Tag: HERITAGE

Reading by the Canal

It’s been 6 months since the Canalside Heritage Centre opened in Beeston Rylands, and it’s strange to think of the area without it. The once disused building has been given a new lease of life, and is giving back to the Rylands and Beeston community.

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The centre is also home to a specially written children’s storybook, Dog and Duck’s Canal Adventure, which doubles as an artistic contribution to their wonderful upstairs display area. The book was written by Heather Green, and illustrated by her husband, Johnny. It was originally her project as part of her MA in Museum and Heritage Studies, but her lecturer and trustee of the centre, Duncan Grewcock, saw the potential for it as a display that would appeal to children.

The book follows the two characters, Dog and Duck, as they travel down the canal towards Nottingham. The catalyst for their journey is the construction of the heritage centre, momentarily disrupting their home.

I met up with Heather and Duncan at the Heritage Centre to find out more about the book, and why such projects are crucial to the community.

“The Heritage Centre were looking for an interpretive offer for children and young people and it made sense to do a picture book,” says Heather. “I’m doing a PhD at the moment which is looking at the use of creative writing as a tool for museums, and the idea was to explore this slightly different way of getting information and facts across about a heritage topic to an audience.”

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Before opening, the Heritage Centre compiled some interpretive goals which Heather used to devise the narrative of the book: making a home, making a visit, and making a living based around the canal.

“My husband and I walked up and down [the canal] to try and get an idea of the route,” says Heather. “It was a good way of incorporating familiar scenes for people when they come to look and see the book, but also this idea of who might pass you by as you’re going along the canal.”

It’s really important to make the most of the green spaces that you have

In the book, while Dog and Duck are on their journey, they find an egg and take it with them. The story is about wondering what kind of creature might be inside the egg, taking inspiration from the things they see around them.

Heather adds: “One of the things we wanted to explore was what makes a home, particularly from a child’s perspective. Whether or not it’s the things you have or the place where you live. What is it that makes a home?”

As someone who has lived in the Rylands all my life, and paid frequent visits to the canal year on year, I couldn’t help but think about how the area has shaped my perspective of home, and how lucky I feel to live less than 10 minutes away from the canal. Duncan, however, moved here 3 years ago from London.

“One of the things I found out quite quickly was that there isn’t, in this area, a lot of heritage facilities,” he says. “The canal was so much loved and used for walking, cycling, running…but this place had become a bit of an eye-sore because it had been left derelict for 20 years. And one of the things that you got a picture of quite quickly was that how much genuine support there was to just do something with this building.”

This support and determination was entirely community-focused. “In another world, somebody might have turned it into a pub or something but I think turning it into a community facility, where there aren’t many, certainly not based on heritage, is important for everyone to have access to.”

Heather adds: “It’s really important to make the most of the green spaces that you have. And it’s a peaceful location here.” At this point, we fall silent and let ourselves take a moment of appreciation for our surroundings by glancing out of the window at nature. It’s a moment of quiet pride.

One of the great things about Dog and Duck’s Canal Adventure is that it’s unique to the centre. It features in the book through illustration and photographs, even with small touches such as the centre’s wallpaper design, making it truly personal. The book was also a contribution to UNESCO Nottingham City of Literature, something Duncan and Heather are very proud of.

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“We’re keen to see what more we can do in that context to spread the benefits of the City of Literature as an idea,” says Duncan. “It’s been popular in the shop, and it’s a fantastic addition to the displays as well.”

Manager of the Heritage Centre, Jenny, reveals that they did quite a large print run of the book, but that they’d be happy to print more if they all sold out. She says: “It’s a good seller for us; our bestsellers in the shop are the things that are specific to here.”

Heather adds: “That’s really what the City of Literature is about, inspiring new fiction, and new writing, using heritage and culture.”

Make sure you visit the Heritage Centre, peruse the local-inspired gifts, have a cuppa with a friend, and keep an eye out for fellow Beestonians, Dog and Duck.

JM

Barton’s Quarter Development

If you weren’t already aware, the UK has been in the grip of a housing crisis for some time. Not enough properties are available for people to live in, new homes not being built quickly enough, and the dream of home ownership is out of the financial reach of vast swathes of the population.

The various political, economic and social forces which drive and influence demand and supply means that it is usually more profitable for developers to build brand new homes on greenbelt land. The types of new housing being built varies, but unsurprisingly, dwellings such as 5 bedroomed executive homes normally generate the highest returns for the builders. This is not ideal for those wanting to get on the housing ladder.

A new development with a difference could soon be with us, if a proposal to build on derelict land at the Barton’s site gets the go-ahead. If everything is approved, 250 homes will be built on the fairly extensive site. The good news for those who are wanting to get onto the property ladder is that 54 of them will be 1 bedroomed flats/maisonettes, and 122 of them will be 2 bedroomed flats.

Another unusual aspect to the scheme is that the buildings themselves will be constructed according to aesthetic design principles. Much of the new estate homes that have been built over the last few years have faced much criticism for their utilitarian uniformity and less than imaginative design, which personally I think is unwarranted. A home is a home, and anyway, attitudes to architecture are fluid. An 80’s ‘Lego estate’ may well be as revered as a Victorian terrace in years to come. Getting back to the point, some of the artist’s impressions are very different to average new-builds, and would be a very welcome addition to the mixture of housing in the area.

A few nay-sayers have cited some concerns – one of them being the extra traffic the development would bring. It is highly unlikely that every one of the new homes would contain a car owner, and even if it did, the proximity of the site to the tram and bus stops would make life easy for anyone commuting to the University, QMC, city or in the other direction to Long Eaton and Derby. Lots more people work at home now, so it would hardly seem likely that dozens of cars will be creating queues of traffic along the High Road or Queens Road.

Others have pointed out that there would be added pressure on already well-subscribed primary schools in the area. For starters, less than 200 of the new homes have two or more bedrooms. 122 of them will be 2 bedroomed flats, leaving fewer than 80 homes with 3 or more bedrooms.

Of those who move into the properties with 2 or more bedrooms, I think it is fair to estimate that well under half will have children of school age. Take out the ones who aren’t at primary school, and it would be hard to imagine more than an extra 2 or 3 children in each primary school year.

As well as contributing to the housing ‘effort’, the scheme would also see substantial extra council tax revenue being generated. At a time when the money given to local authorities is ever-decreasing, an extra few hundred thousand pounds will be very welcome.

My biggest concern is that the site will lose some of the heritage magic, and the venue for some brilliant events. Over the last few years Bartons has been host to any number of superb performances. This has included comedy, music (of all genres), along with art installations, not to mention the markets and heritage open days. However, provision is being made for an events space, so fingers crossed that this is included.

If the scheme does get the go-ahead, it will be a couple of years at least before the site takes shape, although I’m tempted to start taking bets that it will be complete before anything worthwhile is built on the empty land opposite Tesco.

The Hemlock Stone

The history behind Hemlock…

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The Hemlock Stone today is a popular landmark with walkers and cyclists passing the stone hundreds of times a day. The stone as readers may be aware has been scanned by the Nottingham University’s Geospatial Institute in connection with the Nottingham Hidden History Team as part of the ‘Three Stones Project’. The stone is also at the centre of the popular event the ‘Hemlock Happening’, which takes place every year now and has become a popular event.

Today however the Hemlock Stone is largely disregarded, to the extent that in the last few years it has been removed from the list of ‘sites of special scientific interest.’ The old idea of the stone being nothing more than the result of bad quarrying is once again popular and has probably been encouraged by property developers with an eye on the land surrounding the stone. This current lack of interest in the Hemlock Stone has not always been the case and the folklore and legends woven around such stones are an essential part of our heritage.

Legend has it that the Hemlock Stone was hurled at Lenton Priory, some four miles west of the stone, by the Devil. This tale of the Devil or some mischievous force hurling a stone and missing its mark occurs throughout the folk-literature of Europe. It is generally accepted that such legends reflect conflict between the early Christian Church and their pagan contemporaries. The tale is more often than not associated with prehistoric sites like the large monoliths or standing stones erected by Neolithic and Bronze Age man. Such stones were the centres of pagan worship well into the Christian era.

The Hemlock Stone was reputedly hurled from the hill above Castleton in Derbyshire

The village of Kinoulton in southeast Nottinghamshire once possessed a stone with an similar legend to that of the Hemlock Stone. This stone was, from its description, probably a glacial erratic and stood in the churchyard close to the old church. Sadly, both church and stone are now destroyed,

It is interesting to compare the Hemlock Stone and Kinoulton legends in more detail. Both stones were believed to be missiles of diabolic origin aimed at ecclesiastical sites, Lenton Priory and Kinoulton church, respectively. The sites from which the stones were reputedly hurled are also of interest. Both are approximately thirty miles from their targets and both have legends of demonic occupants.

The Hemlock Stone was reputedly hurled from the hill above Castleton in Derbyshire. Below this hill, upon which stands Peveril Castle (from which the town derives its name), is the Treekcliff Cavern. This massive limestone cave, once the home of prehistoric man, is reputed to be one of the entrances to the ‘underworld’ and the haunt of the Devil. Moreover, when heavy rain issues from the cave in the form of streamlets, it is said to be the Devil urinating.

In the case of the Kinoulton stone it was supposed to have been thrown from Lincoln Cathedral, where the Devil once let loose that evil entity ‘The Lincoln Imp’ who, after running amock, was turned to stone by an angel.

To return to the Hemlock Stone and how attitudes have changed regarding such wonders, writing in the mid-eighteenth century, Dr Spencer Timothy Hall, a.k.a. ‘The Sherwood Forester’, provides us with yet more reasons for believing that the Hemlock Stone was once venerated by our pagan forefathers. The good doctor believed the stone to be of natural origin but to be man-enhanced, the result of deliberate quarrying. He goes on to say that when he was a young boy the old folk could remember a time when a fire was lit upon the top of the stone annually on Beltane Day.

Nearby the Hemlock Stone was once the ‘Sick Dyke’. This spring was regarded as a healing well, especially efficacious to rheumatism sufferers. More than one writer on the subject has suggested that the ell was connected with rituals performed at the Hemlock Stone. The Hemlock Stone also has connections with three other stones, a possible standing stone on the nearby Crow Hill and two other local landmarks, the Cat Stone at Strelley and Bob’s Rock at Stapleford.

Joe Earp

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