Friday, 29 August 2008

Not what it seems

Although Lenton Recreation Ground doesn't feature in as many postings as it used to, it remains very central to the way I live. It is what I see when I draw the bedroom blinds in the morning and the last thing I see when I put the milk bottles out. In between, I see the park from our living room and I visit it every day. Sometimes I just walk through the park, although as often as not I will see someone I know and stop for a chat. Other days, like today, it's simply for a wander.

For some reason, the fallen leaves caught my attention and I thought that autumn had arrived early. For a moment I was confused (normally it's me that does the confusing with my half uttered sentences and use of wrong words). Then I realised that leaves fall from the trees, even at the height of summer, during dry spells and the wind blows others off. We'll know when autumn has arrived because the leaves will cover the ground like a carpet.

On my walk I saw Dave and heard him curse. In his hand was the plastic binding used to hold four cans together. 'How I hate these things. Last week I found a dead hedgehog, which had starved to death because one of these got caught around its neck'. It was a possibility which had never occurred to me, but the moment Dave began to tell me I was ahead of him and knew instantly that this was a problem which could easily be solved. The trouble is all too many of us buy things wrapped in needless packaging. Nor do we have politicians willing to take on corporate business. It really would be easy to place a 10p deposit on every drinks can or bottle sold and to make shops responsible for refunding deposits and recycling. Those who still dropped their rubbish would lose 10p in the processs and the money would go to either enterprising individuals or local councils to help with their recycling costs.

A few weeks ago we watched Bill Bryson on Panorama argue cogently for local and central government to use their existing powers to make the polluter pay and, yes, for a deposit on returnables. The trouble is that our national and local leaders are so obsessed with 'the big picture' that they forget the detail — the very thing that matters most to those of us who live in the real world.

Cuba is to charge a punk rocker today with "social dangerousness" because his songs denounce and deride the communist government. Gorki Aguila, lead singer of Porno para Ricardo, faces up to four years in prison for openly defying the revolution and scorning Fidel and Raul Castro as "geriatrics".

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Radio park histories

Thanks to Alex from the Forum and Peter from the Friends of Coppice Park I was alerted to a 15 minute radio programme on Monday about Derby Arboretum. Peter sent me the web link:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/parkmasters/pip/vbxcn/ (typing 'Radio 4 Parkmasters' into Google is quicker).

This enabled me to click and listen to the programme, which is the first in a series of five programmes on Radio 4. If you miss them live, don't despair, because they are all repeats from a short series called Parkmasters, which was first broadcast in January / February 2007. To find them, simply type 'Radio 4 Parkmasters' into Google and you are taken

All five programes are presented by the historian, Tristram Hunt and feature the following 'Parkmasters':
John Loudon and Derby Arboretum.
Joseph Paxton and Birkenhead Park.
James Pennethorne and Victoria Park, London.
William Barron and West Park, Macclesfield.
Edward Milner and Lincoln Arboretum.

I have now listened to three of them online and what wonderful little programmes they are. Perhaps Radio Nottingham can be persuaded to do something similar for Nottingham parks?

So, thanks Peter, thanks Alex. I just hope this little posting will encourage a few others to go and listen.

OK, there has to be a picture, so here is one I took last Sunday of a bowling green in the heart of Lenton I had never seen before. Already, it's become a question I ask people. Do you know where it is?


More than 70 people were feared to have died in the sea south of Malta in one of the worst disasters involving clandestine migrants in the Mediterranean.

Sunday, 24 August 2008

More than shadows on an urban landscape

When Susan and I moved to Lenton in 1980 we spent a fair amount of time exploring the area. Looking back, I wish I had taken more photographs and made notes, but we didn't. Thankfully, Steve Zaleski and Lenton Local History Society were making a record of what Lenton looked like. Thanks to them and others, Lenton's historic landscape has been preserved in pictures, probably better than any other comparable community in Nottinghamshire. Much of the Lenton we discovered in 1980 has disappeared without a trace and when I look at pictures on the Lenton Times website (www.lentontimes.co.uk), I simply cannot remember what once I must have seen.

Just occasionally, the past that was no more than a shadow lurking in some corner of my mind, is still tangible. This is certainly true for the section of the Nottingham Canal which used to run from Old Lenton towards Wollaton and beyond.

This weekend I saw two reminders of the Nottingham Canal. This is a small 'green' space which has recently been created at the junction of Derby Road and Hillside in Old Lenton. The old canal bridge is clearly visible from the Derby Road and thousands of people must pass it by every day without realising its historic significance. The space looks much better than it did, so full marks to whoever came up with the idea of making it look better and then finding the money. I hope it will be looked after.

If you go to have a look, there is an information board in place, which gives a brief history of the Nottingham Canal and what could be seen from the Derby Road. Outside Lenton Lodge, on the north side of Derby Road, there was a canal lock and a basin, which is now the wooded area to the right of the footpath from the Lodge to Charnock Avenue and the Jubilee Campus.

Earlier on Saturday Susan and I had taken some friends from Stoke on a walk around Martin's Pond and Harrison's Plantation in Wollaton, then walked along the Old Coach Road to Lambourne Drive to see another section of this part of the Nottingham Canal, which has recently been recovered after being buried by undergrowth for decades. As at Hillside in Old Lenton, there is an information board for walkers to read. This picture of the old canal basin was taken from Lambourne Drive looking east. Beyond is the remains of a lock, so I assume the basin provided a passing point for barges, as they waited to go down the canal towards Old Lenton and Nottingham or Beeston.

This picture shows the canal beyond the basin and what looks like the entrance to a second lock, which remains filled in with earth. I don't know if there are any plans to dig it out. I suspect to have an empty, abandoned, lock would be too much of a risk from a safety point of view.
As we walked beside the long abandoned canal we came across this group of stones, perhaps from the lock structure. As random as they are, I feel that that they have an artistic quality and make a statement about the world that used to be here in a part of Wollaton, now surrounded by modern middle-class housing, all so comfortable. The canal is a lifetime and an age away from where they walk their dogs or take an afternoon stroll, before heading home for tea. I hope a few of those who pass by think and wonder about the world that was and here, at least, is more than a shadow on the landscape.

If you're not up to the walk, Nottingham City Transport bus 193 (Victoria Centre—Beeston) runs along Lambourne Drive every 60 minutes during the daytime, Monday–Saturday.

The government is poised to radically expand the academies programme to include children as young as four by announcing that it has given the go-ahead for an academy in County Durham to take over three struggling local primary schools.

Friday, 22 August 2008

Some Nottingham park entrances

Susan rarely utters expletives. The last time was a couple of weeks ago when leaving Wollaton Park. We had walked down from the Hall in pouring rain and were soaked through. It was that kind of an afternoon. This is a picture of the Derby Road entrance to Wollaton Park. As you can see, it us ugly and unwelcoming. It is a park lodge and one room deep. When it rains the narrow dark passage behind the black swing door in the middle fills with water and the week before last it was ankle deep. Arriving on the park side of this thing, we were confronted with a passageway of ankle deep water which we had to try and jump across or wade through. The trouble was the swing door opens inward, so you couldn't jump and push. There was no way back for Susan or our friends from London — on the other side of the gate was not only the Derby Road, but a bus stop and a five minute ride to home, dry clothes and a cup of tea. As Susan walked through the water she uttered the expletive '****'.

Wollaton Park is a major Nottingham attraction and its southern boundary is the Derby Road and all visitors to Nottingham see is this ugly building. It's more like a prison entrance. What we need is a new Derby Road entrance that positively welcomes visitors.

This is a new gate in the wall which surrounds two sides of Priory Park in Old Lenton (see my last blog, earlier this week). Just to make sure you can't get into the park this way, Parks have boarded up the gate as well. Any fit person doesn't need the gate — they can just climb over the wall. The crazy think is that this gate and wall do not hide anything dark or nasty. Behind is more open space. All this gate and wall does is separate one open space from another open space! Whoever was responsible for putting in this wrought-iron gate, then boarding it up as well is, as they say, two sandwiches short of a picnic. As park entrances go you would think it cant get much worst…
… This being Nottingham, of course it can. This is the entrance to Plantation Side open space beside the River Leen in Bobbers Mill. It's been like this for an age. Someone laid a new entrance path and just dumped the tarmac into the entrance. The gates have never been closed since — because the tarmac is higher than the bottom of the gates. If the Parks Dept had been doing their job they would have got the contractor back to do the job properly. Now, if these gates are to ever close again, it will cost the City Council £1,000 or more. By any measure it is sloppy and bad management which allows such a stupid thing to happen and then to continue.
This picture shows the steps to what was once the Mansfield Road entrance to Daybrook Recreation Ground. The landowner on the other side put this fence up to secure his property. Perhaps the person was beyond reasoning with, but it is a sorry state of affairs when things come to this. There is now talk of a new entrance, which will require a bridge to be built across the Daybrook stream. Again, this will cost a lot of money. The fact that this money may come from the Lottery or another public purse is no consolation.

I am sure that the four Nottingham park entrances I have shown you are not the only examples. I am a great believer in what I call 'marginal policies'. Deal with the small things and the chances are that the big things will sort themselves out. Ask for millions to do a makeover of Wollaton Park or The Aboretum and it shall be given. Ask for pence in comparison to make small changes to local parks and you will wait a very long time. We need to give the Wollaton and Arboretum money to the small parks and, I promise you, someone will still find the money for Wollaton and The Arboretum.

John McCain, who only days ago said it took an annual income of $5m (£2.5m) to be counted as truly rich, yesterday came under attack for admitting he had lost track of how many homes he owned.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Priory Park = No thinking allowed (yet)

I have had a thing about Priory Park for nearly a year now. I first blogged about it at the end of September 2007 after the empty pigeon loft which occupied a corner of the park was burnt down. It took Nottingham City Council an age to do anything about the aftermath of the fire, as some of the pictures I posted at the time showed.
This picture was taken in late-October 2007 after they had finally cleared away 'all' the rubble. In the far corner of the wall is an empty doorway into the adjoining disused churchyard. For months the gates to Priory park were locked, but it was easy to get in (and it still is) because of low surrounding walls.

In early-November the City Council came back and cut back the vegetation, but the gates remained locked and there were some really serious holes in the ground which were a threat to life and limb. Since April 2008 the gates to Priory Park have, in my experience, been closed as often as they have been open.

Fast forward to last Saturday after another tidy-up. Now, what remained of the bushes have gone and a padlocked wrought-iron gate, with boarding behind it, has been put in place. In the foreground, to the left, there is still an 'ankle-breaker' in place, but it appears much better than it was. Anyone who knows Priory Park will know that the park is no more secure than it was before the latest work was carried out.

For some time now I have been arguing that there needs to be a proper consultation about Priory Park and the adjoining open space in what I call 'The Lenton Priory History Precinct', so when I heard that Martin Harris, the Parks Development Officer now covering Dunkirk and Lenton, is going to carry out a consultation I was delighted. Unfortunately, my optimism may be misplaced, as I understand it is to be about Priory Park only. I just hope I can persuade those involved to take a wider view and look at the disused churchyard as well.

The walls in this picture separate the park from the disused churchyard. The trees and shrubs behind the wall have all grown rapidly in the past year. In the churchyard there are recently broken memorials, probably the result of weathering and age. The park has been listed by English Heritage, so clearly they need to be consulted as well. Perhaps they have been. The madness of it all is that if someone had stopped for just one moment and thought before putting that new wrought-iron gate in the corner, they might just have realised there is a more sensible option — demolish the wall and remove the trees and shrubs from behind it so that you can see right across the park from Abbey Street to Old Church Street. It's that simple. Perhaps it has been discussed and dismissed for some very good reason. If this is the case, then I look forward to writing a future blog apologising for ever doubting the wisdom of that wrought-iron gate.

In truth, Priory Park is just one part of what is happening in this part of Old Lenton, as I will be revealing in my coming weekend blog, so watch this space! Before then I hope to find the time to do a promised blog about Nottingham park entrances. If what I have seen and experienced recently is anything to go, when it comes to gates and entrances, the City Council's policy is 'no thinking allowed' — as this blog seems to demonstrate. On Friday I will share another three examples with you.

More than 150 people were feared dead tonight after a plane departing from Madrid's Barajas airport on a flight to the Canary Islands swerved off the runway and burst into flames. One of its engines was said to have been in flames shortly before the incident.








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.

Friday, 15 August 2008

Happy Long Eaton mums

I caught sight of these two ladies whilst having lunch today. There they were, sitting at a table in the middle of the park. It was too good a picture to miss, so I quickly went into the park and told them about my blog. They told me that they had come from Long Eaton. The lady on the right passes Lenton Recreation Ground to and from work. 'It's a lovely looking park , so I thought it would be a nice place to bring the children'. At that moment five or six children came running over from the playground, then having sated their curiosity by asking me who I was and what I was doing, they dashed back as fast as they had come.

Placing this picture I have just realised that I missed a great opportunity to create a Jack Vettriano style picture. I should have asked them to move the bags and taken a picture of them surrounded by nothing but grass and, perhaps, a garden umbrella. They would have thought me mad. Perhaps, with Susan's help I can create the picture I enviage in PhotoShop. In the meantime, just look at the picture and imagine it is you, soaking up the sun in the middle of Lenton Recreation Ground on one of the best summer days we have so far had. It feels good, eh?

Edinburgh zoo penguin and Colonel-in-Chief of the Norwegian King's Guard Nils Olav inspected his regiment in Edinburgh today, where he was given a medal by the Norwegian king.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

A new face and new views

I would like to introduce you to Andy. He has recently joined Dave in Lenton Recreation Ground to do the afternoon and evening shift Monday to Wednesday. Simon, who has moved onto greater things, is still covering Thursday and Friday. At the weekends we still have Kevin in the park.

When Andy isn't working in our park, he is based in Wollaton Park. Andy is a summer worker, so he's not sure what he will be doing when his contract comes to an end, but he has told me that he would like to train as a gardener and has really enjoyed working at Wollaton Park and with Dave. Let's hope the gods look kindly on Andy and the Parks Dept realises what a talent it has and keeps Andy on, if that is what he would like. In the meantime Andy, welcome to Lenton.

Earlier today (Wednesday), I went out with a young journalist from Radio Nottingham called Hannah to do an interview on 'Lenton Bridges' for a summer series their Breakfast Show is doing about 'Nottinghamshire Bridges'. It is something I will return to in a later blog. For now I just want to share with you a couple of photographs I took from Abbey Bridge, looking down on Hungerton Street (above) and Broadholme Street (below).

I have walked along Hungerton Street on countless occasions, but it wasn't until earlier today when I viewed it from Abbey Bridge that I realised what a fine terrace of houses it was. As for the Broadholme Street terrace I don't think I had ever notice them before today, much to my shame! They are a real gem. I just hope that the quality of these two terraces has been noticed by the planners working on the management appraisal for the New Lenton Conservation Area and that they will be recommending an extension to the CA so that they can be included.

The United Nations have published a map showing that the Taliban are now a threat to security in more areas of Afghanistan
in 2008 than they were in 2005.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

What next for our park?

This blog is going to be about the discussion at the Lenton Recreation Consultative Group meeting about the park 'Action Plan' for the next five years, but, first I want to say 'Hi' to Gill in Lancaster, who sent me the following email this week: 'Hi Robert. I just felt I had to email and let you know how much I have been enjoying reading your blog since you sent us the link to it at Christmas. You write so well and the pictures are great. It is a WONDERFUL record of prom/park/lenton life and brings back a lot of happy memories (as well as the occasional less positive one!). I just read the posting about Lenton school, and remembered wandering around Saxondale hospital after it closed. . . a similar sense of a chain of continuity now broken. Thanks Gill for your kind words.

Now, back to business! The Consultative Group has been asking Nottingham City Council Parks Dept for sight of the park's management plan for some time and we were finally presented with a copy at our meeting last Wednesday (6 August 2008). It is headed: 'How Will We Get There?' with a sub-heading: 'Action Plan' and covers six pages. It is not the easiest document to digest because of the way it is laid out. Steph from the Forum realised this, so she proposed that any decisions were delayed until the next meeting (5 November 2008), so that Group members could have time to consider the 'Action Plan'. Melonie from Nottingham University pointed out that it was not actually an action plan — it was a list of 'aspirations' in the absence of funding. When Betty, a local resident, asked how much money we had to spend, Martin, the Parks Development Officer, said the budgets had yet to be finalised, but it might be 'about £5,000 a year'. Martin said that the City Council would help 'the friends', which he and his colleagues insist on calling the group, to raise money to help fund some of the projects.

A quick glimpse of the Action Plan during the meeting convinced me that I needed to compile a spreadsheet containing all the information. I did this yesterday in just under an hour and now have all the information before me on just one page. I am passing it onto Steph at the Forum so that she can forward it to other Group members.

The park's Action Plan shows expenditure with an 'estimated cost' of £82,735 over the next five years as follows:

2008/09 £2,535
2009/10 £40,660
2010/11 £13,085
2011/12 £15,415
2012/13 £11,040
TOTAL £82,735. The main items of which are:

£15,000 'Create parking on site for bowls club' (2009/10).
£10,000 'Design and build a peace garden' (2009/10).
£10,000 'Restore old Barn' (2011/12).
£ 8,000 'Refurbish (Derby Road) toilet block (2010/11).
£ 8,000 'Refurbish Lodge and bring back into use' (2012/13).
£ 4,000 'Update park signage' and noticeboard (2009/10).
£ 3,000 'Green STAT' user survey (2009/10).
£ 2,000 'Secure parking for bicycles on site (2009/10).
£ 5,500 'Hold two events on the park every year (2008/13).
£ 5,500 'Update park leaflet' every year (2008/13).
£ 2,750 'Nottingham in Bloom on an annual basis' (2008/13).
£ 5,300 Park planting and wild life related (various years).
£ 3,000 Recycling initiatives (2009/10 and 2010/11).
£ 685 Access audit (2009/10) and ROSPA (2008/13).
TOTAL £82,735 (I have added inflation allowance for annual items).

I have compiled these totals from the Action Plan, which just lists individual items.
There is one glaring omission. The cost of Club House alterations to make the building more secure and to provide internal toilets. This is something bowlers have mentioned at meetings. I would estimate the cost of this work to be £20,000.

I would also like to find some money to pay the Forum for its park support role and servicing the park consultative group. £2,000 a year seems a reasonable sum.

I also want to link my comments on the Action Plan to the recommendations of the Green Flag judges, who visited Lenton Recreation Ground a few months ago, and gave us a score which enabled the park to achieve its fourth consecutive Green Flag.

The judges made 14 recommendations, of which three related to the Old Barn building, which is used as a store. It was already here when the park opened in 1888 and can be found of an Ordnance Survey map dated 1881, when it was attached to what looks like a small laid out garden between it and the Derby Road. It doesn't appear on a map compiled in the 1820s, so it was probably built in the mid-19th century. I have asked the Nottinghamshire Buildings preservation Trust if they will send someone to look at it, perhaps the first step in the Group carrying out an options appraisal with the Forum, Parks and the Trust.

The judges say: 'Future use of the Old barn should be determined or reference removed from the (Action) Plan'. In other words, we have nine months to get something together. So what does the Action Plan say? It shows £10,000 allocated
in 2011/12 to 'Restore park barn'. The performance measure is that the 'Old Barn restored and interpretation added'. Does this mean it will continue to be used as a store or is something else envisaged? There has been talk of using it as a small café, which would cost a lot more than £10,000. You could argue that maintaining the building as a park store is something which should come from the park revenue budget for routine maintenance. It is the victim of deliberate neglect for various reasons. In the end I will happily help raise grants for its restoration, whatever its future use, but if there is a pre-determined option as to its future use, I would like to be told now and not spend months in phony consultations. I have no problem with it remaining a park store.

Another recommendation from the Green Flag judges was that the park should 'Consider (the) joint use of church land, to act as a car park facility'. Since I didn't meet the judges this year, I think I can fairly argue that they used their own common sense to see and state the obvious: that the park does not need to spend £15,000 on 'Parking on park for bowls club'. On every occasion when I have seen (and photographed) bowls cars parked in the park, the parking spaces in the pocket 10 yards from the park entrance on Church Street has been empty, as have parking spaces on Church Street.

There have been days this year when the park has been so busy that park users have had to sit and lay between the bowls cars parked in the park, as this picture so clearly shows,…

… whilst a few yards away car parking has been standing empty. The pocket park is little used, except by the church on Sundays and as a place to leave occasional excess green waste from the park. If there is spare money to spend on grass grids or hard-standing for cars, then this is where it should be placed. Not in the park! The Action Plan shows the £15,000 down for expenditure in 2009/10 and at a time when local authority money is going to be squeezed because of the present financial climate. As far as I am concerned all the evidence is against spending this money and any independent observer would, I believe, agree with me. In this respect they don't come any more independent than the Green Flag judges who visited the park a few months ago. And for the record, the pocket park is not church land. It was a road until the late-1980s and I have seen or heard no evidence that it was sold to Holy Trinity Church. We could also ask the City Council to provide 3 or 4 disabled parking bays on Church Street by the park entrance.

As my summary of the Park Action Plan shows there are some large items of expenditure which need to be prioritised, assuming that Martin's comment about Lenton Recreation Ground having an annual £5,000 capital allowance is correct. In the order of things and from what little I know about the City Council's overall budget and priorities, this seems quite a generous sum. This also means a lot of money will have to be found by fundraising, which I know the Parks Dept would like the Lenton Recreation Ground Consultative Group to do. If every park 'friends' group bids for lottery and charitable grants we will be in competition with one another. The result of this approach is that some parks and groups, with greater needs, will lose out — just as they do when it comes to education and other local service needs. In this respect, I would want Lenton to work closely with residents who support the Dunkirk and Priory Parks.

Refurbishing the Lodge at a cost of £8,000 in 2012/13 should not come from park money as the lodge is occupied. This is a housing matter.

Before making any decisions, I hope our Group will request more information. For instance, since 2004 we have had all new signage in the park and there are three noticeboards by the bowling greens. One of these could be moved to the Derby Road entrance and how much has the existing signage cost in the last four years?

£3,000 for a park users survey in 2009/10 seems like a large sum to me. Is this work the Forum could be paid to do? As you can see there are lots of unanswered questions to be considered. Several times in the past I have asked for statistics about park use in Nottingham, including bowling green usage, but I have been told in meetings by Simon, our previous Parks Development Officer, that the figures are not available. How can the Parks dept manage and plan its services in the absence of such information?

No sane person expects our park(s) to be self-financing, but their budgets should be easily accessible and open to scrutiny and broken down into individual parks and open spaces. In the absence of this information, the Lenton Recreation Ground Consultative Group cannot expect to make the best decisions possible. Perhaps this is how some like it to be, since it enables them to guide us in the direction they want us to go.

In the Nottingham City Council Wollaton West ward by-election on Thursday (7 August), Labour increased it share of the vote from 20% to 24%, at a time when the party is performing very badly in other parts of the United Kingdom. A great performance.

Russian forces were moving to take total control of South Ossetia this weekend as Georgia withdrew troops amid intense diplomatic efforts for a ceasefire to end the three-day conflict in which 2,000 people have reportedly been killed and up to 22,000 displaced.







Thursday, 7 August 2008

Goose doo-doos galore

I have just spent a week walking from Lenton to other parts of Nottingham in the company of friends from Greenwich. We walked to the Riverside Festival and West Bridgford, Highfields and Beeston, Wollaton Park (twice), Martin's Pond and in search of a lost canal (more about this in a future blog). The one thing all these walks had in common were lots of goose doo-doos! I never realised before just how bad the problem has become.

The goslings in Highfields Park had my youngest grand-daughter enveloped in raptures of delight, but if you have ever tried to walk across the grass from the D H Lawrence Pavilion towards the Trent Building and encountered a sea of goose doo-doos you would have a different opinion of Canada Geese!

Last Saturday I took my friends on a walk from Lenton to the Riverside Festival on the Victoria Embankment and after we reached Wilford Toll Bridge I thought it would be nice to walk beside the River Trent until we arrived at the Festival. This was a big mistake! After spending several minutes walking across the grass and avoiding as much of the goose doo-doos as we could we reached the footpath to find it was just as bad. In the end, we decided to make our way back to the road. I cannot remember having this problem on previous walks along the Embankment. Everywhere you looked there were Canada Geese and a few interlopers.

On Sunday I took my friends on a mega-circular walk from Lenton to Wollaton Park, Martin's Pond etc and back to the Jubilee Campus to see if the new water feature was finished and what did we encounter when we got there? Those pesky geese again and their doo-doos and…


a young man who had been given the never ending job of trying to sweep goose doo-doos off the path beside the kilometer long water feature. The trouble with this approach to the problem is that the dollops of goose doo-doo get smeared across the path, which makes it harder to avoid when walking. I said in my blog on 22 June 2008 about the new Aspire column on the Jubilee Campus that 'I await the completion of the watery boulevard with its Japonica trees even more'. I didn't think that when I returned seven weeks later that the 'watery boulevard' would have become one long goose toilet! I suspect that when the column and the water feature were in the early stages, Nottingham University and its partners undertook a 'SWOT' exercise (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats). I wonder if Canada Geese were discussed? Hindsight is a wonderful thing and it may be that the second lake on the campus with its grass edges at one end of the watery boulevard has contributed to the problem.

Talking to Parbinder from Nottingham City Council's Area 8 Committee, he told me that the council is already trying to tackle the problem caused by a rapidly increasing geese population and that the geese already have a group of people ready to defend their right to be in our parks and elsewhere. I can guess what the arguments are in support of the geese: they are a problem of our own making, we feed them and provide them with an environment in which they can thrive and that they should not be selectively killed (culled) as a way of trying to manage the problem. It may be that the grass they eat can be sprayed with a contraceptive solution that would make the geese sterile, but only if it did not endanger other animals or birds. I wish Parbinder and his colleagues well and look forward to hearing their proposed solution to the geese problem. They are, as they say, 'between a rock and a hard place'.

Until the last few days I was an advocate of restoring the paddling pool in Highfields Park, but not any more — it would soon become another goose toilet and grazing area.

Europe should consider sharing vast amounts of intelligence and information on its citizens with the US to establish a "Euro-Atlantic area of cooperation" to combat terrorism, according to a high-level confidential report on future security.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Bins and Green Flag magic

Dave holding up Lenton Recreation Ground's fourth Green Flag Award earlier today when it was formally flown for the first time. Dave has achieved great things in the park and has proved himself to be a real wizard — as this picture shows!

The official flag raising coincided with a meeting of the Lenton Recreation Ground Consultative Group, who were on hand to cheer Dave as he made ready to hoist the flag aloft. I decided to snap the snappers taking pics for Nottingham City Council and the local media.

Afterwards the members of the Consultative Group went back to their deliberations in the park's pavilion and Dave set about doing running repairs to the lawnmower he uses to keep the grass on the two bowling greens trimmed.

One of the items discussed in the meeting was the installation of new litter bins. When Martin Harris, the Parks Development Officer, told us the park had new rubbish bins I asked him where they were, as I hadn't seen them. After the meeting I asked Dave about the new bins and he said, 'Robert, they been in since March!'. You could have knocked me down with a feather. As I walked around the park with my friend Judith I still couldn't see any new bins. Judith then said 'There's one… and another'. Within a few seconds she had scanned the park and counted seven. 'There must be one more somewhere. Seven is an odd number'. She was right. As we walked passed the children's playground, there was the eighth.

My picture above shows the new bin on the left and the old bin on the right. As you can see, the new bin is a great improvement on the old one and passes my 'pizza box test'. I moaned about the old bins in the blog I posted on 8 March 2007, so it's only right that I should sing the praises of the new bins now that they are in place. They are unobtrusive and blend in with the parkscape much better than the old bin. I understand there are still some more new bins to be delivered and put in place. A seemingly simple change to the park, but one which makes a real difference to how the park looks and feels.

As Beijing's polluted air comes close to exceeding levels even the Chinese consider dangerous, one of the International Olympic Committee's most senior figures has dismissed the yellow-grey haze that periodically hangs over the city as mist, and blamed the media for overstating pollution problems.