For the majority of students who live off campus, Lenton is your haven for the next couple of years. While it is perfectly easy to sail through the Lenton Experience on a well-established student route that caters for all your physical needs, Lenton has a few diamonds in the rough. If you haven’t found these yet, you’re potentially very unobservant, and definitely missing out.
The first port of call is the drinking establishments. In the name of investigative journalism, I jumped in at the deep end and had my first pint at the Hillside Social Club. You may have seen it tucked away behind Subway on Derby Road with the ominous “Students Welcome” label: a sure-fire way to keep us all away.
Despite this frightening exterior, Hillside has the makings of a student classic, complete with It box, fierce looking darts league and the best bar prices in the area. And for those still mourning the smoking ban, the Hillside has clearly found it difficult to extinguish thirty years of tobacco tang from the upholstery – so you can sniff the sofas with a drink in hand and it’s almost like the good old days.
When it comes to shopping, I wouldn’t even dare to argue with the mighty Sainsburys/Jacksons combo but there are a couple of local alternatives to look into. If you’re Radford side of Lenton, on Ilkeston Road, pop into The Bowl, a corner shop with a Jamaican lilt. Here you can buy every type of root vegetable that ever sprung from the ground, complete with extensive advice on how to cook them with your George Foreman (along with your goat shank).
If, unusually, you get there and neither yams nor sweet potato take your fancy, then the Co-op just up the road has pretty much anything you’d need and for some reason feels a little bit cleaner than Jacksons. On the other side of Derby Road, in Church Square (behind the tower blocks) there’s the exotically named Lenton Tropical Store where it is perfectly possible to pick up a standard pint of milk and loaf of bread.
For shy and retiring health-conscious types, Lenton Leisure Centre on Willoughby Street has a well-equipped gym and runs fitness classes. Particularly pleasant because it means bypassing the sweaty jock types found on campus. Closed in 2004 by the council, residents of Lenton formed a committee to bring it back to life and eventually bought it from the council for the princely sum of ten English pounds last year. This steal is reflected in the membership costs, which, unlike university, are pretty affordable. And if you want free exercise, the Lenton recreational ground on Derby Road has basket ball courts and a really excellent adventure playground, as well as having a good sized piece of turf for running around on.
The ultimate unsung hero of Lenton has to be The Crocus Café, also in Church Square. It’s volunteer-run, vegetarian and Fair Trade but don’t let that put you off – not a hint of smugness sours their carrot cake. You can pick up an amazing lunch for a couple of quid and no one blinks an eyelid if you fancy spending the whole day with espressos and communist manifestos – just don’t flash around your Telegraph.