Monday, July 27, 2009

Lost on Frog Island

I first visited Leicester at the age of 11 in 1971. We were on a family canal holiday (which was quite intrepid in those days) and had moored in the city one evening in what I now know to be the Frog Island area.

My mother and I set off for a walk. I seem to recall that she was distracted by the Saxon St Nicholas Church, but for whatever reason we became lost. It was a landscape of river and canal - the Grand Union and the Soar both run through Leicester, sometimes parallel, sometimes flowing into one another - of factory chimneys and railway viaducts.

Eventually we found a taxi office and described the pub and bridge where our boat was moored. The driver recognised it and took us back there.

I was back at Frog Island on Saturday - on the way from All Saints to the city farm. And it is a changed landscape.

The river and canal are still there, but the factories are largely derelict. And, if the picture to the right shows the pub where our boat was, that has closed too. Just down the road The Friar Tuck and The Old Robin Hood face one another across the street with boarded windows. Nothing Merry there.

And the railway has gone. It was the old Great Central route, which had lost its final passenger service (Nottingham Arkwright Street to Rugby Central) only a couple of years before. The website Great Central Railway Through Leicester documents its last days of operating and the subsequent demolition. If you like railway history the site is well worth exploring as there are photos of the line at Nottingham, Lutterworth and Rugby too.

I have worked in Leicester for the last 20 years. These days I seldom get lost there.

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