 'about life in and around Lenton Recreation Ground'.

The official death toll from China's deadliest earthquake in three decades rose to almost 29,000 today, as relief efforts at the epicentre were temporarily disrupted when thousands of people were evacuated amid fears of flooding.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Issues of the day

Simon is smiling because he just re-opened the Lenton Recreation Ground Derby Road toilets this afternoon with the help of strong bleach and a broom at no cost to Nottingham City Council, except for a plumber to repair a leak, after they have been closed for several years. This has been an issue for ages and came up again at the last park Consultative Group meeting last week. Simon's has solved the problem with a few hours hard work and says he would rather keep these toilets clean and open so that fewer people have to use the toilets attached to the park pavilion.

A county ladies bowls match in progress between Nottinghamshire and Northumberland. Dave, our year round groundsperson, is from Blythe. I didn't ask him which team he was supporting.

The car parking issue simply won't go away. Because of the county bowls match there were sixteen cars parked on the park grass this afternoon…

…but there isn't a single car parked in the 'three hour' parking bays on Church Street. I'm sure if bowls players need longer, this can easily be arranged

…nor are there any cars parked in the Church Street Pocket Park, which could easily (and securely) hold all sixteen cars parked in the park this afternoon. In fact, by laying grass grids at the end of pocket park another twelve or more cars could use the pocket park.

This is not the first time that I have demonstrated the paucity of the arguments for allowing bowls match parking in the park, except in exceptional circumstances and as would be the case for any other big event in the park. I know that other park users comment when they see this kind of car parking and wonder why they can't park their cars in the park?

The death toll from China's earthquake could soar to 50,000 people, state television said today.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Via Arboretum

Saturday 10 May 2008, 3.30pm at the Waverly Street entrance to The Arboretum.

The Arboretum is full of visitors lazing around and soaking up the sun.

'The Chinese Bell Tower'. The bell in question was taken from Canton after the city was taken during the 1857 war with China. The cannon guns were taken at Sebastopol during the Crimea War, 1854–56. The Notts Regiment of Foot are also remembered somewhere on the tower/monument. I have a included a quote from Robert Mellors, a Nottingham historian, who wrote The Parks and Walks of Nottingham and District in 1926 below.

Young musicians and their friends chill out in a corner of The Arboretum.

As I said in my last blog on Sunday I walked into town on Saturday to have a closer look at Canning Circus, then cut through the General Cemetery so I could visit The Arboretum on my way to the Victoria Centre. As you can see from the above pictures The Arboretum was busy with folk enjoying the hot sunny weather.

To quote from the City Council's own website entry: '
The Arboretum is Nottingham's oldest public park and the one that is closest to the city centre. This historic, beautifully maintained park covers an area of approximately 7.6 hectares, measuring 360m by 310m at its widest extent, and contains a host of original features that make this site unique within the city including the fine collection of trees that lend the site its name. Opened on the 11th May 1852 by the Mayor, Mr W Felkin and the Sheriff of the Borough, Mr Ball, in front of 30,000 people, the Arboretum continues to attract a year round audience. Easily accessible from the city centre and the wider community via the tram network that runs alongside, this park plays a vital role for the local community and is the site for many organised events through the summer'.

The Arboretum has a lake,an aviary and a formal garden. In a couple of weeks, on Sunday 25 May it will be hosting Nottingham's annual Green Festival, so if you want to go and have a look for yourself, then on Sunday week you there will be lots more to see and do. At the Addison Street end of the park you can walk under the road and along a green corridor to North Sherwood Street, from where you can walk straight through to the Mansfield Road. Turn left and at its junction a few yards away with Huntingdon Street cross the road and you can follow a corridor of green to Corporation Oaks and some fine views of Nottingham — a walk I will do for this blog soon.

But to end my visit to The Arboretum, I want to refer to what Robert Mellors wrote about The Chinese Bell Tower in 1926. It is one of the few occasions when he gives his readers an insight into his views. Eighty-two years on and they still resonate, for even though the names have changed, the injustice and madness of wars in countries we have no business to be in remains:

'Is it not a pity that the memory of wars that might have been avoided, and brought us no national credit, should have thus been perpetuated? The Crimean War was for very confused objects and doubtful results… The Chinese War was to compel China to open its ports to our commerce, which included opium, and which they were determined not to have… and the bell should remind us that it is our national duty to see that justice is done by other powers to China as a sovereign state, and that treaties which were wrung from her should now be revised with equity'.

I am so pleased that Lenton Recreation Ground is to be home to the Nottingham Peace Garden and I suspect that Robert Mellors, who writes very favourably about our little park, will be looking down upon us with approval — given that Lenton is the UK headquarters of the world's second largest small arms trade, but more about this blot on Lenton when the Peace Garden is in place and open to visitors.

The new London mayor, Boris Johnson, is to scrap
The Londoner newspaper and spend some of the savings on planting trees in the capital. Scrapping the promotional Greater London Authority newspaper will generate savings of nearly £3m per year, with a percentage of that sum to be spent on 10,000 trees on residential streets in deprived neighbourhoods by 2012, according to a GLA statement.