The Magazine of Lenton Local History Society

Lenton Memories
The Tottle Brook

from Martin Harrison

The Tottle Brook played a formative part in my early years. It rises in what was known as "Snaky Woods" flows down Park Side and under Derby Road (A52). It made a brief appearance behind what was the Essoldo picture theatre before being piped under Woodside Road. Prior to late 1950s Woodside Road ended at the boundary of the Lenton Abbey Estate and it was only later that an extension was constructed through to University Boulevard. Woodside Road terminated in a corrugated iron fence, which to the kids of Lenton Abbey was known as the 'tins'. Between the tins and Beeston Lane was farmland, through which the Tottle Brook flowed free. Part of this land between the Tottle Brook and what is now the Woodside Road extension was leased to the Lenton Gregory's football team as their home ground. Dairy cattle had free access to this area and before each of Lenton Gregory's home games cow pats had to be removed or at least as many as they could.

For a Lenton Abbey lad, the Tottle Brook and this farmland was our play ground. "Going to play over tins" was what we told our parents and they were quite happy. How can you misbehave in a cow paddock?

Well... I don't think it is misbehaving. We lit fires and tried to roast potatoes stolen from the fields, a practice known as "scrumping". Scrumping also applied to apples, pears and peaches from Boots experimental farm on Beeston Lane but that's another story. We tried to cook the potatoes on our fires. Most of the time they were ended up raw with a coating of charcoal, or if we got distracted, turned completely into charcoal. Stream jumping was a very popular activity. A sort of 'follow the leader' game where five or six lads would wend their way along the banks, the leader jumping from one bank of the brook to the other, with all the others following on behind. It inevitably ended in someone getting a 'bootie', that is, not making the opposite side and ending with a boot full of water, sometimes two and occasionally falling fully in.

Photograph by Paul Bexon
A Bridge Too Far or rather A Grille Too Far for our intrepid
explorers. A 2005 shot of the location where the Tottle Brook
once fed into the paddling pool.

Down near the crossing, about midway between the tins and Beeston Lane, at the point where the dairy cows used to cross the Tottle Brook after having grazed on Lenton Gregory's pitch in order to make their way back to the milking sheds, there was a swing. It had a rope strung from a branch of a large tree which overhung the brook, with an old bicycle frame attached. We would hang on to this and climb up the trunk of the tree and swing out over the Tottle Brook. Boys being boys, I can remember a couple of kids not being 'permitted' to land back on the bank and who would be left to swing in ever decreasing arcs until they let go and fell into the brook.

Preceding Bonfire Night there was the ready acquisition of bangers. A Little Demon, a very powerful explosive firework in the late 1950s, placed in a cow pat was good fun, if you were the one doing the placing.

A big thing for us was the 'tunnel' which took the waters of the Tottle Brook under Beeston Lane and on to Highfields paddling pool in a five foot concrete pipe. The challenge was to go down it and through to Highfields. On one particular occasion I remember taking a maggot tin belonging to my elder brother from our shed in which we put a lighted candle and allowed it to float along through the tunnel. We three intrepid explorers followed the light of the floating candle. It was very scary as the tin floated faster than we wanted to go and there were all sorts of spider's webs and scary things in there, not to mention the smell. Finally we got to the outlet at Highfields paddling pool only to discover that it was barred and we couldn't get out. That is when we discovered that the Tottle Brook's depth goes from five inches to five foot just before the outlet into the paddling pool. We returned by the same route without the benefit of the candle and with our leader, thankfully not me, a very wet explorer.

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