Ever since I was just a boy I’ve been more than a little bit obsessed with an old, abandoned railway line skirting the southern edge of the Mile Cross estate between the back of Sloughbottom Park and the River Wensum. In more recent times we’ve come to know this former railway as a footpath/cycleway named the “Marriott’s Way” and if you’ve ever wondered why the footpath is named this way, read on. Continue reading “The M&GN and me – chasing ghosts to the coast.”
Straying away from the estate for a bit, I’m going to be talking about how the digital world can bring people together in the real world.
Since being knee-high to a grass hopper I’ve been fascinated by a stretch of path that runs along the back of Sloughbottom Park. It starts at the inner-link road by Halfords and makes its way along the Wensum Valley all the way to Themelthorpe, before curving East towards Reepham. You’ve probably heard of it as it’s called: ‘The Marriott’s Way’; but before it got ‘all official’ it was just an overgrown and dusty old path where a railway used to run. Back then it was mostly impassable in Summer and littered with the wrecks of stolen and burnt out cars and bikes.
I first encountered the path as a child. My Auntie used to live in Costessey in a house somewhere near Leewood Crescent (I can’t remember exactly where) and later, my Nan lived in a Bungalow at the bottom of Oval Road. Back in those days my family did a lot of walking, and the most direct route to go and visit these nearby family members would have been through Sloughbottom Park and down the old railway line. The path wasn’t metaled back then as it wasn’t officially a path, so it was often full of nettles or damp and muddy. Or both. I remember in the height of Summer having to fight our way through the nettles with a stick. Even so it was quicker to go this way rather than follow the roads. I’d be back and forth along here on a regular basis and the path became well and truly etched into my memories.
One day my mum stopped at a stretch of brick wall that I’d never noticed before – even though I must have walked past it countless times (It must have been exposed from the weeds because of winter die-back) – to give me an impromptu history lesson. She told me that it used to be the site of an old railway station called Hellesdon that had been closed back in the 1960’s. She had vague recollections of it even though it had shut to passengers back in 1952. The station still served Norfolk County Council as a storage spot for road aggregates. The station building being used for other things, such as a Sunday School and later as the headquarters for a company named: ‘Anglian Culinary Services’.
The building eventually fell into disrepair and was used as a drinking hotspot for youths from the nearby Marlpit Housing Estate. To resolve this problem the council decided to knock the building down. Unfortunately this turned out to be a rather a short-sighted solution. Along with the Station house about a third of the platform was also destroyed, and then weirdly finished off neatly with some later, red brick. Continue reading “FONCS: Friends of Norwich City Station”
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’: