Monday, 23 September 2013

Park brutalism and train-trams

 Over the past few years millions have been spent on improvements to Wollaton Hall and Park, much of it from the Lottery, but still this ugly example of 19th century brutalism remains.

It is the Park's south entrance on the Derby Road and is passed by tens of thousands every day and you could argue that, because it is the most seen entrance to Wollaton Park, it is very much its public face. According to the Park's entry in Wikipedia, Beeston Lodge to give it its official name is '...was designed by the architect Jeffry Wyatville around 1832. It is built of coursed Gritstone ashlar in a heavy Gothic style with "martello-type" round outer towers with battlements. The square central gatehouse is connected to the towers at the second floor level. It has an arched carriage entrance with an oriel window above. It was built following the Nottingham Reform riots in October 1831 and is now a Grade II listed building'.

This last fact always surprises me — as does the fact that no effort appears to be made to make this 'landmark' entrance to a Nottingham park of national significance more attractive and welcoming to visitors. I would even go as far as to say that it would be quite easy to create a Derby Road car park to make for easier access to the Wollaton Park for visiting motorists.

On a few occasions over the years I have heard bus drivers tell people getting on a bus which passes this entrance and stops directly opposite that they actually want a 'number 30'. Last week, I heard a 35 bus driver outside the Victoria Centre say exactly this and asked him why. 'It's what we're told to say' was his reply. If this is true, then there is something crazy going on in the heads of Nottingham City Transport managers. Even if you ignore the Y36, a rival bus service, NCT buses 35 and 36 pass the southern entrance to Wollaton Park every few minutes whilst the no.30 runs only every 20 minutes, so why direct Wollaton Park visitors to a less frequent bus service?

Personally, I prefer entering the Park this way than from the Wollaton end. I rather like sneaking up on Wollaton Hall from behind and glimpsing a back view first.  Of course the front view from the Wollaton entrance is the one we all know and images of it abound on the web.

What has prompted these thoughts is the fact that Highfields Park close by, which is known to many as 'University Park', has been awarded Lottery money towards the cost of preparing a detail bid so that Highfields can have a much needed makeover. It is actually a trust with just one member — now Nottingham City Council's Portfolio Holder for Leisure, Councillor Dave Trimble. Highfields is lovely park and we visit it far more often than Wollaton Park, even though both parks are less than a mile from our home in Lenton.

I took this photo in 2007 from above the waterfall at the west end of Highfields Park, looking across towards Nottingham University. This end of the park with its stepping stones, which you can see in this photograph, gave my children and grand-children no end of fun whilst they were growing up and this photograph fills me with happy memories.

I am sure the Derby Road entrance to Wollaton Park can be made more attractive and certainly promoted as the easiest way of reaching the Park if you are using public transport.

Whilst on the subject of public transport, the Nottingham Post has just published the latest column by me on public transport topics relating to Nottingham. It was about creating a tram-train / train-tram network for the Nottingham region, which would be cheaper and quicker than building more tram only lines.  I drew this map to go with the column, but it was published a week sooner than I expected, so it wasn't included.

For  some reason the web entry headed 'A tram to Skegness by 2025?' is dated 29 July 2013 when the story was actually published today (23 September 2013).  When putting the story together, I dug out some old files from the past and campaigns from the 1980s I had been involved with. I saw names I had long forgotten and whilst some of the things we wanted to achieve didn't happen, we did actually save a railway line and I well remember the reasons why The Robin Hood Line could not be the light railway we argued for. The 'can't do' mentality of those days is still with us and I never cease to be amazed at how long it takes to get things done.

If you are wondering about the differences between tram-trains and train-trams, here are photographs and weblinks which may help explain:

Below a tram-train and a conventional tram side by side. Click here to see more about tram-trains on Wikipedia.

Manchester's Metro system is a train-tram network. As the photograph (below) from the web from an 'unknown' source shows clearly, they need train like platforms and the doors are at the same height as doors on conventional trains. I think the difference is quite clear and demonstrates why The Robin Hood Line and extensions to Skegness and Lincoln would be train-trams, whilst you could run tram-trains between Langley Mill / Eastwood and Cotgrave. Such a network would be much cheaper than building more costly tram lines. It would not cost much to connect the existing tram network to railway based trams (afterall, from Old Basford to Hucknall they run alongside one another and in Lenton and at Nottingham Station they will cross over one another once the new tram lines open next year (2014).

None of the proposals I am making are new, but the new tram-train link between Sheffield and Rotherham coming in 2015 may be enough to make Nottingham politicians and transport planners to think about doing something along the lines I have suggested in the Nottingham Post and here. I hope so.


Anonymous said...

Manchester Metrolink is not a Tram-Train. Sheffield-Rotherham will be the first Tram-Train in the UK. The difference is that the Manchester system does not share any sections with standard heavy rail operations.

Robert said...

Thank you for the correction, although I have always regarded Manchester's tram as more train because of its high platforms and the fact that it uses railway lines. I am assuming that the Sheffield-Rotherham tram-trains wil be low level entry like existing Sheffield trams. Am I correct? Thank you again for your response.

SK53-osm said...

I think you underestimate the cultural value of Beeston Lodge. Like Lenton Lodge it was built with a view to keeping the mob out of Wollaton Park (hence also the cannon and other weaponry which are in display in Wollaton Hall). It's always worth looking at Lenton Lodge to see just how few windows face out from the Park.

Lord Middleton also had the course of Derby Road changed about the same time: traces of the old road are visible at the start of Lime Tree Avenue. This is really obvious on a map where the line of Derby Road kinks south from the top of Adams Hill to where it crosses the Leen.