Monday, 14 November 2011

Memorial Gardens, Nottingham

View of the back of the War Memorial
With no plan in mind on Saturday afternoon, I set off for a walk along the Victoria Embankment. It has become obligatory to begin my walks in this area with a cup of coffee from the Trent Bridge Kiosk. So, suitably refreshed, I began my dander.

I'd only got as far as the Wilford Suspension Bridge, when the familiar sounds of a football match assaulted my ears. Looking to my right, I could see two youth football matches taking place on the Meadows Recreation Ground, and decided that this was for me.

Watching a game of youth football on a Saturday afternoon was something that I hadn't done for years, so I joined the crowd at one of the matches. When I say crowd, I'm assuming that any number over one, not associated with either team is a crowd. There were no budding starlets that I could see, but the goals flooded in, and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves, which after all is what it's supposed to be about.

I took a shine to one of the full-backs, who reminded me a bit about myself when I played at that age. He was one of the smallest in the team, just like I was, but was energetic, could control the ball, and was a fierce tackler, just like I was. My mind wandered back to the days when I also played youth football, and wished that the pitches then, were half as good as those on the Meadows. Remember also that 50 years ago, football boots weighed a ton (at least the one's I could afford did), and the ball was leather with a laced area where you pumped the ball up. The ball got heavier the muddier it got, and heaven help you if you happened to head the ball directly on the laced area; how our brains are still intact is something of a mystery.

Standing beside this flat Meadows pitch reminded me for some reason or other about a pitch I used to play on in Penygelli, Coedpoeth near Wrexham. If memory serves me right, the pitch belonged to Penygelli School and was on a horrendous slope (nothing in Penygelli was flat). None of us could ever run up the full length of that slope with the ball, as by the time we would have got to the top, we'd be too knackered to do anything with it. At least you knew that for one half, you'd be running down hill. The changing room was a converted cattle shed, with minimal conversion taking place. No showers or wash basins of course, so you just had to put your clothes back on at the end of the game over your body that was caked with mud, and get home as fast as you could to have a bath. I'm sure that it wouldn't have seemed so bad if you'd won, but as I don't think we ever won a match at Penygelli, that luxury wasn't afforded me. It was all great fun though; ah happy days.

Memorial Gardens Water Feature
When the Meadows football match was over, I noticed a small gate in the hedge, and went through it. I found myself in the Memorial Gardens, which I'd never been in before. It had been closed off for many months due to the new flood defence scheme being put in place, but now it was open.

I didn't have my camera with me, so I whispered to myself those immortal words of Arnie, "I'll be back". And today I was, with camera ready to capture the moment.

The Memorial Gardens was built on land donated to the Corporation of Nottingham (forerunner of the City Council) in 1920 by Sir Jesse Boot, the founder of Boots the Chemist. This was to provide open space and a memorial site in memory of those who lost their lives in the First World War. This complemented the Recreation Ground which was opened in 1906, with the Memorial Gardens finally opening on the 11th November 1927.

At this time of year you don't see the gardens at their best, but I loved the place. There are plenty of benches, and your walk takes you through a mixture of natural and cultivated areas.

The water feature sits at the centre of the garden, and as the top picture shows, you can look down from the far end of it to the backdrop of the back of the Memorial.

The autumn trees had few leaves remaining on them, which afforded a brightly covered carpet to walk on. This wouldn't last for long as the gardeners were beginning to sweep those leaves up while I was there. It felt quite cold walking along the side of the River Trent, but somehow, inside the gardens, sitting among the trees and bushes, it seemed warmer.

Statue of Queen Victoria
By the water feature, standing on a huge plinth (hope that's the right word) is a very large statue of Queen Victoria.

It somehow gives the gardens an air of grandeur, but I couldn't help wishing that someone had been a bit more creative with her pose, as it seems identical to every statue of her that I've ever seen. Perhaps like superstores or Barrett homes there's just one template.

It also seems a shame that the statue is surrounded by a high metal fence, which prevents the public from getting close to it. Apparently, this had to be erected because of previous vandalism to the plinth. While perhaps understandable, it is none the less a shame.

Another area fenced off is the old toilet block and maintenance store, both of which were under the War Memorial. I read a proposal from about 2007 to the City Council to change the use of this area, and provide a cafe. I've no idea what happened to that proposal, but nothing has been done, and that again is a shame.

Still, in spite of the fenced areas, I think that the Memorial Gardens is a beautiful place, and I was glad to have visited it. I shall be back next Spring and Summer, when I hope that the camera will capture the place in glorious colour.

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