Nigel Neale

I must admit that I’ve talked quite a lot about Drayton Road in this blog, mainly because it has a lot of stories to tell and partly because I’ve lived on (or just off) it for all bar seven years of my life. This is the main artery for traffic in and out of the City from the North-West and effectively chops about a third of the estate off along the southern portion. Located in the Island part of the estate from the estate’s creation and up until about ten years ago sat the majority of the estate’s schools (Dowson First and Mile Cross Middle), so getting the kids across Drayton road safely required a lot of work from the two sets of dedicated Lollipop ladies.

The first set operated at the crossroads of the Drayton, Bignold and Parr Roads and the second set a few hundred meters down the road at the (long-since closed) junction of Drayton and Wheeler Road. In the early to mid 1980’s, both sets of ladies witnessed their fair share of drama and tragedy.

Two incidents stand out amongst the madness that was – and still is – getting across Drayton Road as a child and I’ll start with the later incident first:

In the mid-1980’s a driver claiming to be unsighted by the low morning sun as he came up Drayton Road from North West ploughed straight through a crowd of Mile Cross Middle and Dowson School children being shepherded across the road by the crossing lady. How nobody was killed is beyond me; one boy ended up near the bus stop, the boy walking just in front of me was thrown 20 feet into the air…. blood, chunks of hair, scattered books and Panini stickers littered the scene.

The result was this pelican crossing, installed slightly east of the junction: MXspeed3 Continue reading “Nigel Neale”

Sorbus’ final hour.

When the finishing touches were being applied to the estate back in the late 1920’s, tree planting was an important aspect of the ‘Garden City’ design and layout. A mixture of trees were used, and their size depended on the hierarchy of the roads they were to be planted on. The two main arteries: Aylsham Road and Drayton Road were lined with Horse Chestnut and Lime and the smaller roads were lined with smaller species such as the Sorbus shown in these pictures.MXsorb3 Continue reading “Sorbus’ final hour.”

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”