I’ve never really liked the name of the Forest Recreation Ground. Compare it to Wollaton Park, Woodthorpe Grange or Highfields and it’s clearly lacking some warmth and character. It seems coldly functional as a name, in a Soviet or Orwellian kind of way. I imagine the council had to choose between ‘Forest Recreation Ground’ and ‘Outdoor Leisure Zone’ for the site, and I’m only slightly convinced they made the right decision.
I was perusing some maps of the Gregory Boulevard area earlier and discovered that the wide-open, northern half of Forest Recreation Ground was — around 1875 — the site of a racecourse. I’ve overlaid a portion of the earlier map with a contemporary one (both courtesy of the superb Insight Mapping) and you can see the race course in position.
The strange layout of the modern site is now quite understandable, with the steep banks on the Rock Cemetery side looking down upon the flat area of the Forest where we now walk dogs, play football or cricket or park cars before getting on the tram. In the days of the race course, this would have been a great spot to survey the equine endeavours below. Check the map and — to the left of the race course — you can see the tramlines, whilst in the upper right you can see the shape of the Goose Fair roundabout. The ‘Forest’ bit of the park’s name makes more sense looking at the old map, since from even that quite small portion you can see it’s awash with trees.
if there’s a bit of Nottingham you think’s an awkward or strange shape, or a street that ends or turns abruptly, I recommend doing a comparison with an older map on Insight Mapping, and you might find a reason for the strangeness.It can even help explain strange names that seem inappropriate in modern times.