MX Connects Free Fun Day, including the first ever ‘Galley Hill Dash’. Saturday 31st July, 2021

Back in July (2021) If you were lucky enough to have lived on ‘The Cross’ you would have found a flyer dropped through your letterbox. Not only did it have a great little poster on the back to display in your window to show your love for the old estate, it’s also served to advertise the ‘MXCONNECTS’ free day of fun which I’d been helping to arrange throughout the first half of 2021. The Free Fun Day and Galley Hill Dash went ahead on the 31st July, and it would have gone ahead, come rain or shine. Thankfully, the weather held off and it was the perfect weather for such an event.

I love Mile Cross. And we all should, so share the love and get this poster in your window.

Below is the information side of the flyer, which highlighted the number of events that took place across the estate on the day and I’ve listed the main points underneath.

The flyer that will have dropped onto your doormat.
  1. The Phoenix Centre: reaching out to the people of Mile Cross; barbecue and refreshments, tombola, games, choi kwang do and more.
  2. Rosie’s Plaques: drop by the Betsy Gurney caravan outside the school, grab a cuppa, make a badge, and tell us about the women you want to celebrate.
  3. St Catherine’s Church and Hall: open for garden games, refreshments, rock painting, bell ringing and teddy parachutes (Launch your teddy off the church!).
  4. The Common Plot: Allotments 22 – 25. A new community growing and gathering place to connect and grow. Owl pellet dissection and other activities.
  5. Aylsham Road Mosque: A warm welcome and refreshments for all. Come and see inside our new community building.
  6. The Kings Venue at the Norman Centre: enjoy tea, coffee and cakes, win a prize in the fastest on the buzzer game, chalk games.
  7. The Norman Centre: Family Fitness session 1-2pm, discount vouchers and gym offers, find out more about what we provide.
  8. The Mile Cross Library and Garden: bunting making, sign up for Wild Heroes challenge, stories in the garden and a scavenger hunt. Unveiling of an unofficial blue plague for Mabel Clarkson: 1pm.
  9. Photo Display of old Mile Cross: come and share your memories.

From 11am the Galley Hill was closed to traffic so that the first annual ‘Galley Hill Dash’ and the preparations for it could happen. In the hour or so before the races started it was a lovely to have a brief spell car-free tranquillity on the hill, as over the years it has increasingly become part of a rat-run for motorists trying to avoid the now constantly choked-up Drayton Road Roundabout. As the noise of speeding cars was replaced with laughter, chatter and song, the locals slowly began emerging from their homes and began to gather on the green or in nearby gardens (I spotted the old Mile Cross Milkman, Jack and his wife had even made their way up the hill) and the atmosphere began to pick up, helped along by The Common Lot’s Simon Floyd on the mic, the Galley Hill dancers and somewhat bizarrely a late arrival in the form of Captain Canary. The crowd wasn’t as large as we were hoping for, but for a first event of this kind it wasn’t a wash-out by any means and it’s traditionally hard to get Mile Cross to come out of its shell. That said, it had attracted locals and it was nice to see a crowd of smiling faces gathered around Galley Hill for the Galley Hill Dash and the following events.

The Mayor and the Sheriff had turned up to start the races and give out medals and it was odd for me to see them wandering around on the hill outside my dad’s back garden surrounded by dancers, people in fancy dress, a grown-man (at least I think it was a man) dressed as a canary and a collection of runners and cyclists.

The main race was to be four times up the hill and three times down, with the start line at the bottom and the finish line at the top and it should have been won by a young lad who was miles ahead of the rest of the pack. until he stopped after mistakenly thinking he’d won a lap early, which was a shame, but a hard lesson learned. You couldn’t help but feel for him though.

After the main race was the Slow bike racing tournament, where the last person over the line without putting a foot on the ground or holding up a rival was the winner. The heats were down-hill and The final was an uphill challenge and altogether it made for an amusing spectacle.

To finish off the Galley Hill Dash event was the ‘Everyone up the Hill race’. The rules were simple, run once up the entire length of Galley Hill and the first person over the line would win. A large crowd had gathered at the bottom of the hill for this race and to my surprise, in amongst that crowd I could see my dad. He had swapped his slippers for his Nike Training shoes. He’s in his late sixties and I can’t remember the last time I ever see him run anywhere, thankfully St John’s Ambulance were in attendance should anybody get a little too puffed out! Seeing as I was there to take photographs I couldn’t really join in myself, however, as I had started taking pictures at the bottom of the hill I inevitably ended up having to run up the path next to the hill (which near the top is considerably steeper than the road), so that I could capture people crossing the line at the end. Unsurprisingly, running up a hill and taking photographs meant that a lot of the shots were a bit blurry. Still, it was all good fun. Looking through those photographs I can see that my dad was not far behind my 16 year old son when crossing the finish line. There’s life in the old dog yet.

At 2pm there was also planned to be a fairly short, 45-minute Heritage Walk through the estate led by myself and Colin Howey, one of the founding members of the popular historical ‘Magdalen Walks’. Our walk was to begin from the green at the top of Galley Hill and end at the parade of shops on Drayton Road where their was a pop-up shop dedicated to Mile Cross memories, including a selection of old photographs of the estate on display, meant to inspire conversation amongst any of the Mile Cross Residents who ventured in, or peered through the window photo display.

I have to admit that I was secretly hoping for rain so that I didn’t have to deal with a large crowd, but that wasn’t to be. The sun held out and somebody counted 40 people stood on the green, including myself and Colin and to say I was a little nervous is an understatement. Colin opened the historical walk and talk with a detailed analysis of the origins of council housing in the early 20th and in doing so knocked out the entire first page of my own opening piece (I had a handful of notes prepared to help get me through), meaning that I had to quickly re-arrange the structure what I was going to open my speech with. This wasn’t helped by the 38 seemingly-impassive faces were looking back at me as I floundered on the hill. That said, once we got going I soon found my flow and we covered a lot of ground, both figuratively and physically; covering subjects as “What is Mile Cross?”, the styles of housing, the missing concrete houses, the housing crisis, the yards, the first school on the estate, the first residents on to the estate, Arthur Prentice (Fungi) and the 1960’s extension, Civic Gardens, Suckling Avenue and the grand entrance to the estate, the ‘Lassie Come Home’ crash-site, The Lane and it’s view of the City’s second Cathedral and much more… The 45 minute walk ended up going on for about an hour and a half in total. The feedback received at the end was that the participants being led around the estate by myself and Colin thoroughly enjoyed their tour. Good. Maybe it’s something I can work on and do again in the future, if there’s enough interest.

I’ll end this short (recycled) piece with a large selection of photos taken on the day:

Closing the Hill off to the rat-runners
Slow Bike Race Starting Line
Testing out the course
St John’s Ambulance arrive on the scene to keep an eye on the runners.
Preparing for the run.
Norwich Author and Galley Hill referee, Matthew Williams cleaning up glass off Galley Hill. Not something I thought I’d ever see, or type.
The Galley Hill Dancers practicing at the finishing line.
The day’s MC (Simon Floyd) talking to one of the rough and ready locals (my dad).
Health and safety on the hill. The Council’s Emma Penfold making some last-minute checks.
Jack the (former) milkman and his wife make their way up the hill to watch the Galley Hill Dash. I did ask him if he was going to take part and he said “I would, but I want to give the others a chance”.
The Galley Hill Dancers entertain local residents.
A musical interlude.
Captain Canary makes an appearance.
The Mayor, looking dignified by a puddle. Don’t get me started on the state of the verges (shakes fist like an old man).
Captain Canary does some dancing, or was having a fit. It’s hard to tell.
Entertaining the locals on the hill.
Galley Hill Dancers, entertaining the crowd.
Prompts for the singers.
The crowd starts to grow in anticipation of the Galley Hill Dash.
MC Floyd entertains the crowd.
The runners line up for the very first Galley Hill Dash.
Under the Mayor’s airhorn, they’re off!
Quick out of the blocks, this young lad creates a lead for himself.
And the rest of the runners chase him up the hill…
And back down the hill they go. The young lad in blue has long gone.
Not even out of breath, our young leader is up the hill for the second time as the bulk of the runners are still making their way down.
Hold up. what’s this? The winner of the first Galley Hill Dash celebrates his win. What happened to the lad in blue?
Oh dear. It turns out that the obvious winner thought he’d won a lap early and during the confusion was overtaken by the pack. You can feel his disappointment. Everybody knows he should have won by a country mile!
More runners cross the finish line.
The Mayor hands out medals to the runners as they cross the line.
The final few runners are cheered across the line. I hope I’m as fit as this guy when I’m that age!
The mayor and sheriff applaud the runners as they cross the finish line.

The Mayor presents the winner with his medal and shirt.
Next up is the first round of the slow bike race.
And under the Mayor’s orders, they’re off! Kind of. This could take some time.
The young lad at the back is already celebrating his ‘lead’. Last across the finish line wins.
The losers out front despair their lead!
MC Floyd tries to un-nerve the overly-confident leader…
Who wins the first round regardless.
The second leg of the slow bike race gets under way.
These two are way out in front meaning they have little chance of winning.
Referee Williams has to dramatically resort to the red card. Off!
Meanwhile, 2nd and 1st place make it to the line to secure a spot in the final.
The four finalists line up at the start line. The final is to be held against gravity at the top of the hill. One of the finalists is show-boating to the youngsters.
And it’s Go Go Go! Or whatever the opposite is. Slow Slow Slow!
0-60cm in 30 seconds!
An early foot down means the first rider is eliminated.
Referee Williams checks his watch as it dawns on him that it’s likely that his supper will be cold by the time this lot reach the finish line.
These two fight for the lead. Isn’t that the chap who won the first Galley Hill Dash?
Out of desperation not to be first to the line, this youngster puts a foot on the ground.
Which isn’t missed by our eagle-eyed referee. Disqualified!
The chap out in front tries his best to cycle slower than all 3 Lord of the Rings Films, but he has little chance with that lead.
Rather inevitably, this chap is the winner. Cheered as he cycles over the line last. Or first. He’s now won two out three of the events. The crowd boos. They didn’t.
For the last time, The Galley Hill Dancers do their thing just before the final race of the day: ‘Everybody up the Hill’.
And they’re off. Somebody familiar, powers ahead of the rest. This time he means business! It’s at this point it dawned on me that I was also going to have to run up this hill with a load of camera gear in tow.
As I near the crest, I’m overtaken by the young lad in blue and decide to try and take some pictures whilst on the move.
When I make it to the top, I’m happy to see that it’s this young man who has won the race by a distance!
And here he is being presented with his winner’s shirt by the Mayor and Sherriff of Norwich.
Seeing as It’s on my way home I decide to pop in to the Common Plot for a well-earned cup of coffee before preparing for my 2pm walk. If you want to come and get involved with this community allotment, please do, all are welcome here.
I’m not the only one who needs a cuppa after running up the hill. Tea and Cake all round.
Some of the wares grown at the Common plot since lockdown. You can’t beat freshly-grown food.
Seeing as I have a spare hour and a half I decided to head up into the estate to see some of the other events taking place on the MX Connects free fun day. First up, the fabulous Rosie’s Plaque’s Caravan parked up on the green outside the school.
One of the plaque’s made to celebrate the unsung female heroes of Norwich. Ruby would have gotten me safely across the dangerous Drayton Road countless times as I went to the Dowson and Mile Cross schools on Valpy Avenue. And she was nearly run over herself, countless times during that period.
Next stop, Mile Cross Library for the unveiling of another of Rosie’s Plaques, this time for the wonderful Mayor of Norwich, Mabel Clarkson. Councillor for Mile Cross, Chrissie Rumsby carries the plaque to the Library opened by Mabel almost a century prior.
Chrissie unveils the plaque to Mabel in the garden of the library as the current Mayor of Norwich applauds.
The plaque to Mabel Clarkson being displayed by Councillor Rumsby and the Mayor.
The plaque being proudly displayed just before the choir sang an evocative song in memory of Mabel Clarkson.
Finally, the former Draytona Bakery being used as a pop-up Mile Cross memories shop where Colin and I ended our Mile Cross Heritage Walk.

I still have a few of the updated Mile Cross postcard packs that we were handing out to people on the day left over, so if anybody would like one please get in touch.

Thanks again for reading,

Stu

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