Sunday, 8 June 2014

Bobbers Mill TravelRight Walk

A very late post recalling a great TravelRight walk on Saturday 3 May 2014. As the pictures show, it was a lovely day. Another walk which took a lot longer than intended, but even when walking across derelict land, there were things which caught the attention.

Our walk leader Chris Weir was a Principal Archivist inNottinghamshire County Council Archives until he recently retired. He is also Vice-Chair of Nottinghamshire Local History Association. Chris is a popular walk leader and has a galaxy of asides which he can drop into any talk or conversation about local history in Nottingham.

The walk started from St Stephen with St Paul's Church. Chris said the first church on this site in the 1880s was named St Luke's Mission Church, then it became St Simon's before becoming St Stephen, with St Paul's added when a nearby church of that name closed.

The following extract from the Southwell & Nottingham Church History Project provides more information:

St Stephen’s, on Bobbers Mill Road in Hyson Green, Nottingham, was the successor church to St Stephen’s, Bunkers Hill. It was consecrated by the Bishop of Southwell on Ascension Day 1898. The church was built to serve a working class community which grew up in northern Hyson Green during the 1880s and 1890s, while St Paul’s, Hyson Green served the southern part of the area. Hyson Green was extensively redeveloped in the 1970s and 1980s. and with the development of low density housing, the two parishes declined in numbers. In 1987 they were amalgamated as the joint parish of Hyson Green St Paul’s and St Stephen’s, Nottingham. St Paul’s closed in 1994, when the two congregations joined forces. St Stephen’s has not been greatly altered either inside or out since it was built to designs by WD Caröe. However, the surrounding site has been altered out of all recognition. The parish room, which stood for nearly one hundred years, the vicarage (more than sixty years), and garden allotments, were replaced in the 1980s and 1990s by a community building, The Vine, and a housing scheme.

This The Vine Community Building, located behind the church.

The text on the foundation stone by the main entrance.

As I was taking this photograph, other walkers were still arriving. As you can see, it was a good turnout.

Our walk leader raises his arm as he talks about the St Stephen's and its history. There will be other raised arms before I have finished. Do not be alarmed! I put down the waving of arms on this walk to enthusiasm.

The Old General Pub at the junction of Bobbers Mill and Radford roads has been boarded up for a good few years now. The man you can see is Benjamin Mayo, a Nottingham eccentric who lived c1779–1843. The Picture the Past website has images and text about Mayo.

The River Leen deserves better than this. Given its historic importance to Nottingham and the Domesday communities it helped sustain for hundreds of years, the Leen deserves to re-born. Over the years there have been a number of proposals, none of which have come to anything much. Local historian Chris Matthews, well known to many in the city and among TravelRight regulars, has a done a lot in recent years to promote the Leen between Old Basford and Bulwell, including the production of a Leenside walk and leaflet for TravelRight.

After crossing the Leen the walk continues across derelict land. In the jargon, a 'brownfield site' — which explains why it has stood empty for so many years. Developers are waiting for Nottingham City Council or some other public body to pay for the land to be cleaned up. Such is the nature of 'welfare capitalism': privateers, big business and the banks take the profits, then leave the taxpayer to pay for cleaning the land up. I cannot understand why voters go on electing politicians who allow business to get away with such things.

In the midst of all this stands one lone chimney and just to the right, in the distance, peeping over the tops of some trees, is the old Shipstone Brewery Building, which you will see again, more than once, before this walk is over.

Then the only real obstacle on the walk. having to cross a footbridge over the Robin Hood Railway Line, which runs between Nottingham and Worksop via Bulwell, Hucknall and Mansfield…

… then right on cue, as I reached the other side of the footbridge, came a train heading for Nottingham.

After a short walk through a modern housing development we came to Wilkinson Street and on the other side was the entrance to the Whitemoor Allotments. Holding the gate open is Phil, one of the walking group and Chair of the Whitemoor Allotment Association.

There are strict rules allotments holders have to follow, not least keeping their plots cultivated and tidy in the sense that if you have any mess, it has to be organised.

This time it's Chairman Phil's turn to raise his arm, as he gives the group a short talk about the Whitemoor Allotments. They have an excellent website. To visit, just click this link.

Local poet and writer Dave Wood, also on the walk, took the opportunity to read a poem he had specially composed for the occasion:

the leen breathes in

and half a mo’ – and so the moment’s on
we seek the valley where the leen breathes in
we’re meeting in the present – hoping for the sun
what history calls us to - we follow – deep or thin
we seek the valley where the leen breathes in
stories smith’d from language close behind
we shake our senses hard and shift our pins
we’re forward in our hearts and in our stride
we’re meeting in the present – hoping for the sun
what spaces host our hearts seep from the past
we allot our footsteps deep where furrows run
we breathe the soul of soil and pavement’s blast
what history calls us to we follow – thick or thin
we seek the valley where the leen breathes in

All the allotments at Whitemoors are very individualistic, as are the plot holders, if those we met are anything to go by.

Vic here makes the point for me. Here he is relaxing in his home-from-home of a shed. He has been on the same plot for fifty-three years and first went with his father. I could have stayed all day talking with Vic.

All the allotments are separated by avenues of green hedges, which helps make each plot both private and secluded.

Leading the way, out of view, is Phil, taking us on a tour of his allotment…

… with fruit trees in blossom…

… and his own home-from-home. Here, as in Vic's, everything has been recycled.

As we made our way out the allotments, the old Shipstone Brewery building came into view again.

By now, it was c2.30pm and we had to get across the Ring Road. It was amazingly quiet for a Saturday afternoon. Not a car in sight or a sound to be heard apart from birds singing and walkers talking. 

This was our next port-of-call. St Leodegarius Church in Old Basford, now close to the Ring Road and railway. Another church you can find information about at the Southwell & Nottingham Church History Project.

The Project's Introduction to St Leodegarius reads as follows:

There was a priest at Basford in 1086 so possibly a church, too. Robert de Basford or de Ashby (Northants) founded a Cistercian priory at Catesby in c1175 and endowed it partly with income from Basford church. It was one of only four in England dedicated to St Leodegarius.
There are Saxon stones hidden in the chancel, and there was a Norman arch between nave and a Norman tower. The church was rebuilt in c1200 with nave arcades, north and south aisles and lancet windows. About 1250 the present clustered columns of the nave arcades were inserted, probably the church’s best feature. A Lady Chapel was introduced in c1340, and later that century the nave walls were raised and a clerestory added. An unusual feature, the Pax or kissing stone, now fixed in the south doorway, was in use from c1250.
Major repairs and alterations have been necessary on many occasions in the last 300 years, sometimes exacerbated by accidents or vandalism. The worst disaster was in 1859 when the tower collapsed just before the church was due to re-open after repairs. The new tower then erected is the dominant feature today, in Early English style, topped off with eight tall pinnacles. Other alterations in 1859-60 led to a sharply pitched roof, a new north aisle, north porch and clerestory. In 1900 the roofs had almost been renewed when a fire ruined the chancel and it had to be repaired. A vestry was added, incorporating the priest’s doorway. In 1974 a vandal set fire to the organ and organ screen. Although there have been many alterations the basic style is still Early English.

The churchyard is very tidy and laid out like a garden. There is a coffee morning every Saturday at 10am and, once settled, Susan and I will be going along. From the description above (by Nottingham local historian Terry Fry), it is clearly a church well worth visiting.

Another view of the lovely church garden, In the backgound is a fence hiding a footpath and the Robin Hood Railway and Tram lines and, if you look carefully, you can just make out the bridge carrying the Ring Road over the railway and tram.

From here it was walk down a noisy Radford Road after crossing the Ring Road, with Chris pointing out the significance of street names as we went, but for some on the walk, it was all worth while because this where Chris brought the walk to an end. The Horse & Groom pub, a free house building a reputation for itself as a pub you go to for some of the best beers and ales in Nottingham.  I rather like the artwork below from the Horse & Groom homepage on their website:

You may have noticed that Chris's arm was again aloft in the photograph of him outside the Horse & Groom. This is what he was pointing at: the old Shipstone Brewery building, which is has re-opened as Shipstone's Brewery, after having been sold in 1978 and and closed in 1990. By 2007, the Shipstone's brand name was owned by Heineken, who agreed to sell it to Richard Neale in 2013, with Shipstone's reappearing as a local beer a few months ago.
For more follow this link to a BBC report about Shipstone's.

This building is opposite Shipstone's Brewery building and I rather like its proportions. It has been the home of Cottage Joinery for a good few years and back in 1996 they made some bespoke office furniture for Susan and me, most of which will be left behind when we move for the new owners to enjoy, but they made us a bookcase on wheels which we will be taking with us. For me, a fitting place to end this walk, especially since as I took the picture a little Nottingham City Transport L13 pulled up beside me and opened its door. I had not realised it, but I was standing, quite by chance, at a bus stop when I took this picture. It whisked me to the Victoria Centre in minutes.

All in all, a lovely walk in good company and with Chris Weir leading us, it was perfect in every respect. Thank you to Chris and Phil, the Chairman of Whitemoor Allotments, for letting us into the wonderful other world of Whitemoor Allotments and thanks to TravelRight for organising it.

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