by Peter Robinson
I first recall the woods in 1939 at the age of 5 years. My parents took me to walk our dog at that time. I remember there was an ice cream kiosk where the Bowling Green is now, and my mother bought me a “penny lick”. The 2nd World War broke at this time. I was in my first year at Jessie Boot School. I remember the Army Huts being built and we were stopped using the woods. There was an Artillery Unit with 3 or 4 anti-aircraft guns overlooking the Trent Valley, and security was strict. I learned later that the German bombers used the Trent as navigation to Nottingham in order to target the Royal Ordnance Factory in the Meadows area.
After the Blitz the artillery was removed and the camp was changed into a Prisoner of War Camp. At this time we were allowed to use the woods again, and I spent many hours playing in there with my friends. In those days there was a main ash path that ran from Greenwood Road down to a Park Keepers Cottage just in front of where the spring is. Opposite the cottage were some public toilets. The ash path then continued up the hill behind the toilets, to the fence at the top of the cliffs overlooking the railway. It then continued along and dropped down to Colwick Road. The other main path was off Greenwood Road opposite Harrogate Road to the left, which went passed garden allotments on the left. This came out onto an open area and a path to the left leading to the bottom of Greenwood Road known as Saville Spinney. This has not over-grown and is still there today. Both these main paths were well maintained and surfaced with ash from Nottingham Power Station.Park benches lined the main paths (they were never vandalized in those days).
We spent most weekends and school holidays playing in the woods making dens and climbing trees. In the winter we would sled down the slopes and in the autumn we would collect the conkers. At the end of summer there was always an abundance of blackberries to collect. The woods were always a popular place for courting couples, and in our teenage years we would go to the Rio or Dale Cinema where we met the girls and would walk them through the woods. There was a public shelter near the ice cream kiosk where we would sit if the weather was inclement.In the early 1950’s I was drafted into the army and I didn’t use the wood again until eight years later.I found that the Keepers Cottage had been demolished, together with the public toilets, and the army camp had gone. The allotments had been deserted. I began to use the wood regularly again walking my dog. A pitch and putt course was built where the camp had been. The ice cream kiosk and shelter had been knocked down, a children’s playground was built which is still in situ and a bowling green was made.
The rest of the wood over the 1960’s to present day slowly became more and more neglected until paths became overgrown and neglected. Since the allotments were abandoned after the war, over the past 60 years nature has taken over and they are now mature woodland. Wild life use this as a haven for breeding and nesting, as it is not frequently used by the general public.The spring is still there, but is only a trickle now and doesn’t create the bog land that it used to. All the mature elms trees got Dutch elm disease (in the 1970’s) and had to be felled. However I have noticed in the old allotment area there are two new Elm saplings.
The woods in general are much the same as they were in the 1930’s except for the neglect and changes I have mentioned.