A Great Walk In Nottingham – In The Footsteps Of The Author JM Barrie In Search Of Peter Pan and Neverland

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.

The enchanting lake in the Arboretum Park, an inspiration to Barrie

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.

The Life and Death Of Lord Byron, His Connection With Nottingham and Famous Quotations

Silhouette of Byron at St Mary Magdalene Church in Hucknall

Actually Lord Byron’s full name and title was George Gordon Noel Byron – 6th Baron Byron (1788-1824), he was as we say “a bit of character” and one of Nottingham’s trio of  famous “Rebel Writers” ,the other two being David Herbert (DH) Lawrence and Allan Sillitoe but more of them in later blogs…..

Byron was born in 1788 in London but initially bough up in Aberdeenshire and inherited his titles and wealth after the death of his Great Uncle the “Wicked” Lord Byron whose notoriety was achieved some years before Byron was born when he killed a man in a pistol duel after a trivial argument in a tavern! This eccentricity seems to flow down the Byron family tree to Byron our greatest Romantic Poet. Byron lived in both Nottingham and Nottinghamshire whilst in England but also in Italy and Greece in the latter part of his short life. He died in 1824 a small fishing village on the Greek coast called Messolonghi on the eve of a journey to Corinth to attack the Turkish army of occupation there and he died a hero of the Greek fight for Independence. His greatest work is a long poem called Don Juan after the 17th Century Spanish story of the famous philanderer who pays the ultimate price for his lifestyle.

There are many reminders of Byron in Nottingham and Nottinghamshire such as:

The house where he lived on St James Street Nottingham, his home between 1798 and 1799

Swine Green in Hockley – mentioned in one of his early poems and remembered by a Green Plaque today

Newstead Abbey near Ravenshead, his ancestral home

Byron’s grave at Saint Mary Magdalene Church, Hucknall where he and his daughter Ada Lovelace, the brilliant mathematician and early contributor to the development of computer science are laid to rest and is the scene of Byron’s dramatic and moving funeral in 1824.

Living a colourful and at the time controversial life he was known as “mad, bad and dangerous to know!” Here is a sample of some of his quotations which tell us a lot about the man:

“If I don’t write to empty my mind, I go mad”

“Men are strange but women are stranger”

“Pleasure is a sin and sometimes sin is a pleasure”

“Always laugh when you can. It is cheap medicine”

“Love will find a path where wolves fear to prey”

“A celebrity is one who is known to many persons, he is glad he does not know”

How relevant Byron’s observations of life a relevant today….Want to learn more about Lord Byron, our greatest romantic poet and see where he lived then come on one of my guided walking tours.

Top 7 Tips On Getting the Best From a Guided Tour

I’ve been on good tours and not so good tours. So, for you here are my 7 top tips to get the best from a guided tour:

Ask questions – a tour isn’t just a one-way thing; it’s about engaging in the culture and history and learning more, and the best way to do that is to ask. Don’t be put off by speaking out or feel like you’re being rude – at the end of the day it’s your tour!

Be on time – out of respect to the tour guide. It can come across as slightly rude to turn up late. It’s also up to the tour guide to keep to time and not over indulge – the tour shouldn’t be a marathon!

We do have limits – tour guides don’t know everything, but should be quite knowledgeable about their area of interest, however they are only human, and will not know everything and you should also expect a follow-up afterwards if they can’t answer a question.

Snap away – most smartphones have cameras built in nowadays, so there aren’t any excuses. If you see something cool and want to get a picture? Then go ahead!

Know the recipe – tours shouldn’t be overtly detailed; you aren’t going to remember 300 facts at the end, but you will remember a good story or anecdote. It’s not revising for an exam; it’s about being informative, relevant and fun!

Check the menu – before going on any tour, check on sites like Trip Advisor, Google and Facebook to see the tour’s reputation. Many reviews help you know what to expect, and tell you how to make the most of the tour experience.

Home, sweet home – most people reserve guided tours as something they do on holiday or away from home, often ignoring the culture and history of where they live. There could be a lot more of interest on your doorstep – and a guided tour is a good way to find out!

Oh and by the way tours don’t have to be boring – mine aren’t! Here is an example of some of the great street art in Nottingham – but where is it? Let me know!