New Walk, Leicester
New Walk is a unique walkway from the Council offices close to the city centre.
The walk stretches uphill south for about one kilometre to Victoria Park and the De Montfort Hall.
Created in 1785, New Walk is lined with Regency, Victorian and contemporary commercial and residential buildings which are fronted with trees and supported by three grassed areas, a museum and art gallery, and two churches.
Friends of New Walk
August 1994, Leicester City Council announced a Capital Action Programme to upgrade the New Walk Conservation Area and called a public meeting to consider the initiatives proposed.
It became clear that there was a need to form a voluntary association to monitor and comment on these and future planning proposal, as well as other developments affecting New Walk. Consequently, in November 1994, three local residents consulted people living and working in the area and the decision was made to form a ‘Friends of New Walk Association’ with the purpose of:
- keeping New Walk a safe traffic-free walkway for pedestrians;
- achieving a tree management policy;
- increasing the residential occupancy in the Conservation Area;
- promoting improvements to the New Walk townscape of parks, gardens, and buildings. A small membership fee was levied and within a year there were over two hundred members.
Newsletters were regularly distributed and the local media used to publicise the importance of New Walk. However, by 1998, although much had been accomplished, The Friends decided that a reorganisation of the Association was needed to focus its efforts better and improve its fundraising ability.
As aresult, the Friends of New Walk Charitable Trust was established. The Trust operates with eleven Trustees composed of business and professional people and local residents.Since 1994, The Friends have worked to further their objectives. For example, over two consecutive years, 1995-96, they pioneered the use of New Walk as a venue for popular Promenade Festivals of openair music, colourful processions and a variety of arts and craft stalls. In 1997, it planted the first sponsored tree on New Walk and commissioned an expert’s tree survey to monitor the City Council’s Arboricultural Survey.
In furtherance of its aim to encourage more people to live on New Walk, the then Association obtained planning permission to retain the house, number 58/60 New Walk, in residential use. This was a first step towards advancing the Council’s own planning policy to encourage more residential occupation in the conservation Area which is now being put into action.
The Friends support the City Council’s policy of keeping New Walk a walkway. At their request, the City Council carried out a survey which estimated that two hundred cyclists used the promenade on working weekdays, potentially annoying and a danger to the hundreds of pedestrians who prefer to walk freely along it every day.
It was The Friends who were influential in placing ‘No cycling’ signs at intervals along New Walk, designed and provided by the City Council. In an attempt to respond to the needs of pedestrians and cyclists, The Friends put considerable effort into investigating the possibility of providing a cyclist route parallel to New Walk by linking East and West Princess Streets with a bridge, only to conclude that, for the time-being, the idea was not feasible. In 1998, The Friends supported the City Council’s Conservation Partnership Scheme in collaboration with English Heritage.
This scheme resulted in several improvements to New Walk with the purpose of restoring the area to some of its earlier appearance by conserving the architectural and histories character of the buildings; most noticeable, perhaps, is the replacement of Victorian-style railings over the length of New Walk.
Of importance, to, is the significant contribution the Friends made to the Council’s New Walk Restoration Plan successfully submitted to the Heritage Lottery Fund Urban Parks programme. (New Walk is listed Grade 2 in the Register of Parks and Gardens of Historic Interest in England). The implementation of the plan commenced in 2002 to bring about a major enhancement to the New Walk townscape, including a strategy to care for the trees and the planting of more. The aim was to fulfil many of the Trust’s objectives by ensuring New Walk remains Leicester’s ‘jewel in its crown’ for the enjoyment of its citizens and visitors to the city and an increasingly pleasant place to live and work.
The Future of New Walk
The Trust considered the City Council’ Public Art Scheme for New Walk, proposing their own sculpture project for the promenade to celebrate the life and work of well-known Leicester people past and present. It also sponsored the Leicester International Music Festival on New Walk in 2002 and in collaboration with the British Music Society issued a CD (BMS Environs 018) of a Centenary Concert held in the Fraser Noble Concert Hall, University of Leicester, October 1991, devoted to the music of the distinguished Leicester composer, Benjamin Burrows (1891-1966), who lived on New Walk. In furtherance of the Trust’s aim to make the public more aware of the environmental quality of New Walk, the Trust asked Dr. Helen Boynton, the well-known local historian, to write this illustrated ‘History of New Walk.’
An important outcome of the Friends of New Walk’s many activities is to place it at the centre of a network of local and central government agencies, the police, environmental,
educational and cultural organisations and the media, as well as the public, all of whom are keen to promote, safeguard, or use New Walk. This being so, the Trust has established a website on the Leicester Mercury’s Beehive Community Network to provide updated information about New Walk and the work of the Trust.
The Trust is financed by donations and by membership subscriptions to the Friends of New Walk Supporters’ Club Competition.
The club, supervised by Whitehall Industrial Securities Ltd, welcomes all who wish to further the work of the Trust and thereby help to ensure, well into the future, that New Walk continues to be a delightful, traffic-free, treelined promenade unique in Britain and special to Leicester.