Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Town Planning

When I saw this week's theme I thought , " What do I know of this ? " So I set my mind to thinking ....At college circa 1969 we had a tutor who took us for rather odd subjects, a sort of Jack of all trades. Within his variety of lessons /talks/ experiences he included 'Urban Planning', covering such diverse subjects as road building, motorway planning, historical architecture, 20th C architecture, pedestrian walkways, retail complexes, electric vehicles !! WOW and this at a College of Domestic Science ! We went on a visit to Aberdeen City Hall and were shown a huge book of the town plans, going way back and into the future. For Aberdeen had a 'ring road' that was in the making before the second world war. to take traffic from the south side of the city ( by the River Dee ) to the north side (by the River Don ) thus avoiding a crowded city centre with ancient, congested roadways. The southern part passed through the affluent 'west end', where large detached houses were made from the silver granite quarried at the Rubislaw quarry which was situated on the ring road. There are numerous roundabouts on this stretch where roads to the city go in various directions. More recently these have led to rather bad bottlenecks, but must have been far ahead of their time for early motorcars, charabangs etc. After the War there was a rush on house building and many housing estates were established to the north of this road. This time dual carriageways were constructed on the 'ring road'.In my childhood these were centred by thousands of roses grown by a local company "Cockers". Making for a pleasant driving experience. From this road now radiated access roads to the estates of council houses. Even these roads were wide... main through access for buses and through traffic and side parallel access to the houses situated along the sides. I remember "Provost Russ Drive " , "Provost Russell Drive ", and the "Lang Stracht". The ring road finally merging with the Great Western and Great North roads. Well in this vast book that I spoke of were plans laid out for an ' outer ring road ', which to my knowledge has not yet been built. It seems that the 'city fathers' in the past got down and got things done ,whereas today there is too much hesitation for the city desperately needs a new by pass.

In the 1960's , as a hill walker, we often visited Aviemore ( in the Cairngorms ) . Originally a very quiet station halt for intrepid walkers and lone skiers. McDonald decided to make it into a holiday village. By 1967 it was a vast complex providing facilities for conferences, an ice rink, a theatre, a cinema, a swimming pool, Santa Claus land, a dry ski slope, go karting. etc. For me as a skater it was wondeful to have an Olympic sized ice rink, but as a hillwalker it appalled me, as so much had been destroyed and in it's place were chalets, car parks, and a multi storey hotel ! My mother referred to this monstrosity as "a sare thumb", as it loomed above the complex and could be seen from many miles away.

In the early 70's I went to work in Kingussie ( the next village ) and used to take the train to Aviemore to go skating in the evenings. For there were express trains came direct from London to Aviemore in the heyday of the complex taking people for weekends sking.

I wrote this poem about Aviemore Village Complex in 1972.
         
The Cement Centre
 
A city without a soul,
A village with no square of luscious, green grass.
What do these naked walls breed -
People with no attachments,
Homes with no foundations ?
Like plants with no roots -
Parasites of the cement and brick they are.
Crawling, consuming, engulfing human decency.

I visualise it now -
Decay, rot and vegetation
Climbing, clinging to the paving stones
And to the rusting railings.
Great stone pillars supporting
The sky and nothing else.
Fountains long since ceased their play.
An empty theatre echoes of old plays
And equally as old movies.

Like the ruins of Rome
I see this mountain city now -
Forgotten, betrayed.
No village square ever stood there.


I found this old postcard on the internet, showing the theatre, the swimming pool and the fountains circa 1968.

I returned to Aviemore after twenty years away to find that my prediction had come true ! We took children from Elgin to Aviemore ice rink in 1993 to find nearly all the facilities closed and forgotten. For two years we helped out at the two ice rinks, hoping to keep Aviemore open as this was the only place where young people could go for any entertainment. But to no avail. They knocked it down - to build on - but the perma frost that had accumulated made that initially impossible , so it became a car park. A friend of mine sat on the grass and cried as the ice rink was demolished. It had been a blot on the landscape but it had provided hundreds of jobs and brought people in to expand the community. Now it is being marketed as a retirement village.......full circle ?

Kath Curtiss
                     
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