Our Speaker for the evening of 6th August meeting, Dr Stephen Walker, provided us with a fascinating and highly entertaining insight into the Moor Pond Woods project. In 1999 the Papplewick Parish Council looked for a project to commemorate the millennium and it was decided to enter into a partnership with the land owners and develop the Moor Pond Woods as a valuable permanent recreational resource to be used by local people. Stephen explained that the Papplewick site was private land which, over time, had been widely used (some may remember Papplewick Lido and walking in the grounds and woods) by the public. The project described as “a thread in the web of time”, was to improve access and safeguard the ecological and archaeological resources of the site and has been ongoing for the last 20 years.

The site was originally developed by George Robertson in the late 18th century as a system to supply water to their cotton mills. Having moved to Nottingham from Scotland, a mechanised system was also devised to treat flax with bleach and dye using some of the first steam engines (designed and built by Boulton & Watt).

George Robertson was very much aware of his surname inferring his Scottish connections and he changed it to Robinson. The Scots were not too popular in England at the time. Just a few years earlier Bonnie Prince Charlie had arrived at the gates of Derby.

Stephen gave a potted history of the development, incorporating many interesting facts and some suppositions as to why and how the factories were built at Papplewick on land that was owned by Sir Montague the then Deputy Speaker of Parliament, and using the River Leen. With many a twist and turn, both political and some good old-fashioned skulduggery from Lord Byron, (Uncle of the Poet Byron) the site became a highly successful venture, essentially, a system of millponds and leats enabling the storage and feeding of water to 6 large cotton spinning mills.

Following the death of George Robinson the mills passed into the hands of his 2 sons and this resulted in irreconcilable differences between them, a dispute that dragged through the courts until 1830. The business soon became unprofitable leaving the mills and water system falling into disrepair, buildings being demolished and ponds and leats planted with trees.

The project as a whole would take several evenings to explore so Stephen concentrated on the “humps & bumps” (archaeology) rather than the flora & fauna.  Clear and detailed slides were shown as Stephen took us through a tour of the archaeology they had uncovered so far. He described their scope of work, fund raising, and the use of funds to acquire skills, such as stone masonry that could be used again and again. 

Today the area is owned by the Cooperative Wholesale Society and managed by Notts CC. The Friends of Moor Pond Woods group was formed to support the project. Our speaker, newly retired Stephen Walker was caught in the Web, he is still there 20 years on and he reminded us that the project is still very much work in progress. As so often happens, our speaker’s enthusiasm for his subject was overwhelming and the audience listened, apparently hanging onto every word. Stephen asked if he could be allowed to continue beyond the allotted time and was told by the chairman this was acceptable. The evening concluded with a question and answer period and finally a 20 minute refreshment session with much to chat about or alternatively browse through the many books, exhibits etc. on display.

Our meetings are in the Function Room of the Blidworth Welfare. Doors are open at 6.45 pm and ample parking is available. New members are always welcome; just turn up on the night. There is a small charge on the door of £2 to cover refreshments. Our book, 'Blidworth and the First World War' can be purchased from Blidworth Library Tel. 01623677200, 'Salon 68', 68a Kirklington Road, Rainworth Tel. 01623795511 at a cost of £10, or Email: blidworthhistory@virginmedia.com