Sunday, 17 August 2008

A nearly positive take on a Nottingham Parks Tour

On Thursday afternoon I went on a tour of a few of Nottingham's smaller and less well known parks and open spaces in the company of Jenni French, Nottingham City Council's Senior Nature Conservation Officer, and Peter from The Friends of Coppice Park Group, who is a fellow member of the Nottingham Open Spaces Forum (NOSF).
We began our tour in the city centre's only green open space. It is a closed cemetery, with gravestones placed against the surrounding walls. Neither Peter or me knew that it existed, despite having visited the Lace Market on countless occasions. It is just off Barker Gate, but there is also an entrance off Woolpack Lane. It is lovely, quiet and secluded, but it has no seating or litter bins.

However, this lack of seating had not deterred three homeless men from dragging an old sofa into the park and turning one small corner into a refuge, where they could soak up the afternoon sun and chat. Like so many characters who wander the streets, they were a friendly and welcomed the chance of a chat. I hope the new Park Rangers will find the time to visit Barkergate and find out what they need to make the park more attractive. Perhaps nearby office workers will show similar enterprise and bring their own tables and chairs into park at lunchtimes.

We then went on to visit the Memorial Garden which is a v-shaped open space between the Mansfield Road and Pelham Avenue and another place without any seating or litter bins. The message this sends out is loud and clear: 'You are not welcome here'. I intend to ask at the next NOSF meeting how many other parks and open spaces have no seating or litter bins? At present, it is lovely piece of invaluable open space close to the city centre going to waste.

This picture shows the Pelham Avenue side of the Memorial Garden. Across the road, to the left of my picture, is what used to be Clarendon College. It has no direct access and the open space is hidden by this long tree hedge. Logic says that it should be opened up and some of the trees taken down, so that students and staff at the college can be encouraged to use the Memorial Garden. Even better would be to pedestrianise this end of Pelham Avenue and incorporate into the open space. I wonder if anyone has spoken to the college about what might be done link the college to the open space? It is a lovely open space in need of some TLC. Another job for the Rangers I think.

Next we went to another hidden gem, at the very end of Camelot Avenue, off Haydn Road, in Sherwood. It is land which used be the track of the old Great Central railway and out of view is a blocked up tunnel entrance leading to what is now the Victoria Centre. With its man-made cliffs on either side and narrow entrance way, it would make a great location for an outdoors adventure centre. Again, there is no seating, but someone is mowing a square of grass and there are sticks in the ground whicch are obviously used as goalposts. Jenni told us that it was land the developers did not want, so it was given to the Parks Dept. I have a nasty feeling that should Nottingham City Council ever try to do anything with this gem, some of the houseowners nearby would be up in arms. I suspect they like it as it is. I would love for my cynicism to be proved wrong.

The Gawthorne Street Playground, off Northgate in New Basford, summed up why at the end of the parks tour with Jenni I felt 'nearly positive'. It had all the makings of a great piece of open space. The trouble is that it is not imaginatively used, with some new, fun looking, hi-tech play equipment dumped in the middle of an otherwise open rectangle. Having said that I loved the concrete Hippo, which is a leftover from a previous makeover, and the seating area where teenagers can hang out and be 'cool'. I definitely want one of these for Lenton Recreation Ground. Tomorrow please!

The trees behind Jenni and Peter are on the Playground's Monsall Street boundary and go its entire length. Like the trees I mentioned earlier on Pelham Avenue, they are all close together, so they act as a giant screen, hiding the Playground from the street. Jenni would, I think, like to remove some of the trees and both Peter and I agreed with her. Whether by accident or design, despite the fact that there are plenty of trees around Lenton Recreation, they are far enough apart not to impede the view in or out of the park. This helps with security and policing and, as I know from local park consultations in Dunkirk and Lenton, this is the No.1 concern of many would-be park users.

One of the last places we visited on our tour was Daybrook Recreation Ground, at the junction of the Mansfield Road and Valley Road, which is part of the Nottingham Ring Road. In the past year, part of Daybrook, the stream which runs through the recreation ground, has been dammed and a weir created.

This has enabled space to become a meadow, soaking up water after heavy rainfalls and protecting the bowling greens, which are out of sight,behind the hedges in the distance. It is helping with water conservation, as well as becoming more nature reserve than recreation ground. Perhaps it should be renamed 'Daybrook Meadow'. It is a lovely spot and, on this occasion, thanks to the screen of trees along Valley Road at its junction with Mansfield Road, it is protected from the noise of the traffic.

Talking of noise brings me nicely to the very last stop on our tour — Dunkirk Pond and Beeston Sidings Nature Reserve. This was new territory for Peter, but for me it was part of my own back yard and both have featured in previous blogs. At one point on our walk, we came out onto the huge playing field which is part of Highfields Park and surrounded by a dense wall of trees, except for a narrow entrance which runs down to University Boulevard, beside the Nottingham Tennis Centre. Jenni suggested that it was a great location for outdoor musical festivals. Thank you Jenni. A wonderful suggestion. I've walked across it on many occasions and the thought has never crossed my mind. It also happened to be the point where I left Jenni and Peter and walked into Beeston to do our weekend shopping. It was a good tour, one that could be repeated a dozen times and never visit the same park or open space twice. I ended my tour with a hundred ideas and thoughts racing through my head, wondering if I would ever find the time to blog about them or see them discussed at a future NOSF meeting?

Well, that's it for now. Later this week I will do a 'Can you believe it!' blog on park entrances, two relating to parks I saw on my tour with Jenni and Peter and another, which has bugged me forever.

Five people died today after two aircraft collided in midair before coming down close to Coombe Abbey in Brinklow, near Coventry.

No comments: