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The original establishment of a major open space for the enjoyment of the people of Long Eaton began in 1905 when 17 acres of land was bought for the sum of £2,650. The land was drained and laid out under the supervision of the surveyor, thus providing the nucleus of what we now know as West Park.
The entrance to the original park, first known as the "King's Ground", was rather inconveniently placed in Princess Street and in 1912 a further 8 acres of land was purchased from the Earl of Harrington taking the eastern boundary up to the Erewash Canal. In 1913 a footbridge was opened giving access from Broad Street to the, newly named, West Park. By 1915 an agreement had been reached which provided a further entrance from Leopold Street.
A further extension to the park was considered in the 1920s which, on reaching maturity in 1928 added an extra 37 acres and placed the western boundary on Wilsthorpe Road. In 1932 a pair of wrought iron gates, purchased from Aston Hall at Aston-On-Trent, were subsequently erected at the Wilsthorpe Road entrance. They still provide the imposing western entrance today.1949 saw the purchase of another 65 acres of land to the south of the park including the Spinney known as Fox Covert, so increasing the area of the park to its present total of 127 acres.Tree Trail
Over the last few years, a "Tree Trail" has been incorporated into the park for the pleasure of visitors. This mile long trail will take approximately 1 hour to complete...
West Park Railway
Gauge was nominal 2 foot. Original motive power was a Ruston diesel loco (cannot recall date of build or exact specification). This was purchased from British Gypsum who had previously used it on the narrow gauge industrial system in one of their mines near Gotham, Notts. Original rolling stock consisted of two open "Manriders" long wheelbase four-wheeler steel-frame vehicles with (I think) four compartments, each seating four (or at a pinch 6) on wooden latted seats. These were purchased from the National Coal Board at Morton colliery near Chesterfield, Derbys.
Rails were bought second hand from British Rail (extracted from H-Stores, on the sight of Railway Technical Centre - extracted from their concrete setting with a pneumatic drill!) and also from a scrapyard at Loughborough. Sleepers and ballast were bought second hand from British Rail, the sleepers being cut in two. A second loco was purchased from Beeston (Nottingham) sewage works. This was a Lister-Blackstone diesel, and was much easier to crank-start than the Ruston, which was an absolute pig - very heavy to swing, and requiring a gymnastic movement at arms' length to flick the compression levers at the right moment.
Ticketing was by proper "Edmondson" card type tickets (printed by Hassell & Lucking of Long Eaton) using a second hand dating press and ticket racks bought from British Rail in a sale of surplus materials. (Remember this was in the days just after Beeching). Owing to various problems the original operating personnel withdrew, and new people took over around 1970. The line was subsequently rebuilt to (I think) 7.1/4 inch gauge and ran in this condition for a year or two before being dismantled.
As early as the 17th century, documentary evidence shows the site as being arable land within an area known as 'Hoselett Field'. In 1819 Fox Covert was owned by Lord Harrington of Elvaston Castle who leased the site to a local family of builders. At that time it was known as 'Brick Kiln Close', and it was a source of good clay for the local brick makers. But once the brick making had ceased, the area was planted up by the Harrington Estate to provide cover for foxes. The Fox Covert was purchased in 1949 by the Long Eaton Urban District Council. Because the Fox Covert site is in a low-lying permanently damp area, it survived in its semi-natural state whilst the rest of West Park was designed for more traditionally recreational pursuits.
The area is part of the River Trent flood plain, the soils built up of river sediment consist mainly of heavy clay with small pockets of sand and silt. The water table is high so therefore natural drainage is very slow. Depressions formed by the extraction of clay involved in brick making, often have standing water, even during the summer months. In winter the area is likely to be more extensively flooded.
Although the whole of Fox Covert has, in some way been influenced by man, the most obvious sign of human interference is the flood bank which splits the site into two parts. This was constructed in 1982 and is designed to protect Long Eaton from exceptional flooding. West Park is the main flood drainage storage area for the town with any flood water first directed into the marshland habitat in the south east corner of the Fox Covert site.
The Fox Covert has an abundance of wildlife, particularly as it is so close to the centre of Long Eaton. It is classed as a Grade 1 site on the Biological Sites Register for Derbyshire, which means it is significantly important within the county. The site is of special importance because it has remained relatively undisturbed and contains a variety of habitats within a small area.
The marshland next to the Erewash Canal contains the colourful Yellow Iris and Purple Loosestrife. The central wet, Willow woodland is particularly important for both insects and Lichens, with a number of old trees providing nesting sites for birds. Flowers that are found within the damper areas include Ragged Robin, Tufted Forget-Me-Not and the very scented Meadow Sweet. On the drier ground Willows are replaced by Oak, Hawthorn and Elder. Plants such as Bramble, Dog Rose and Honeysuckle provide nesting sites for visiting birds such as Whitethroat and Blackcap, as well as the resident Song Thrush, Dunnock and Wren. Open grassland contains mature Hawthorns which are attractive to Warblers and other birds passing through on migration.
The Carved Tree