Sunday, 27 July 2008

A journey into Lenton history

This Lenton story has been waiting since the Friday before last (18 July) when I went to Lenton Primary School with Patsy Shaw. It is an update to my blog dated 13 July, which was about the open day and exhibition organised by Patsy to mark the closure of Lenton Primary School after some 140 years. The school actually said goodbye to its last pupils on Thursday 17 July. The next day the building was being emptied, with vanloads of furniture and supplies being taken off to neighbouring schools.

So I was I at Lenton Primary School and inside it for only the third time with Patsy? We had gone to collect the last of the school's records and photographs and take them to the Nottinghamshire County Record Office at the other end of Castle Boulevard. When we arrived at the school there were still people standing by the gates as if it was just another school day. The future had arrived, the school was closed, but the past was lingering on, for another day at least.

The playground was empty. Eerily so, something said this was different to all the other days through three centuries when it had been this quiet. Then, the walls knew the children would be back, but not this time.

In the entrance hall, the in/out board had been wiped cleaned and bar one, all the tags showed 'out'. The staff names had gone. Only ghostly shadows remained.

If one had any doubts about what had happened, then the view through the door of the one room which still contained tables and just one chair told you it had finished. Some time, soon perhaps, the building will take on a new life, serving the educational and personal needs of another group of Nottingham youngsters. Well, this is what they say, but it seems vague to me, so we will just have to wait and see.
Patsy and I found the collection of old photographs and school records and carried them out and placed them in the boot of her car. As I lifted one box, two sheets of paper which were stapled together fell onto the table in front of me. I then saw that they were the minutes of the last School Governors' meeting, with a little note attached, asking Patsy, as the Chair of Governors to check them. Did it matter I wondered? They will never be signed as 'a true and correct record'. It had never occurred to me before that the last minutes of any organisation are the nearest one gets to 'history in limbo'.

It took us less than five minutes to reach the County Record Office (better known these days as 'Archives'), where we unloaded the boxes onto a trolley with the help of a member of staff from the Archives.

Inside the Archives the records of Lenton Primary School were taken to a holding room, where they would be sorted, catalogued, given record numbers and archived, so that future researchers can find them and ask to see them. In little more than an hour, the school's records completed their journey and had become, officially, part of Lenton's History. We will never know the Lenton of 2508 or 3008, assuming humankind makes it that far, but I am sure that so long as there is a Lenton there will be local historians who will want to re-discover and re-interpret its history and I like the idea of local celebrations across the centuries to mark this or that local historic occasion and I am sure that the history of education in Lenton will be an ever-recurring theme.

New figures from one of Britain's leading gas producers showing a 15% fall in wholesale prices over the past three months have raised questions about the need for big rises in household bills that have been heavily trailed by leading suppliers.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Facebook and talking to people in the park

These two pictures are linked by a chance conversation. The first one shows the hall at Thomas Helwys Church this afternoon just before the start of a meeting about the futures of New Lenton and Carrington Post Offices, which were both closed earlier this year after a sham consultation exercise by the Post Office. It was a packed meeting with standing room only for late arrivals and was a great success. It was a good example of Dunkirk and Lenton Partnership Forum at work should anyone ask you what does the Forum do?

The main speaker was Alan Simpson, our local MP. During the course of the discussion which followed his speech someone pointed out that a large group of Lenton Post Office users was missing from the meeting — students — and what were they doing about the closure? Alan said that he had been talking to students and Melanie Futer, from Nottingham University, added that students had been campaigning against the closure of Lenton Post Office.

Lots of people spoke at the meeting and there were lots of imaginative ideas about how Nottingham City Council might be persuaded to work with local groups to get the two post offices re-opened. As Alan pointed out, it won't be easy, but it can be done. I suspect a lot of people left the meeting feeling that we might be able to get the post offices re-opened.

I walked home from the meeting via Lenton Recreation Ground, where I saw the three young men in my second picture sipping beer, as one of them played Spanish music with his guitar. They were chilling out and told me that they were students and that they had decided to stay in Lenton for the summer. I then mentioned that I had just come from a meeting about Lenton Post Office and the campaign to get it re-opened and that local residents wanted students to become involved as well. One of them replied 'There's a student website against closing Lenton Post Office on Facebook'.

Towards the end of the post office meeting Alan Simpson said how he was not very good with computers and that the trend towards getting all kinds of transactions done via computers was a bad thing and as an example he mentioned Facebook, saying that even his own staff at Westminster told him that they liked the fact that they could make friends with the help of Facebook. His response was to say "Why don't you go to a park and talk to people. That way, you might get some real friends'.

As someone who uses my blog as an excuse to talk to people in the park I was with Alan 100%. However I have to admit to being a Facebook member — initially at the request of one of my young grandsons, since when two adult friends have asked me to become a Facebook 'friend'. So, here I was, less than ten minutes after leaving the meeting with Alan's words still in my head, talking to real people in a park and I find myself being told that a group of students had started a Facebook page against the closure of Lenton Post Office. Before starting this blog entry I went and found the Facebook page for 'Lenton Post Office' and signed up as a 'friend' and added some pictures of Lenton Post Office, including a protest meeting being addressed by Alan.

Alan, I followed your advice and spoke to someone in the park and look where it got me — signing up as a friend of Lenton Post Office on Facebook!

Gordon Brown's plans to raise £100m from business towards the cost of training athletes and others for the London 2012 Olympics are in tatters because he did not realise that the Olympic 'rings' are exclusive to the organising committee, who are using them to raise money for their own projects.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

News from another Nottingham park

Coppice Park is to the north of St Ann's and Hungerhill Gardens and Nottingham City Centre. Its eastern boundary runs along Ransom Road, where there is an entrance. In the park there is a roundabout and some swings for the kids and plenty of space to play ball, walk dogs, fly kites or simply take the air. Over the last few years the park had been made more secure with new railings, anti motor bike gates and bollards.

When Ransom Road was known as Coppice New Road (back in the 1890s), it was because of the local coppice and woods, part of a spread of green space which included Gorsey Close Gardens and the Allotments. Many people still use the gardens, the allotments – said to be the oldest in the country – which are undergoing something of a renaissance and now, thanks to the Friends of Coppice Park, local people are working together to get the coppice better known and more widely used.
In recent months, teams of volunteers have been working with Nottingham City Council park rangers to plant saplings, tidy up, prune and trim, put up bat boxes and generally spruce up the Park – and they have plans for many more improvements in the coming months and years.

The Friends have ambitious plans for more play areas and equipment, including (hopefully) something called a MUGA – a Multi-Use Games Apparatus – so if it comes off there will be a real and valuable addition to the local play space. Some tree and brush thinning was carried out last year and this year we hope to be introducing some native species of trees, shrubs and bulbs (who knows, maybe even some anemones!).

The work of the Friends of Coppice Park is being done within the City Council’s ‘Breathing Spaces’ initiative and one of the key aims is to encourage more community groups to take advantage of the large local open space for play, organised activities and (when the weather is right) picnics and open-air events.

Volunteers meet to trim and tidy up the Park on the second Saturday of each month. Occasional helpers from anywhere are more than welcome, so please come along. We meet at the Ransom Road Coppice Park entrance between 11am and 2pm

If you want to know more about Coppice Park, or if you would like to join the Friends of Coppice Park and help with the important work of getting the Park better known, better equipped and better used, please contact:

Karen and Jed Fyles, tel: 0115 953 7783, email:
There is a weblink to Friends of Coppice Park in the the column to the right.

Europe's most wanted man, the former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, was living and working freely in the Serbian capital before his arrest yesterday, officials said today.Heavily disguised with a long white beard and white hair, Karadzic, who was wanted for genocide and other war crimes, was arrested as he travelled near Belgrade.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Happiness and health in Lenton

From time to time people come into Lenton Recreation Ground to fly kites and it's a real pleasure to see the kite flyer keeping the kite in the air. Yesterday evening (Saturday) a young couple were in the park making their kite twist and turn, then dive and climb high into the sky. It was fun to watch them.

The couple kindly agreed to let me take pictures and I rather like this one. She told me that because of the clear open space in the middle of the park, it was a great place to fly a kite. She also told me that she had just finished uni, but has decided to stay in Lenton because she likes it here. Her face is full of concentration and within a moment of taking this pic her face was enveloped in a wonderful laughing smile as she rolled the kite skyward…

…and just for once I was lucky enough to capture the moment. Parks make people happy and yesterday I caught that happiness. With luck, these pictures will be contagious and spread a little happiness of their own.

Just across the road from Lenton Recreation Ground is the Derby Road Health Centre (DRHC), which was built just a few years ago on part of a school playing field. Previously, the doctors had been based in a house with an extension, about 150 yards up the Derby Road. opposite the Savoy Cinema.

I have always thought of the park as the Health Centre's 'outdoor surgery'. I rather like the idea of the Bowling Green Pavilion being used by the Centre as a base for "Healthy Living' clinics — a place where you could be weighed, have your blood pressure taken, then encouraged to go off for thirty minutes and do six laps of the park, before returning to have your blood pressure taken again, followed by a cup of tea and a slice of cake (I know, I know, this will undo all the good work done by the walk, but at least you will have done something healthy first!).

But our new health centre is not without its problems. Because the number of students living in the area continues to rise, one consequence is that the number of permanent residents is declining. As a result the number of patients registered with DRHC is declining. Students tend not to look for a doctor until they need one, then they are more likely to register at Nottingham University's own health centre. Recently, Nottingham Primary Care Trust (NPCT) had to identify three parts of Nottingham which needed one of the Government's new 'Polyclinics'. The areas chosen were the City Centre, Clifton and Bilborough — where some of DRHC's patients come from. As a result the doctors running the DRHC are having to bid for the five year contract to run the new polyclinic in Bilborough.

Somewhere along the line, a bit like a Chinese whisper, some of us heard that it was the DRHC which was going out to tender and that the 42 year old partnership of general practitioners (GPs) running the DRHC might be replaced by a private health care provider more interested in making a profit than caring for patients. Last month, the Bridge and Dunkirk & Lenton Branch Labour Party, of which I am Secretary, discussed the issue and I was asked to check up on what was happening. Since we are all opposed to private for profit NHS contractors, we decided that we would get up a petition opposing the privatisation of Nottingham NHS health centres.

After talking to NPCT and DRHC it became clear that Lenton's health centre is not under threat of being privatised (but for how long given Gordon Brown's NHS policies?). However, we did learn that the DRHC has falling patient numbers and that NPCT has extrapolated this to mean that 'the population in Dunkirk and Lenton ward is declining (and) this will impact on (DRHC) if it continues'. So, the outcome was a mix of good news and bad news.

All this must be unsettling for the GPs at the DRHC. They are having to bid for a contract to run a new GP polyclinic in Bilborough to protect their exisiting patient numbers whilst having to watch their backs in Lenton, just in case the PCT decide to hold them responsible for the area's changing demographics. Imagine what will happen if Lenton's high-rise flats are pulled down in a couple of years. Even if Newgate Court was saved, they could still lose 500 or so patients for a couple of years whilst the land was redeveloped.

Somehow, the local community has got to find a way of working more closely with DRHC's doctors to ensure that they are safe and that they can continue to provide us with excellent services. Perhaps we can have a campaign to get students to register with them. Every month 300–400 patients fail to keep an appointment at the DRHC. This information can be seen on posters in DRHC. Perhaps local groups and venues could help in the campaign to reduce the number of missed appointments? Perhaps such a community based campaign needs to be targeted?

It is a subject I will return to. In the meantime, I hope to persuade the Dunkirk and Lenton Partnership Forum to see if it can help DRHC in any way.

One of the five British hostages seized in Baghdad last year has committed suicide, according to a videotaped statement released by his kidnappers. British officials have emphasised that there is "no immediate corroboration" of the claim that the hostage, known only as Jason, has killed himself.

Friday, 18 July 2008

Supporting the park workers

On Wednesday and Thursday Lenton Recreation Ground was closed because of strike action by Unison, the trade union to which Dave, our groundsperson, and others working in Nottingham parks belong to, so the park was closed.

They went on strike because they had been offered a miserly pay rise of just 2.45%. As Unison says: 'Take inflation into account and it's a pay cut!'. Add in 10 years of below-inflation pay rises and average household bills rocketing £1,300 in the last year alone, so it's easy to understand why Dave and his colleagues supported the strike.

More than 500,000 union members took part in the strike, sending a clear message to their employers that they must improve their offer and show local government workers the respect they deserve. The mantra of the right-wing press and the Labour Government is that a pay increase for local government workers will make inflation worse. What a load of rubbish! Inflation is the result of the way in which Gordon Brown has allowed the banks and big business a free ride at public expense on the back of a property boom and cheap loans. When times are good they get all the profits, when times are bad, like now, they get subsidies to maintain their profits and high pay levels, whilst workers like Dave get pay cuts!

According to the Nottingham Evening Post, Nottingham City Council has paid off its Deputy Chief Executive, who earned £140,000 a year, with a sum of over £500,000, yet they can't find the money to give low paid staff a fair pay increase. Be it in Whitehall or Nottingham Council House there is one rule for the managers and another for the workers. The sad truth is that Dave and pensioners like myself have to continue supporting Labour leaders in thrall to big business both nationally and locally because the Tories and Liberals will treat low paid workers and pensioners even worse!

I hope that Unison's campaign is successful. It deserves to be.

On Wednesday out of nowhere a group of young men climbed over the park railings and spent two hours playing football. Most of them were wearing studded boots, which they brought with them in small cloth bags. It will be interesting to see if they turn up next week. I have a nasty suspicion that they knew the park was closed because of the Unison strike, so they decided to take advantage of the situation.

On Monday, Dave showed me one of the three young Elm trees in the park. As the picture shows, someone has stripped the bark from around the trunk, so the tree will die. They have done the same with a Cherry tree near the children's playground. What causes people to do such mindless vandalism? I could see Dave's eyes well up as he told me about the damage. He has put so much care and, yes, love into nurturing these trees, which were all planted last year, that it has hit him hard. I suspect that, at the moment, every morning when he arrives at the park Dave is wondering if more trees have been damaged.

The two days Lenton Recreation Ground were closed this week were about more than a fair day's pay for a fair day's work. It was also about decency and honesty and the kind of society we want to live in.

A policeman who was bitten, kicked and punched by a 30-strong mob after asking a 15-year-old girl to pick up her litter today spoke of how he feared for his life and had to call for emergency backup.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Lenton society enjoy a barbecue

The Dunkirk and Lenton Partnership Forum's Summer Barbecue this year took place last night (Tuesday) in the back yard of The Lenton Centre and when we arrived there was along queue snaking across the yard. All good barbecues have a queue and this one was no exception. As people waited they laughed and joked…

…until confronted by Alex from the Forum with a bun and burger in hand and heads went down in search of a favourite relish or just good old fashioned tomato sauce.

In fact, of all the pictures I took it this one which I am most pleased about. Here, in one place, are the Forum's four members of staff: Lynda, Fiona, Alex and Steph, with the added bonus of Corinne, the Forum's Treasurer, who seemed to spend the entire time over hot coals cooking burgers. Steph dashed off at one point to restock on burgers and buns as supplies began to run out, whilst Lynda and Fiona seemed to be forever bagging rubbish, while Alex served the hungry faces of local folk like me.

Then I spied the heavies. In truth you couldn't meet three nicer guys: Shafiq, Parbinder and Zahoor. I know them all pretty well and enjoy their company. I rely on them all for different things and value their friendship and support.

It was also nice to see some faces from Dunkirk enjoying themselves at the barbecue. There are others who I couldn't quite get in this picture, but I soon found myself talking about Dunkirk and Old Lenton issues which concern me as much as they concern them. The possibility of a high-rise tower on the site of Dunkirk Fire Station for up to 750 students is causing considerable concern and they fear, I suspect rightly, that even though there hasn't been a planning application yet, it's a 'done deal' (see my blog dated xx xxxx). Then there's the plan for a 'bio-science park' in the Leengate, Abbey Street, River Leen triangle, which the developers want to push through without proper scrutiny. At the moment all the pressure is on the Dunkirk end of our ward and they need all the support they can get. I just hope that at the barbecue they were able to enjoy themselves .
So, well done to the Forum ladies for organising a great barbecue. Everyone seemed to have a great time and if we were anything to go by, the conversations continued with friends long after.

MPs are calling for an investigation into allegations that British intelligence has "outsourced" the torture of British citizens to Pakistani security agencies after hearing accounts of people being abducted and subjected to mistreatment and, in some cases, released without charge.

Monday, 14 July 2008

A day of uplifting visitors

This evening Devonshire Promenade and Lenton Recreation Ground stepped back 110 years to receive a visitor from the past. A Mrs Florence Shaw to be formal. Her visit began on Friday when she paid an inspection visit to Lenton Primary School to see if the teachers were properly attired and the pupils were clean, tidy and washed. She stayed on the Promenade throughout the weekend and just before she departed I was lucky enough to take some pictures of Mrs Shaw.

Her school and inspection duties finished I think I caught her off her guard, for she let me feel her bustle and I do believe that I detected a twinkle in her eye, which would have turned the head of any Victorian man. Unfortunately, as I contemplating my next move I was caught in a Dr Who like time-blast and whisked back to the 21st century and my wife. 'No more' I hear you cry, 'This is a family blog!'

Seriously though, I think Patsy's willingness to play the part is something both pupils and staff will remember for a long time to come and I'm sure that neither Susan or I will forget what a wonderful sight she was on Devonshire Promenade today.

The other visitors I met were Ray and Jo when I was on my way to take a picture of a wanton act of vandalism (which I will write about later in the week). It was an uplifting diversion. As I walked across the grass Ray waved at me and I waved back, then Jo said 'Hello', so I walked across and had a chat. Ray was obviously enjoying his visit to Lenton Recreation Ground and had a broad smile across his face. Jo told me 'Ray likes it here. We've just come from Unity House'.

Unity House is the old Victorian vicarage beside Holy Trinity Church, which is on the other side of the Church Street entrance to the park. Some years ago it was converted into three church flats and meeting rooms. Jo told me that the care provider she works for hires Unity House to use as a day centre on Mondays and that Ray has been coming across from Bunny for the last couple of months and that this was their second visit to the park.

Even though Unity House has a nice large garden, it must be nice to come into the park and see other people. I am sure that other park users have responded to Ray's 'Hello' and have found it an uplifting experience. A safe park like Lenton Recreation Ground has the capacity to lower the social barriers which now cripple the way we so often respond when we meet someone we don't know in a public place and without third parties, who we know, on hand to introduce us.

I hope Ray becomes a regular visitor to our park and that he tells his friends as well.

Mrs Thatcher is to be given a state funeral when she dies. Her critics are now praying that she will live forever.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Lenton's deadly crossings

Is this the most dangerous pedestrian crossing in Nottingham? The crossing outside the Derby Road Health Centre, at the road's junction with Johnson Road. Last week I was nearly hit by a school bus, the driver was on his mobile 'phone when he shuddered to a halt inches away from me. The next day Susan came within inches of a car which was heading towards the city, in the same lane as the car in the picture, and overtook a bus stopped at the crossing. Perhaps the car could not see the red crossing light on its side of the road and failed to notice the two red lights on the other side of the road?

All too often cars turning right out of Johnson Road and onto the Derby Road heading towards the QMC and Ring Road cut across oncoming city bound traffic. Over the years I have witnessed numerous accidents being narrowly avoided by cars screeching to a halt just in time.

Another dangerous aspect of this crossing is the fact that it is within 200 yards or so of the busy Derby Road/Lenton Boulevard junction. As traffic from the Boulevard on the Derby Road lights pull away it accelerates and often has to break hard when the crossing lights go red.

From the pedestrian's point of view, the slowness of these lights tempts many walkers (including myself) to cross when we see a gap in the oncoming traffic. You can wait, seemingly, forever for the crossing lights to go red. The pedestrian crossing lights on Lenton Boulevard stop oncoming traffic within seconds.

This picture shows the Derby Road heading towards the QMC and Ring Road at its junction with Lenton Boulevard. It is so busy that it has the distinction of being the first road junction in England to get a traffic camera with the aim of catching traffic jumping the lights. Over the years there have been numerous road accidents here, yet it has never had pedestrian signals to enable walkers to cross the junction safely! In other words, within 200 yards of another there are two very dangerous crossings for pedestrians, yet Nottingham City Council continues to remain deaf to any requests for improvements.

About 100 yards up from the Derby Road/Lenton Boulevard junction is the pedestrian crossing outside the Savoy Cinema. Last year, the City Council spent a lot of money improving the road layout around the crossing, widening the pavements and putting in a larger central reservation for walkers. Why can't the same be done at the crossing outside the Derby Road Health Centre?

There are five pedestrian crossings with lights between the Savoy and the Ring Road. The only one without a central reservation or widened pavements is the one outside the Derby Road Health Centre!

For years local residents complained about the pedestrian crossing on Lenton Boulevard close to its junction with Church Street. Only a few years ago there used to be four lanes of traffic along the Boulevard. Eventually, the City Council responded and narrowed down the traffic to two lanes, widened the pavements and put in signals which go red within seconds of walkers pressing the button. It is the same a few hundreds yards down the Boulevard outside Lenton Primary School and Dunkirk and Lenton Partnership Forum office, so why can't the same be done outside the Derby Road Health Centre?

I think it's time to tell Nottingham City Council that we want action now before someone ends up dead! For my part, I will ask the Forum to discuss the matter and ask our city councillors, Dave Trimble and Zahoor Mir, to get the matter discussed with Highways and a report taken to the City Council's Area 8 Committee. Doing nothing is no longer an option!

I want to see pedestrian lights at the Derby Road/Lenton Boulevard junction and the Derby Road Health Centre crossing moved further down, perhaps to where the out of town bus lane beside Devonshire Promenade begins. There may be other, better, solutions, but my proposed solution is a far better option than allowing the present situation to continue for much longer.

Teenagers caught with knives will be forced to tour casualty units and meet the relatives of stabbing victims, under government plans to combat the glorification of weapons within gangs.

Memories in search of a past

Lenton Primary School, New Lenton, located at the junction of Lenton Boulevard and Sherwin Road, opened in 1887. The school officially closes next Friday, 18 July 2008. Yesterday (Saturday 12 July) the school held an Open Day, which was the idea of the School's Chair of Governors since 1993, Patsy Shaw, who is also a neighbour and good friend. Across the Boulevard to the right of the picture is an old school building from 1874, which in recent years has been used for the Edna G Olds School Nursery (I will write a separate blog about this in a few days time).

A former pupil writes her name against one of many pictures asking for the names of the people in the pictures. Visitors were also able to write in the names of classmates they remembered. This activity, seemingly simple, was probably one of the most important things taking place. Names and faces were remembered, contacts made and renewed…

whilst others gathered to watch, then to add further names to the pictures of pupils on the boards. During the half-hour I was there I saw this happening all the time. The contacts made yesterday will, I'm sure, be passed to Lenton Local History Society and Steve Zaleski, the editor of their magazine, Lenton Times, who was also present.

I caught another former pupil as she excitedly found her name in a school register.

The pictures of class groups, special events and outings, were spread across two rooms. In the second room, visitors were using post-it notes to attach comments and names to colour pictures from more recent years.

I caught Patsy Shaw, the Chair of Governors, together with Dunkirk and Lenton's two Labour Party city councillor's, Dave Trimble and Zahoor Mir, listening intently to the reminiscences of a former pupil. What this wonderful open day did so well was to help many of the former pupils and parents to place their disparate memories into some kind of order whilst Lenton Primary School still exists, albeit only for a few more days. There may never be another opportunity for former pupils to walk around their old school again and to hear the classrooms and the playground echo with memories of a world soon to be lost forever.

Of one thing we can be sure. Lenton Primary School will never be forgotten so long as there is a Lenton Local History Society and local archives and libraries. Centuries from now some of the faces I looked at yesterday will look out at other viewers in a world beyond our imagination. For now, I would like to say a big 'thank you' to Patsy and all the other volunteers and local groups who came together to make yesterday the wonderful day it was.

The British economy is braced for further turbulence this week as the fallout from the second largest bank failure in US history spreads across the Atlantic. Last week's extraordinary decision by the US Federal Reserve to take over the Californian bank, Indymac, comes as the Bush administration attempts to quash speculation that America's two largest mortgage lenders, Fannie May and Freddie Mac, also face nationalisation.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Lenton Pool every day a little closer

Chris doing his first length.

Chris enjoying Lenton Pool for the first time in years.

Me, wallowing in the shallow before I swim my first length.

Today, my neighbour and friend Chris and I took up an invitation of some weeks to go for a pre-reopening swim in Lenton Swimming Pool, which is part of The Lenton Centre. The pool will be officially reopened four years to the day after it was closed by Nottingham City Council on 4 September 2008. It was part of Lenton Leisure Centre which was also closed. In 2006, after nearly two years of negotiations with Lenton Community Association, who had occupied a third of the same building as the leisure centre, the City Council sold the building to the Association for £10 after it had reconstituted itself as The Lenton Centre.

Having played a part in three campaigns to save the pool from threatened closure in 1994, 2001 and 2004, then the committee to draw up a viable business plan, together with Susan and others, it is difficult to put into words what the swim today has meant to me. To be in The Lenton Centre at the same time as Mairi, Carl and Andy I felt proud to point of bursting. I cannot imagine living in Lenton and not having some kind of involvement with The Lenton Centre.

On the 4th and 5th September this year there will be two days of events to mark the official reopening of the pool. The celebrations will provide a few moments when we can bask in the glory of it all, before moving onto the next task. There will be money to raise for better changing facilities and the creation of a large fund to pay for regular maintenance and contingencies in years to come not just for the pool, but for the entire building.

To find out more about The Lenton Centre visit:
You can find a direct link in the column to right of this column.

A citizens group in San Francisco wants to pay an ironic tribute to President George W Bush when he leaves office - by naming a sewage plant after him.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

A wedding and a canal walk

At first I thought the drumming I could hear was coming from the television, as the preliminaries for the Wimbledon ladies singles final included a military band. I then thought it was coming from the Gurdwara across the park. That was until Susan said it was 'from the park' and I looked out the living room window to see two large colourful groups. There was obviously a Sikh wedding taking place, so I grabbed my camera and took a few pictures. The men were in one group and were accompanied by two drummers. Only the groom and the drummers were in traditional costume. Most of the men were in turbans and tails.

The women were separated from the men by about 20 yards and had four trumpeteers in traditional costumes. All the women wore saris of vibrant colours and looked absolutely beautiful. I took my pictures from a distance as I did not want to intrude. I suspect that it may have been a pre-wedding gathering of the groom's family and friends, as a coach arrived and they all left the park. Perhaps the wedding was taking place at another gurdwara. At times like this I say a big thank you to Dave and Simon and all the others who help keep Lenton Recreation Ground such a lovely park.

Given that the weather forecasters had said that the day (Saturday) was going to be wet during the afternoon, I was tempted by the sunny lunchtime to go on a wander whilst Susan watched Wimbledon. I am a coward when it comes to live sport and much prefer to watch after match replays, be it football, tennis or any other sport. I don't enjoy the tension of watching my chosen favourites win (just in case they don't) or lose.

As I had a little shopping to do, I caught a bus to the Broadmarsh and then walked down to the Nottingham Canal, which runs along the southern edge of the city centre and actually separates the railway station from the city centre. From here I could walk along the canal back to Lenton and home. It is a walk I have done hundreds of times, usually after arriving back in Nottingham by train. What I like about the walk home along the canal is that it is quiet and on the flat, with only a gentle uphill walk for about 50 yards towards the end.

In the event the afternoon turned out sunny and hot, but all along the canal there was a cooling breeze from the water. It's a walk I never tire of doing and it is getting ever more popular as more and more people discover that they can walk between Dunkirk and Lenton and Nottingham City Centre away from the city hubbub. If it's a walk you have never done, then perhaps the following pictorial account of yesterday's walk will tempt you to follow in my footsteps.

This is the view when you look west from the Carrington Street canal bridge. To the south you are within yards of the main entrance to Nottingham Railway Station and to the north you can see the Broadmarsh Shopping Centre and Bus Station. In the last ten years or so the north side of the canal has been opened up to canalside bars and eateries, which you can just see on the right-hand side of my picture. Once, Nottingham City Council had a canal museum where the narrow boat is moored on the right, but they closed it down and sold the site to developers. They also closed the city's world famous costume museum. When it comes to museums and the arts, Nottingham City Council is 90% window dressing, 10% substance (and this may be an over-estimation of the latter).

The canal footpath runs along the south side of the canal, which is to the left of my picture.
At the bottom of the footpath you come to the city's modern Magistrates' Court. On a Saturday it is all quiet, but during the week it is often crowded with people. The low building behind the trees is the Nottingham city and county archives building.

Past the courthouse you come to the Wilford Street canal bridge and just beyond you can see the entrance to the only set of locks there are between Trent Bridge and the Beeston Marina (the canal acts as a bypass for a section of the River Trent). The building on the right beyond the bridge is The Navigation Inn. From here it's a towpath.

Luck was me, as there was this string of boats in the lock and just as I arrived the gates were opened and the boats began to leave. The Navigation Inn's canalside terrace has only been here for a few years.

Beyond the locks and across the canal to the north, between the rear of Viyella House (right) and Castle Court (left) you get a fine view of Nottingham Castle and the re-constructed section of the surrounding wall. It collapsed some years ago and it took the City Council some years to rebuild the wall because of technical and structural problems. In the end they have done a good job. You can see how windy it was, the Union Jack looks great. I rather like the rear extension to Viyella House. The City Council's Canal Conservation Area Appraisal & Management Plan, dated March 2008, describes it as 'smart but bland in contrast to the (building's) striking art-deco front elevation'.

Just past Viyella House is Castle Court and it's another canalside building I like the look of.
As you walk along the canal towards Lenton you have the old Tinker's Leen on your left (my picture is a view looking east towards the city centre). Some years ago it was dredged and cleared, since when little or no maintenance work has been undertaken, so it has become all overgrown and clogged again. No doubt someone, somewhere, has already written an application for another capital grant to restore the Tinker's Leen to its former glory!

The footbridge across the canal provides a pedestrian link between Castle Boulevard (to the left), a large retail park (to the right) and the canal. This is another picture looking east.

This is the Tinker's Leen looking west from the bottom of the footbridge, where it joins the canal towpath. A part of me wishes it could stay like this, but I also know that all this growth has almost certainly brought the flow of water to a standstill, so I will enjoy the scene whilst I can.

The canal towpath these days always has a steady flow of pedestrians and cyclists. I suspect that more people use the towpath between the city centre and Lenton than Castle Boulevard, which runs parallel to the canal on its northern side (right of the picture).
Sad to say, what little seating there is beside the canal is surrounded by empty cans and food packaging, as there are no litter bins nearby and people are too lazy to take their rubbish away with them! My punishment for litter droppers is not to fine them, but to make them use a week of their annual holiday leave (for each offence) to help people like Harry, Lenton's resident streetcleaner. If they are not at work, then they can do their week of helping to clear litter immediately.

This picture is taken from land which use to be part of a HomeBase store until it was demolished and replaced with canalside apartments. You can see the towpath, canal and, across the other side, Castle Boulevard.

The strip of greenery between the towpath and the apartments was found very quickly by walkers like myself, who prefer this stretch of grass to the towpath, as it provides a good link between the Sainsbury's supermarket, just beyond the apartments, and the Castle Marina road bridge.

The Castle Marina road bridge provides a link with Lenton and is well used by pedestrians. To the left there are people sitting at tables outside the Baltimore Diner, a fast-food eatery-cum-pub. In the distance, just left of centre, is the towpath bridge over the entrance to the marina.

At the side of the Baltimore Diner you have to walk to the end of the road bridge and cross over. Once on the bridge, if you look east, you have a fine view of Nottingham Castle in the distance. As a child growing up in the 40s and 50s, it was a view I saw every day on a Player's cigarette packet. I don't know when the design was changed, but I still remember the image every time I walk across the bridge.On the bridge, looking west, you get a view of Castle Marina, which opened in the mid-1980s. Prior to this the land had been used as rasilway marshalling yards and a brick works.
This is the view from the centre of the bridge looking west. The marina to the left and the main towpath towards Old Lenton, Dunkirk and Beeston. On the right is the footpath which provides a quieter route to Lenton Boulevard and an alternative route to Old Lenton.

The footpath to Grove Road and Lenton Boulevard is reached by a flight of steps down form the bridge (from the other side of the bridge there is a curling walkway for cyclists, wheelchairs and buggies to use). This footpath is popular with anglers, who can be found here during the fishing season. This is a Lenton view which some of us know and love whilst others have no idea that this path exists!

This is where my walk along the canal comes to an end as I look back along the path towards the road bridge. The canal is to the right and on the left you can see the apartments built by the British Legion Housing Association. They would undoubtedly make it into my list of top ten Lenton buildings if I had one (now there's a thought for the future and as a activity for the proposed 'Lenton Pride' group to consider). I like them for their modernity as much as for their location and their intent.

Well, I hope you've enjoyed this Saturday afternoon stroll along the Nottingham Canal and will do the walk yourself before too long. It just another good example of what makes Lenton such a great place to live in!

Attempts by Gordon Brown to use a meeting of G8 leaders this week to campaign for tougher action against Zimbabwe are in danger of being undermined by claims that Britain is forcing as many as 11,000 Zimbabweans seeking refuge here to make a stark choice between destitution or returning home to possible torture or death.