Brian Wilson

Letter received 9 March 2009 from Brian Wilson who used to live on Greenwood Road:

Colwick Woods has remained largely unchanged over the last 70 years, so I will concentrate on the differences:

Before the eastwards extension of Greenwood Road, it ended in a dirt road through allotments. Past the allotments was mainly green field as far as the rough track which later became Douglas Avenue.

South of the allotments was the wooded area which still exists today. This wood was so dense that it was called “Blackwoods”. Around 1950 this was thinned out considerably and new trees planted. To protect the saplings, the whole wood was fenced off, the fencing being left to eventually decay.

The PoW camp was connected to Greenwood Road by a cinder track which then ran past a guard house to the far end of the camp. This consisted of a collection of mainly wooden huts plus (if my memory is correct) some Nissan type huts. Although the camp was surrounded by a wire fence, security seemed to be rather lax – the prisoners seemed happy where they were. Over the years the camp’s occupancy changed. American GIs appeared at one stage (probably before D-Day). Towards the end of its life the camp seemed to house refugees or homeless people.

At the south end of the camp there appeared to have been a gun emplacement but I never heard the gun fired.

Although the camp had a water supply, the sanitary arrangements seemed to have been rather basic. The odour from the areas between Blackwoods and the camp suggested a cesspit or perhaps chemical toilets. This area was also the site of the rubbish dump which was of great interest to us lads who collected cigarette packets.

When the camp was finally closed, it was replaced by football pitches, then a golf course.

An “ash path” ran the length of the valley opposite number 115 Greenwood Road where I was born in 1937. Colwick Road could be accessed from this path via a level crossing over the railway. About half way along this path was a brick building where the park keeper was based. This building had a large garden which was used to grow vegetables and store logs. I believe this building was later used as a changing room for those using the football pitches. A little further down the valley and on the opposite side of the path was what we thought to be an old well but which I now know to have been the ice house used by Colwick Hall. The valley which linked up with this one was something of a winter sports centre known locally as “mile run” although it is nothing like a mile long. The wooded area between this valley and the railway was known as “roundwoods” but I have no idea why. Before the school came into existence a footpath ran from the reservoir through a field to the top of Sneinton Boulevard. In the early days the grass was cut only once a year (in August) and wild flowers were much more in evidence. Cowslips grew on the slope between the camp and the railway.

The public amenities were located where the bowling green is today and consisted of a brick shelter with a view of the Trent Valley, an ice cream kiosk and a drinking water supply.

The area between the reservoir and Greenwood Road was levelled in the mid 1950s to form two football pitches, but I cannot remember its purpose before that. The reservoir has been there for as long as I can remember.

Since writing the above I have been told that the keeper’s “base” was actually his home. Smoke was often seen to be rising from the chimney but I never saw any lights in the windows. I remember him as something of a martinet, wearing a uniform and carrying a stick. I think his name was Keatly or something similar and he seemed to disappear in the 1950s to be replaced by a younger man who did not stay long.

The location for the ice house may be due to the fact that a valley bottom is often colder than the surrounding area – it is known as a ‘frost hollow’.

I am informed that the prisoners in the camp were Italian which would account for the low level of security.