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.
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 Phoenix Centre: reaching out to the people of Mile Cross; barbecue and refreshments, tombola, games, choi kwang do and more.
- 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.
- St Catherine’s Church and Hall: open for garden games, refreshments, rock painting, bell ringing and teddy parachutes (Launch your teddy off the church!).
- The Common Plot: Allotments 22 – 25. A new community growing and gathering place to connect and grow. Owl pellet dissection and other activities.
- Aylsham Road Mosque: A warm welcome and refreshments for all. Come and see inside our new community building.
- The Kings Venue at the Norman Centre: enjoy tea, coffee and cakes, win a prize in the fastest on the buzzer game, chalk games.
- The Norman Centre: Family Fitness session 1-2pm, discount vouchers and gym offers, find out more about what we provide.
- 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.
- 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:
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,