I have always been fascinated by the story of Peter Pan, “the boy who never grew up” because there is the child in all of us. The play Peter Pan was given to us by the author JM Barrie who lived in Nottingham, so on a mild autumn day I decided to explore Nottingham’s connection with this fascinating man who fires us all with his imagination.
I wanted to take a walk literally “in his footsteps” and understand his connection with Nottingham and how this influenced his greatest and most endearing work.
My starting point was at number 5 Birkland Avenue just off Peel Street near Nottingham Trent University where Barrie lived for 18 months between 1883 and 1884 whilst working as a journalist for a local newspaper. He lived in a very modest Victorian terraced house in a quiet street. Maybe this house reflected Barrie’s humble and modest upbringing in Scotland?
Barrie walked daily through the nearby Arboretum Park, the beautiful old Nottingham City Park which already existed for 30 years before he lived in Nottingham and where he frequently took a stroll on his way to work. I decided to literally “walk in his shoes” from his house to the back of the Park via Annesley Grove and Addison Street both lined with the wealthy Victorian family houses Barrie would have known and seen.
My second stopping point was the Chinese Bell Tower with cannon captured by the British Army in the Crimean War – was this the inspiration for Captain Hook and his band of pirates? As a child Barrie was an avid reader of Victorian adventure stories and this testament to the gung ho spirit of the British Empire would have appealed to his imagination.
Lastly I stopped at the ornamental lake amid some quite stunning flora and fauna, the inspiration for Mermaid Lagoon in Neverland, the place where Peter Pan, Tinkerbell and the Lost Boys live, a place of escape from everyday life and dwelt on Barrie and his life and achievements. There is now a small cafe near the entrance on Waverley Street so it’s possible to enjoy the view of “Neverland” over a coffee or pleasant cup of tea.
Barrie once famously said “The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease for ever to be able to do it”. A metaphor for believing in yourself and for that inspirational thought I thank him for inspiring me but also for providing the World with a great children’s story and of course a wonderful walk in Nottingham.
Want to learn more about James Matthew Barrie one of our greatest children’s writers then come on one of my guided walking tours of Nottingham.