Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Digging for forgotten urban treasure

Spot the difference: Lenton Boulevard…

…Church Street from the park towards Lenton Boulevard…

…Church Street from Gregory Street towards the railway bridge…

…and Arnesby Road, Lenton Gardens.

Have you spotted the difference? Perhaps you need a little longer to think about it. What got me thinking about these 'forgotten urban treasures' was a combination of things: a short half-column article in the last edition of News From The Forum by Robert Massey; a faded press cutting from another life when I was a Birmingham city councillor and a visit to the Bristol Parks Forum website.

The link between these three items is trees and it is the difference between the top two pictures and the bottom two pictures. There are far more cars on Lenton Boulevard and in the first picture of Church Street, but the trees soften the look of the roads. In comparison I think Arnesby Road and the Old Lenton end of Church Street look and feel harsh. The pavements feel hotter and there is a harsh glare on the eyes in the absence of trees, which provide cooling breezes and shade.

The Bristol Parks Forum has just formed a new group called the 'Bristol Street Tree Forum' and reading this set me thinking about what could be done to get more trees planted in Lenton and to harness the enthusiasm of Robert Massey and others. Robert says 'Over the last ten years (Lenton), for one reason or another, has only lost trees. They have been blown down in storms and not replaced. They have been felled so that CCTV cameras can see all around and they have not been replaced. I have been onto the council about tree planting and got nowhere… perhaps if more us were concerned some can be planted to make up for the lost ones'.

I agree with Robert 100% and would like to see trees planted in all streets to both improve the townscape and to help with traffic management. The idea also links in with my own ambition to see a network of 'greenways' created across Nottingham linking all open spaces and parks together. This seems like a good issue and campaign for the Lenton Recreation Ground Consultative Group to take up.

Back in 1975 when I was a Birmingham city councillor my ward included the Bromford Bridge council estate where there was a long ribbon of derelict land between the estate and the M6 motorway. Somehow I very easily persuaded my fellow councillors to turn the land into a park and plant lots of trees. In the end we planted over 2,000 trees and spent about £250,000 creating a linear park. I have not seen the park in nearly thirty years, but a quick look on the web via the Google satellite map and I could see it is still there. I had forgotten all about it until I came across a faded press cutting showing me, complete with sideburns, showing loads of schoolchildren a large model of the proposed park.

So, here I am, another life and over thirty years later, still arguing for trees and parks and wondering how, just how, I have not been more forceful for campaigning for more trees in our streets before, when It is something I have always cared about, so thanks to Robert and the Bristol Parks Forum for getting me motivated to take up the cause again. I will contact Robert next week and get it put on the agenda of the next park consultative group meeting.

In the meantime, please take the trouble to look about you as you go on your travels around Lenton (and the city) and see where we go digging so that we can plant lots of 'urban treasure' (trees).

The death toll from the Burmese cyclone today rose above 22,000, with another 41,000 people still missing, as the country's military regime admitted it was struggling to cope.

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