Off to Nottingham

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Nottingham has an impressive tram system
Nottingham has an impressive tram system

I get so excited whenever I go somewhere new, even if it’s just for the day. New places always remind me that it’s a big world out there, full of millions of people we’ll never know getting on with their own lives.

Our destination was Nottingham where Alanna and I were attending an open day at Nottingham Trent University.

Nottinghamshire, of course, is best-known for being the home ground of the heroic outlaw of English folklore, Robin Hood.  We did pass a large roadside sign proclaiming that we were now in ‘Robin Hood County’ but, sadly, we didn’t catch even a glimpse of Sherwood Forest from the car.


About to board the tram at Phoenix Park
About to board the tram at Phoenix Park

It’s a long, long way, Nottingham: 159 miles from our doorstep to the Phoenix Park and Glide where we left our car for the day. The worst part of the journey was tackling the horribly complicated motorway system around Birmingham; at one point there were six lanes to choose from! I don’t like motorway driving at the best of times (too many people recklessly breaking the speed limit and/or swinging from lane to lane without a thought to others) but the numerous M5/M42/A42 intersections which seem to link the various towns and cities of the Midlands is a completely different experience to driving along the very uncomplicated M4.

I really thought I was dealing with the infamous ‘spaghetti junction‘ but apparently you’ll find that particular drivers’ nightmare on the M6. Eventually, after a lot of panic (on my part) and lots of soothing reassurances (from Alanna) we arrived on the other side of Birmingham and I finally relaxed.

We found the suggested Park and Glide station really easily (don’t you just love Google directions) and excitedly hopped onto the waiting tram (we actually ran across the car park so we wouldn’t miss it… as I was skipping parkrun for the first time in months, I really felt I should at least get in a short run).


The restored brick factory adjacent to the modern university building
The restored brick factory adjacent to the modern university building

The tram was absolutely brilliant (albeit crammed with other potential students and their parents) and felt very European. I wish we could introduce trams to south Wales; Newport is probably too hilly but a few tramlines around Cardiff would be nice. I always think of trams as being something historic, a reminder of past times, but Nottingham is is currently extending its network considerably.

My first impression of Nottingham was how flat the land seemed; not that flat is bad, of course, but it is very different from what we’re used to in Wales where there’s a hill around every corner. Gradually the terrain started showing signs of some gentle slopes and there were trees everywhere, with lots of autumnal colour brightening up the roads.


The Victorian Waverley Building, home to Nottingham's art and design students
The Victorian Waverley Building, home to Nottingham’s art and design students

Then, on Waverley Street, as we grew close to the city centre, we passed along the top-most part of Nottingham Arboretum and my spirits soared. The park is Nottingham’s oldest and the closest to the city centre. As one would expect from an arboretum, it’s home to over 800 tress, some of which are the original 19th century plants.

Sadly, we didn’t have time to stop and enjoy the scenery but there’s always a next time…

Nottingham Trent is one of the ‘red-brick’ universities, a former polytechnic (in this case Trent) which was founded as a new university in 1992. Despite its relative youth as a university, it has a much older pedigree in the arts and design field. The Nottingham Government School of Design (now part of the university) was one of four schools of design set up in the 1840s after the Government highlighted concerns about the standard of design in the art and manufacturing industry (the others were in London (the Royal College of Art), Manchester and York.

The beautiful Victorian Waverley Building was home to that original college in 1843 and the restored building is still used by the art and design faculty today. The old conservatory is wonderful, its high ceiling and glass walls allowing plenty of light to flood the room, making it the perfect place for art students to sit and sketch or paint.


Outside Nottingham's Theatre Royal
Outside Nottingham’s Theatre Royal

After the subject talks, we walked to the city centre, just a stone’s throw away, and were impressed with the little we were able to see in a short time. The people, too, were friendly and helpful, which is a bonus.

Overall, we liked Nottingham very much. I’ll never be a city type, give me the coast or the mountains every time, but today wasn’t about me but my city-loving youngest daughter. And yes, I think I’d be happy to send her off to Nottingham, if only so I get the opportunity to explore that wonderful arboretum.


We were impressed with Nottingham's architecture
We were impressed with Nottingham’s architecture

Postscript: I just found this news article from 2010 which refers to a Wales Assembly report recommending that Newport does introduce trams! As they’d say in the public sector, I don’t think anyone has yet ‘progressed these aims’!

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