The blog will evolve and grow, so please watch this space for the next instalment!
I woke up this morning to a slightly grey November day. It’s Thursday, and for me that means Circuit Training on the Green at 8.30am. So, quickly gulping down a mug of tea, I head out to join the others for an hour of jogging, press-ups and lunges. We are, as someone said, ‘The Ladies Who Lunge’! Throughout the year, through rain (although it rarely seems to rain on a Thursday morning) and shine, we’re out there. When I first joined the group, I was worried that passing crowds, cars, buses etc. would gawp at us, but in fact, that just doesn’t happen. The Green is the perfect size in that way: when you’re in the centre of it, you can almost forget the busy Fortune Green Road running alongside, and you certainly don’t feel overlooked, whatever ungainly movement you might be doing! It’s partly that you’re protected from view by the flowerbeds, now fully grown, but it’s also that people come to the Green to do their own thing, and they generally let others get on with their own thing too. For me, it seems to be the perfect balance of community and personal space: it can be both public and private, fully visible and secluded, at the same time.
There’s been a Green in this spot for nigh on 400 years and it’s always been used for multifarious purposes. Back then, residents could graze their animals, dig turf (presumably to use for heating), and play sports. Nowadays, of course, there’s not a lot of grazing - although I have sometimes caught sight of police horses nibbling the grass along the lime tree avenue, their riders standing beside them, surprisingly tiny in comparison. If you have any photos of the horses on the Green, please share them by emailing them to Friends of Fortune Green. Two hundred years ago, there was cricket, rounders and boxing on the Green: these days, there are impromptu football matches and the odd boxing ‘match’, although the combatants are gym-goers and their personal trainers with foam pads. I wonder whether the boxing bouts were more brutal and bloody all those years ago, attracting crowds of watchers maybe? I imagine the sweating hasn’t changed much. Digging turf has completely disappeared from the Green, of course: I’m sure the Friends of Fortune Green Committee is very happy about that!
As well as doing the Thursday Circuit, I often go for a stroll on the Green, just to see what’s happening and who’s there. I like the fact that things happen at different speeds. There are the purposeful commuters, striding on their way to work; Lycra-glad gym-goers stomping over to their workouts, then returning, slightly more slowly; speedy dogs chasing balls; mums and babies strolling to and from the playground; and people just taking a break, like the dog-owner I saw the other day, sitting with her three spaniels, all of them on the same bench. It was quite a squash.
Sunday 27th October saw the Owl and Hawk display, with the Green full of families, children as young as four gamely holding out a gauntleted arm for a bird to perch on – some of the parents were more gung-ho about this than the kids, it has to be said! Then, within the space of 24 hours, the Great Storm hit, a large old tree was uprooted and branches fell. After that, the quiet. Where there had been crowds, there were only one or two hardy individuals, walking around the fallen branches, or even ignoring the council tape so that they could use their perennial paths.
It’s nice to think that the Green has been here so long, and though some details have changed, others have stayed the same and local people have always enjoyed it. Thankfully, this will always be so, as the Green has just been designated a Queen Elizabeth II Field in Trust, for future generations to enjoy.
- Catherine Allison