number 6WALK 6: SOKE PARKWAY SUBWAY TO ORTON SOUTHGATE

“People are of no value at all as far as I am concerned. People can bury each other but the animals have to be helped. Not just rabbits and rats, but all the little animals. Other men kill them and I bury them”.

This walking route begins by edging around Ferry Meadows and Nene Park. The two parks with their lakes, areas for walking and water-sports were created as part of Peterborough’s 1968 expansion plan. The parks were developed from arable farmland in the 1970s into their current form. The park is pleasant enough and enjoyed primarily by small children and bird-watchers entertained by the army of ducks and geese that congregate in the man-made lakes.

Other than the dog walkers and families that enjoy the other facilities here, the park has always been a refuge for teenagers and more subversive activity. Near a fallen stone railway bridge is a small wood with a clearing where the ground has been trodden into a fine brown dust. Rune like symbols have been daubed in a luminous blue onto the trunks of a circle of trees. It is interesting to note that the ritual of marking trees rarely takes the form of offensive words or images. Graffiti on trees generally takes the form of declarations of love. There is perhaps more of an innate respect for trees over man-made buildings.

Orton is the second ‘township’ developed in the new town expansion of 1967. Before the 60s there were only two separate villages – Orton Waterville and Orton Longueville. Although both these villages have expanded, their organisation remains traditional, centered around their original churches, greens, pubs and schools. Unsurprisingly both these areas remain the most affluent and popular of the Ortons. In the other Ortons, there are limited amenities and facilities and the social housing now looks generally tired and oppressive.

New houses now encircle the East of England Showground. The new roads around this area have been named Loch Lomond Road, Dundee Court, Arbroath and Loch Fyne Close despite there being no apparent connection to Scotland. Perhaps developers ran out of appropriate local reference points and instead went for associative names to convince potential buyers that their new estates could really be as peaceful as the wilderness of Scotland’s islands and lochs. In reality some of the houses look out over the desolate flatness of the show ground, which stands empty for much of the year fenced off by a grey band of metal spikes. In the nearby Peterborough Business Park, planners have been less imaginative with their naming and you can find roads named Innovation Way and Commerce Road. Business is less inclined to romanticism.

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I walk through a small woodland area that sits between the East of England Showground and North Road. Cars honk at me derisively as I venture off from the roads and paths into verges of the motorway. In the seclusion of the verge or ‘soft estate’ are a few hundred trees. At the base of the trees, which are around twenty feet tall, can still be seen the black plastic rags of the bags in which they were planted as saplings perhaps a few decades ago. I am reminded that a trees root system is as complex and broad as the canopy of its branches and I wonder how long it will take for the plastic material to degrade completely and finally free the trees for good.

The woodland leads out to the seemingly endless and empty Industrial estate of Orton Southgate. The workers are hidden away inside and the large streets and looming hangar like buildings glower over me as I trespass through. Many of the businesses here appear to be firmly established and the painted buildings and signs are pleasantly retro in colour and style and have faded.

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I found a dead fox near the beginning of the walk and one near its end. The first fox lay nestled next to a discarded atlas by the side of the Soke Parkway. The pages of the Atlas constantly fluttered from the warm polluted air of the passing cars. The second fox lay alone in the man-made wood of plastic socked trees by the side of the North Road. I pictured its last moments dragging its damaged body from the road to this quiet spot to breath out its last moments in fresher area. After finding the fox I stared out for a moment from the spot, out across the flattened grass of the East Anglian Show ground. Wandering along the parkways and industrial estates, it seems quite logical to consider how possible it is for humanity to continue in the same vain for much longer. Walking along the edge of a city draws attention to Natures losing battle with man.

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Soke Park

Orton Southgate