Schooled at the old skool school

Over the years there have been six schools in one form or another on the Mile Cross estate.

Dowson Infant School opened on the 6th December, 1926 and received it’s first 66 students from a small and temporary, School off Brazier Road. Then on 27th January 1928 the Dowson Primary School opened next door
, bringing in a further 193 pupils, aged 7.5 to 10.5 years. This number grew to 442 pupils by July 1934, which is quite a lot when you consider that the by today’s standards the two connected schools were fairly small.

I only have this one image of the school in my photographic arsenal and it is of one of the two School halls. It’s taken after closure, but the school can still be found on some of the older versions of Google maps. This shot is of the Mile Cross Middle School Hall. In here I used to do country-dancing (against my will), play rounders, partake in gym (in your pants if you’d forgotten your kit), rearrange the words to various hymns during assembly (can you believe we were forced to sing hymns?) and later on wear out the knees of my flecked-trousers skidding along the floor to the ‘Final Countdown’ by ‘Europe’ during many a 1980’s school disco. I always used to think it was a replica of Noah’s Ark when sat cross-legged on the hard floor listening to the Head Master, Mr Keene bang on about something or other. Looking at it now, it did look a bit boat-like.Mxmx1 Continue reading “Schooled at the old skool school”

Running from Ghosts

Just a short entry to keep things bubbling along whilst I work on a ‘War and Peace’ sized item about Mile Cross pubs…

Anybody who went to the Dowson Junior or Mile Cross Middle schools will probably remember the fabled cross-country course. It was situated behind Sloughbottom Park and on what is now the Marriott’s Way. We’d run from the School field on the opposite side of Bowers Avenue (more on the schools later), through the corner of Sloughbottom Park, up and down through a storm drain, along an abandoned railway and through a bit of woodland recently killed off by May and Baker’s pollution. There’s a reason why Mile Cross kids had a reputation for being hard little so and so’s…

The first obstacle we’d encounter was known as the ‘Big Dipper’, which basically meant running through a gap in the fence and into (and back out of) the storm drain. This storm drain appears from the ground near Sweetbriar Indutrial estate and runs along, behind the park, behind the Council Recycling Centre (The tip) and Anderson’s Meadow before depositing all its oily surface run-off water into the Wensum, just behind the new Aldi (former Wickes site). It was full of oil, water, rubbish and god-knows-what, and it was advisable to jump over, rather than run through it. The second obstacle we’d encounter would be to run down another steep hill and onto the former M&GN trackbed. This wasn’t the neatly-trimmed path we know now, but the remains of a railway that had only recently had the sleepers removed. It was overgrown, full of nettles and was often littered with the burnt-out wrecks of stolen cars (the 1980’s was blighted by ‘joyriding’). We’d travel West along the old track-bed before taking a right at the Sweetbriar Road bridge and into the next obstacle: A dead, hilly bit of woodland, full of dead Silver Birch trees – reeking of chemicals – which then lead us back into Sloughbottom Park through another hole in the fence.

A couple of stories stick in my mind from the Cross Country run:

My schoolmate at the time: Billie (William) took a tumble down the big-dipper and broke his hip. For reasons unknown to me, his mother quickly appeared on the scene with a rickety, old push-chair which was used as a makeshift stretcher to wheel him back across Sloughbottom Park and off to the hospital; the agonised moans coming from his mouth as he was bounced across the grass in that pushchair (that was far too small for him) still stick in my mind and to this day and I often wonder where he is now.

The ‘Big Dipper’:

MXdipper Continue reading “Running from Ghosts”

There be Pirates!

Tucked away in a quiet little corner of Sloughbottom park is a faint little oval in the grass. When the sun shines and the rain falls, it can be easily overlooked in between the irregular Council grass trims. I remember it looking a lot fresher as a kid in the 80’s, the 80 yard Harco-surfaced track was fresh and it was still occasionally being used.

I remember the park-keeper at the time, a friendly old boy named Phil (Pilbrow?) who my friends and I would often chat to, and he would occasionally bore us with tales of how back in the day he was a bit of a demon on the cycle speedway. If only I knew then (a scruffy-looking little scamp on BMX) that in the future I’d be sitting at a PC blogging about him, I’d have probably paid a bit more interest in what he was trying tell us. When he’d finally get bored of our glazed-over and disinterested faces he’d disappear back into the Pavilion to get back on with his work. This would be the cue for this cheeky little collection of scamps to pick up his funny little green 3-wheeled Council van (remember those?) and relocate it somewhere impossible for him to drive it out of, before cycling away as fast as we could. In hindsight, had he wanted to chase us down we’d chosen the wrong man to tempt fate with on a bicycle!

mxtrack Continue reading “There be Pirates!”

The slough and the Knight.

For whatever geological reasons, the slough (pronounced ‘slew’) is a natural depression that sits at the Junction of Hellesdon Hall Road, Drayton Road (formerly Lower Hellesdon Road) and at the base of Galley Hill. I discovered that it used to be referred to as ‘the Slough’ after reading it in an old Raleigh Cycle Guide that dad found in an old barn in Rackheath back in the 1980’s. This old magazine was printed long before the estate even existed and noted the bad condition of the roadway here.

It wasn’t until very recently that the Council got around fixing the drainage issues that have blighted the area for as far back as I can remember, and going by the old magazine, a lot further; even predating the invention of the motor car. This area always filled with water after moderate rain and at still to this day floods a little further along at the junction of Whiffler Road after a particularly heavy downpour.

15914594494_a3c962fa09_o Continue reading “The slough and the Knight.”

Over the Wensum and down with a bump.

Mile Cross sits to the North West of the City Centre and on the far bank of the river Wensum, so for access to the soon-to-be-built estate and subsequent expansion of the City further to the North and West, the Corporation needed to start building bridges.

Before any of the new bridges existed, the only means of crossing the Wensum – other than paying the ferryman at Dolphin – would have been at the old bridge in Hellesdon (Hellesdon Road) or at the newer (1882) bridge situated at Norwich City Station (now  Halfords on the inner ring road). These two bridges are over a mile apart so it would have been a bit of a trek in either direction to get across. It seemed more important to get the Loco’s and their trains over the river than anything else, but people being people, always tend to find the quickest route of getting from A to B and I wonder how many people would have risked a dash across the narrow, single tracked A-Frame railway bridge to avoid paying the ferryman.

The first of the newer bridges to spring up was the Dolphin Footbridge.MXBridge3.jpg Continue reading “Over the Wensum and down with a bump.”