An unusual, if not unique, feature of Nottingham’s Historic Green Spaces is The Walks. In the first half of the 19th century two Government Committees of Inquiry recommended walking or ‘promenading’ as a respectable alternative to the attractions of the pub and music hall. As a result, the 1845 Enclosure Act created four walks; three to the north of the town. These are Elm Avenue, Corporation Oaks and Robin Hood Chase. The fourth is Queen’s Walk to the south of Nottingham.
Although newly created in 1845, the three walks follow traditional pathways which ran along field boundaries which ran up one side of Toad Hole Hill which was but renamed St Ann’s Hill, and down the other side, towards St Ann’s Well. As the names suggest, they were planted with Oaks, Elms and other trees.
Elm Avenue begins near the junction of Mansfield Road and Huntingdon Street and ends at Cranmer Street. It is a tree-lined walk, which, like the other walks, has gates at either end. These were closed once a year, usually the weekend before Christmas, in order to assert the Council’s ownership of the land.
Corporation Oaks begins on the opposite side of Cranmer Street and leads to the top of St Ann’s Hill, circles around the reservoir and down the other side of the hill till it meets with Woodborough Road. It gets its name from the tree planing ceremony which took place in February 1850. The Mayor, Sherrif and some of the Councillors each planted an oak tree. The first tree was, understandably named ‘Mayors Oak’, the second ‘Sheriff’s Oak’ but the next two were named ‘John Milton’ and ‘Lord Byron’.
Crossing Woodborough Road, the Walk continues as Robin Hood Chase (or originally Robin Hood’s Chase) and ends where it meets St Ann’s Well Road. The walk probably got its name because the alternative (and possibly older) name for St Ann’s Well is Robin Hood’s Well and in the 19th century there was a grotto or spa where Robin Hood’s Chair, his iron cap, his slippers and his bow were kept.
In The Illustrated Handbook to Nottingham (1906) by Lemon Lingwood (ed.), the approach to Corporation Oaks from Mansfield Road is described in the following terms:
“This beautiful umbrageous avenue was once known as “Gallows Hill,” from the gruesome apparatus which once adorned its summit. As for the modern attractions of the neighbourhood, it will be sufficient for the present to name them, leaving their detailed exploration to a future occasiou. Almost opposite the Arboretum Approach is the pleasant, shady walk of Elm Avenue, leading to Corporation Oaks and St. Anne’s Hill. From the latter point we obtain splendid views of the City lying at our feet. “Blue-Bell Hill,” on the opposite side of the Beck Valley, is already covered by bricks and mortar. The wise policy of the Corporation in providing these stately avenues of “Elms” and “Oaks” in the midst of the crowded city is self-evident; the only regret is that things are not “more so,” as we see meadows and gardens rapidly despoiled by the builder in utter neglect of the things which go to make life—especially child-life—healthy and bright.”
Corporation Oaks is still just as lovely today.