Saturday, April 23, 2011

Walking The Walks

click photo to enlarge
"The Walks", a public park in King's Lynn, Norfolk, differs from most English town and city parks. Firstly, it was laid out in the eighteenth century as a single "promenade" or walk for citizens away from the hustle, bustle and grime of the busy town centre. Most of our parks were created from the mid-nineteenth century and later, as was the case with King's Lynn's other park, St James', which dates from 1902-3. Consequently, rather than a series of sinuous or circular routes through the park there is one dominant, axial thoroughfare to which other, later paths have been added. A record of 1714 describes a "handsome lime-planted walk put in the year before". This main path, shown in the photograph was described in 1773 in the following way: '"The new walk or mall, from the bars of the workhouse to Gannock-gates, is about 340 yards long and 11 yards wide between quick hedges; at convenient distances on each side of the walk a recess is left in the hedge in a semicircular form, where benches are fixed, on which twenty people may fit together. Upon a gentle ascent on the right is a plantation and a shrubbery'".

As you can see, the hedges and the recessed seating have gone, but it remains tree-lined, and punctuated by benches. The park also contains two features unusual in such a place. The Gannock Gate was originally a minor entrance to the walled town. What remains is something of a hotch-potch of a reconstruction, possibly with original materials, but it  acts as a useful focal point and eye-catcher on the main walk. Off to the side is a mound topped by a small but fascinating medieval pilgrimage building - Red Mount Chapel (the subject of a post to come). These features, along with the place's early origins and subsequent Victorian additions, led to The Walks being designated a Grade II historic park in 1998.

I visited The Walks on an unseasonally hot April day, and the sight that I saw reminded me of how the park must have looked in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries when there were fewer forms of leisure available, and a public promenade in the park was seen as a fine way to spend a morning or afternoon. At the point I took this photograph there were relatively few people, but elsewhere The Walks teemed with adults and children soaking up the sunshine, playing soccer, sitting and chatting, eating ice creams and generally having a good time.

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 81mm
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/80
ISO: 125
Exposure Compensation:  -0.67 EV
Image Stabilisation: On