Monday, 20 April 2009

A discovery walk

An 'aah' pic to start with. Ducklings with their mum on the Nottingham Canal between Gregory Street and Dunkirk. This posting is yet another to come out of one my Beeston 'shopping' walks, when I usually take different routes, depending on the weather and how long I have allowed myself to do the shopping and get back home. Today, it was down Lenton Boulevard, then along the Old Leenside path to Gregory Street, across the road, over the canal bridge and onto the towpath.

Not far along the towpath, the River Leen goes under the canal and emerges on the south side. It's easy to miss the footpath which runs beside the Leen from the canal to Willow Road. I diverted down the footpath and when I got to Willow Road, which is in the middle of an industrial estate, I stood on the bridge, looked back towards the canal and took this pic. Only the pylon hints at the factories and warehouses on either side of the Leen.

Carrying on along the canal, I walked under the Nottingham Ring Road, pass the Spider Park on the other side and came to Chain Lane Bridge, which you cross to get into present-day Dunkirk, but first, I climbed up the footpath to Redfield Way, which provides access to parking at the rear of a bowling alley, multiplex cinema and some 'nightclubs', all housed in what can only be described as 'tin sheds with gob-ons'. I then turn around and took this pic. I don't know how many people use this footpath, but it provides a quieter, quicker route from the bus stops on Beeston Road than walking beside the noisey ring road. The route of the path and the Chain Lane bridge need to be better lit. Otherwise, it's another case of a footpath which looks as if it could be in the middle of the countryside.

After crossing over the bridge, I turned left onto Gibbons Street and then right onto Cavendish Street, which leads to the railway and Montpelier Road on the other side. On the right is this dirt track, which still appears on maps as 'Newton Street', even though it is now gated at each end. Even I included in my first Lenton community map, when I should have known better.

Under the railway and you find yourself in Montpelier Road, which leads you to the Dunkirk Flyover and the Dunkirk and Old Lenton Community Centre, but today's walk is only taking me as far as the footpath beside Tottlebrook, which begins opposite the Dunkirk Hotel pub and Claude Street. On the way I go past this lovely terrace of houses called 'Birley Villas' and date from 1901. I must have walked past them a good few times over the years, but it is only this time I notice that they still have all their original sash windows and, under the hardboard cladding which covers most doors, the originals may still be in situ. I make a note to point tell the City Council's planning staff responsible for conservation areas about them. Any council with a half-decent approach to conservation would have noticed them long ago and put an Article 4 Direction on them, requiring that all the original features are retained and protected. They really do look lovely and were the highpoint of my walk.

I only know that the name of the terrace is 'Birley Villas' because of this rather nice, even though simple, stone set in the front elevation of the middle house. Just beyond, there was another nice terrace, called 'Lilac Villas' which as the picture below shows, dates back to 1884. Unfortunately, most of these houses now have uPVC windows. Then there was another terrace called 'Millicent Villas 1884',making the houses 125 years old. Where and when little pockets of historic housing exists they should be celebrated and protected in the same way as stately homes. At the time these houses were built, they would have been for middle-class occupants. The next time you go in the direction of Dunkirk, try and find five minutes, so that you can have a look for yourself. We are all guilty of failing to notice such gems until it is too late to save them.

From Montpelier Road, I took the footpath beside Tottlebrook to Highfield Science Park (which now has signs calling it 'Nottingham Science park'), where some new units have been built in the past year. From University Boulevard and the south entrance to Highfields Park, you can see this odd looking building. The large sign in front explains that it houses a 'biomass', energy efficient, boiler that burns wood pellets and provides heating for all the new office buildings.

Beyond the boiler house to the south, there is a long stretch of wooden decking, surrounded by what look liked reed beds. One of the seats has a panel explaining that this is a eco-friendly 'sustainable urban drainage system'.

I actually first visited the site a few months ago, but was drawn back because of something said by David West during his presentation about the planned MediPark last month, when he said that the decking and reed beds were linked to Dunkirk Pond. It made me wonder if there was a new entrance to the Dunkirk Pond Nature Reserve, which I had missed on last visit a couple of months ago.

Well, there isn't actually a link. This what you see from the end of the decking, which begins on University Boulevard. Between you and the bank in the picture is a ditch and, yes, as you can see, a footpath is already being made, as people step off the decking and jump across what water there is in the ditch to get into the nature reserve. It probably won't take much rain to fill the ditch, when it will become too wide for most people to jump. Even if you did manage it, the bank would be so wet and slippery, the chance are that you would end up getting your feet and legs very wet (and muddy).

Once you visit the site, you realise that walking from the bus-stops on the Boulevard via the decking to Dinkirk Pond is an easier, and much more pleasant route, than walking through the old Science Park to the existing entrance. In the circumstance, wouldn't it have been logical to have built a footbridge across the ditch and laid a proper gravel path down the slope on the other side (the pond is six-eight foot lower). I wonder who was consulted about this part of the scheme? I must ask David West. It's the kind of niggle which crops up time and again when outsiders come into an area with the best of intentions. As I said in my blog about the Medipark (see 1 April 2009 posting),
'This is what happens when you get fixated on a vision and ignore what seem like marginal issues'. Now, if we had our own Lenton Council, local people would be involved and there is a good chance the results would be better for all concerned.

The media is full of opinions by columnists and pundits about the forthcoming Budget statement by the Chancellor, Alistair Darling, especially the possibility of an even higher rate of income tax for high-earners. We shall see.


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