Thursday, 9 August 2012

River Leen Greenway: Bulwell – Basford car free route

This is my latest piece of work: A designed and authored historical guide to a car free cycle and pedestrian route. The River Leen Greenway runs from Bulwell to Basford. The first edition has currently been printed and distributed by The Greater Nottingham Transport Partnership. The booklets can be collected from most libraries, cycle shops and the tourist information centre. Or people can email admin AT to get a copy post out to them.

In case you haven't already stumbled across a copy, I've uploaded the content and its images in the following blog post. I hope you enjoy it and have a pleasant wander around the area. Oh, and a pdf copy of the document can be downloaded here.

Bulwell - Basford

Beside the River Leen heading towards Basford

The Bulwell to Basford car free route follows the River Leen as it flows south from as far as Newstead Abbey and falls into the River Trent at Wilford. The River Leen was embanked in the 1960s and since then the river has often been forgotten about despite its important history. Today paths are being built alongside the river so that people can enjoy the history and wildlife once again. Of particular note on this route is a medieval street pattern, a Victorian battle for public recreation, the horrors of the workhouse, three former railway embankments and some proud industrial remains. Today the route ends at Basford but in future it is planned that the pathway will be extended to as far as Wilford, in order to provide a sustainable free transport and leisure corridor from the north to the south of the city.

Heading towards Bulwell with St Mary's overlooking the Greenway

1. Bulwell Town

Commercial Rd with former shop fronts

Between Commercial Road, Main Street and Station Road the medieval street pattern survives. This radically changed in the 1970s when Bulwell nearly doubled in population with the building of housing estates on the town’s western side. These estates were built on farm land, potteries, collieries and stone quarries. Many people thought the traffic would increase and so a ring road and flyover was constructed cutting Commercial Road in two, yet thankfully somefine and historic buildings survive.

Strelley House

Strelley House is the oldest and dates from 1667 and was an early charity school funded by George Strelley of Hempshill. The nearby dovecote also dates from this time and was a useful source of meat. Bulwell’s architectural heyday was in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, when the town was booming with nearby collieries, quarries and bleachworks.

Sheltons Solicitors - originally designed as a doctor's surgery

Main Street is littered with interesting buildings from this busy period and perhaps the most original is currently under the care of Sheltons Solicitors. This was built as a doctors surgery in 1919, designed by a local man and features a fine first floor stone oriel window.

2. Bulwell Bogs

The 1830s stone bridge carries the ancient river crossing at Bulwell

The changing history of Bulwell Bogs can be charted via its three bridges. The oldest is the 1830s stone bridge which once carried the only route to Basford now known as Station Road. This ancient route features nineteenth century houses, some of which are built out of magnesium limestone, which was quarried nearby and called Bulwell Stone.

The bogs waterside recreation park

The bogs were always a source of fun and recreation in Victorian Bulwell until a land owner attempted to enclose the grounds in 1871. A dispute ensued known as “the battle of the bogs” which was only resolved by Nottingham Corporation, who agreed to purchase and preserve the bogs in 1879.

The iron footbridge built in 1880

A year later the iron footbridge was built - note the leisurely lattice balustrade with curved brackets. Seven years later the Highbury Road bridge was completed and is marked by the fantastic Public Hall built in 1895 for entertainment and early cinema shows. History repeated itself in 2002 when local residents successfully campaigned to save the Bogs from development.

3. The Workhouse

The old perimeter wall of the Workhouse

Along Northcote Way an old perimeter Bulwell Stone wall is clearly visible, this was built when Highbury Hospital was originally Basford Workhouse - a Victorian prison for the unemployed poor. Its history begins in 1814 during a period of rising unemployment and economic uncertainty. The government sought to control the situation via the workhouse, a place wherethe poor were incarcerated upon receiving benefits. Inmates had to wear uniform and were given hard labour such as stone breaking, digging or uncoiling rope, while men and women were segregated both from each other and the outside world. Food rations were weighed before eating and the day-today routine was disciplined by religious instruction. Over 300 inmates jostled for space alongside children, the sick, the disabled and the elderly. By the 1930s it was gradually replaced by a more successful system of education and healthcare.

4. The Railways

Formally a landscape crossed by railways

Between the Deptford Crescent footbridge and Highbury Vale tram stop there were three railway tracks crossing over the River Leen and heading west, two of which left the main Nottingham - Worksop line, while another crossed the Leen Valley after circling the eastern half ofthe city. The first was Thomas North’s colliery line, constructed during a mid ninteenth century economic boom in Nottingham, as land was released for building factories which demanded fuel from the coalfields of West Nottinghamshire. The tram to Phoenix Park follows the original route to North’s mid nineteenth century colliery at Cinderhill. Stanton Tip is a reminder of the millions of tons, which were hauled out of the earth here. The other two lines were built by famous railway companies who were competing with eachother to supply coal to the city.

Archaeological remains of the Gt Northern Railway

The huge embankment beside a pedestrian footpath to Garton Close still preserves the remains of this Great Northern Railway line which arrived in 1876. Unnerved by their rival, the Midland Railway followed this route only six years later. Today you can stand on the earthen remains of the route before the footbridge which connects to Deptford Crescent.

5. Industry

Pearson’s former bleach works

The River Leen had always meandered near Davids Lane and in the nineteenth century it was a hive of industrial activity and experimentation. Our first relic is the mill on Mill Street, which was built in the early nineteenth century to grind corn from the fields to make flour - a reminder that agriculture wasn’t far away. The mill leet which was the watercourse that powered the mill, is still visible. Some of the numerous riverside millers between here and Papplewick were also innovators in cotton spinning and bleaching. George Pearson and Co’s bleachworks was built by the 1880s on Southwark Street - one of many factories which used the waters of the River Leen and Daybrook in order to dye Nottingham Lace perfect white.

E Sallis hosiery manufacturer beside the Vernon Park entrance

Until the City Council bought Vernon Park in 1900, it was formally the ornamental lake and garden of a bleachworks owner. Despite the decline of hosiery at Basford, Ernest Sallis and Co’s works on Waterford Way is a remarkable survival and an architectural gem. The building is complete in its original 1950s deco style and is still run by the family descendants.

Wonderfully intact cool 1950s typography


  1. Wonderful images and work Chris. Many congratulations!

    This will open up a great green lung area that has really been inaccessible or hidden for too long.

    Well done to the Greater Nottingham Transport Partnership, and all support it.

  2. the blog is all about the old route beside a river.. it makes really a pleasure to roam with such a natural place and locations... specially the ancient buildings shown in the pictures,, are really worth visiting.. you can also give your place the royal look by having well furnished fine curtains... you can also visit,,,
    Curtain for School Stage and Church
    Theatrical Curtain

  3. Did you know that big companies spend more than 1 BILLION dollars on advertising every year?

    Companies are constantly developing and improving ways to advertise their product, and they NEED someone like you to show off their ads on your vehicle.

    Do you know what they need? They need YOU. That's right... and they are willing to pay money for you to drive to work, drive to the grocery store, etc... to advertise their product.

    By advertising this way, companies get their product shown to a core demographic that they are targeting!

    You could make $300 a month by simply driving to work everyday! Imagine making money for something you already do all day long!.

    Easy work and easy pay that could really help with the bills.

    Sarah Johnson

  4. Thanks very much for this. In spite of living in Cinderhill for decades, I've learned a great deal from this about the area.