Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Erewash Canal walk part 2: Sandiacre to Long Eaton

Walking along the Erewash canal from Sandiacre to Long Eaton (on Saturday 1 December 2012) was quite different to my walk a couple of weeks ago along the canal from Sandiacre to Trowell. There were more buildings for a start and the A52 was much nosier than the M1. I barely noticed the latter, whereas I heard the A52 before I saw it and it remained with me long after it had disappeared from view. This could, of course, be all down to atmospherics. On another day, the A52 may have been as quiet as a church mouse. The walk took me sixty minutes at a leisurely pace.

The red line on the map shows the section of towpath I followed from north to south.

A view of the Erewash Canal basin at Sandiacre looking south.

The bridge in the distance is the A52 dual carriageway. On the west side, the canal is lined with houses fronted by a small road.

Dockholme Lock and cottage. A group of walkers were taking a drinks break when I was passing by.

This plaque can be seen on the cottage wall overlooking the lock.

At the south end of the lock, there is a small bridge and beyond it a small race which carries excess water around the lock.

Just beyond the lock, to the south on the west side, is a large allotment, with a good few homemade poly-tunnels.

On my side of the Erewash Canal (the east side) was a field full of young heffers, two of whom were resting together.

Running not one hundred yards away in places, from the towpath on the east side of the Erewash Canal is the River Erewash. At this point there is a footbridge across the river. To the right is the Toton railway sidings, yet this pic would have you believe that you are in the middle of idyllic English countryside.

A little further down, I came across this drifting narrowboat blocking the canal. There was no on on it.

Then a little further down I came upon this canal maintenance boat, with its 'watchman'. There was no work going on.

The boat was being used as a base by workmen and volunteers rebuilding a section of the canal bank.

Just beyonh, I came upon two swans, one of which was on the wrong side of the netting separating the towpath from the canal bank. By going very slowly, I got around the swan, which did not move. The other swan hissed at me a couple of times.

The whole length of my walk there were gaps in the canal fencing like this, where folk had broken through to make their own short cuts. I have long been of the view that fencing off canals (and railways) protects no one. In fact, such fences encourage vandalism and trepass and, when there is an emergency, make access difficult if you do not know how someone got on the towpath (or railway) in the first place.

The Erewash Canal has plenty of good information boards like this.

Along one section, there is a raised public footpath between the river and the canal.

At this point, a path heads off towards Long Eaton and a large supermarket. Again, it looks deceptively rural.

Close by the footpath between the canal and river was this tree full of hanging trainers. In city areas it is siad that they mark 'gang' boundaries. Out here, I have no idea as to waht so many trainers could mean.

This old factory chimney has been given a new lease of life as a telecommunications mast. I suppose it is better than knocking it down.

As you approach Long Eaton from Sandiacre. you come across houses where the occupants have created canalside patios, where they can relax.

There is also acres of empty industrial sites like this one. A man walking two greyhounds told me that planning permission had been given for eighty houses on this site.

Closer to Long Eaton, there was this 'apartments' development. It is a pity that the planners did not insist on better landscaping beside the canal. If I had been the developer I would have wanted to maximise the potential of flats with canalside views.

On my side of the Erewash canal, there were several streets like this, all coming to a dead end where they met the towpath.

Many of the older houses in Long Eaton backing onto the canal had doors punched through their back wall, none quite as posh as this one, which had not seen paint inyears. What intrigued me more though was the brickwork at ground level to the left of the doorway. It is a curved brick arch reminiscent of a window. I cannot believe that there was (or is) a basement at this level.

Amazing, almost in the centre of Long Eaton, this abandoned mill has gone undeveloped. In Sandiacre, a similar mill has been turned into plush apartments (see my first Erewash canal posting before this blog entry).

This view of the mill's canalside elevation shows quite clearly that it os a building of elegant proportions, well worthy of a new lease of life.

Then I was at the end of the section I planned to walk and I climbed these steps to the main road which runs between Long Eaton and Derby and…

…this is where I finished my walk, five minutes away in Long Eaton's Saturday market, befire catch a Trent-Barton indiGO bus back home to Lenton. Altogether, an enjoyable three hours.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Nottingham City Council from the Erewash

The River Erewash. To the left (west) is Derbyshire and Long Eaton. To the right (east) is Toton railway sidings and Nottinghamshire. At this point I am standing on a footbridge barely fifty  yards from the Erewash Canal. This county border / boundary line has endured for hundreds of years, yet much of the area to the west is very much part of the greater Nottingham conurbation. Surrounded by industry, railways and housing is this idyllic spot. A great place for thinking and walking.

Yesterday I walked the Erewash Canal from Sandiacre to Long Eaton. Quite different from my last walk from Sandiacre to Trowell. I took some pics and will be posting these shortly, but first some thoughts about the future of Nottingham City Council. I'm half-way through updating information about the number of voters there are per electoral ward in the city. I first did this exercise back in 2000 when I was compiling proposals for new wards in Nottingham. I recently read that Nottingham's population has risen from 282,900 in 1999 to 306,700 in 2012 and that the Census totals for 2001 and 2011 are unreliable because, according the City Council's website, 'a considerable number of pople were missed by the Census, particularly young men'.

This prompted me to look at information about the size of the electorate in Nottingham during the same period. It makes interesting reading:

1999 city election: 207,085 voters
2003 city election: 195,409 voters
2007 city election: 192,607 voters
2011 city election: 200,533 voters
2012 (28 Nov)      : 207,718 voters

So. whilst the City's population has risen by 8.4%, the number of voters has risen by only 0.3% and this is before the Coalition has introduced individual voter registration instead of the present system of household registration. In other words, Labour has a poor record when it comes to voter registration in Nottingham. Clearly, 2007 was a low point and things have improved a little since then. My own ward, Dunkirk and Lenton, had 22.1% fewer voters in November 2012 than it did in May 1999. The neighbouring ward of Radford and Park, on the other hand, saw the number of registered voters increase by 16.4% during the same period.

Dunkirk and Lenton ward has a very high percentage of adults in full-time education (ie. students) and we will see how many when more detailed numbers relating to the 2011 Census are published in the near future, but by the City Council's own admission, the real total will actually be higher. However, Radford and Park ward also has a large student population, so why have more voters registered there than in Dunkirk and Lenton?  I don't know the answer, but it is a question I have asked the City Council.

I have also been looking at voting trends across Nottingham's present wards during the three City Council elections they have been used for (2003, 2007 and 2011). During the first two Labour was in power nationally and in 2011 the Coalition had been in power for a year and these things are clearly a factor in how people vote in local elections. Come May 2015, it is very likely that we will have City Council elections and the General Election on the same day, which will push up voter turnout.

Over the next few weeks I plan to spend some time compiling some summaries of the electoral information I have collated. Taking on the Labour Party in Nottingham is a challenge and a half by any measure. The Party is well organised and resourced. It is by any measure, a formidable election machine and has to be admired for this fact.

For the past twenty years, the Conservatives and Liberals have been dismal and ineffective. The Liberals at their peak split into two factions within weeks and the Conservatives have never ventured far from their own 'comfort zones'. Personally, I would trust neither with power anywhere. I have never voted for them and never will.

But my own dissatisfaction with Labour means that I am seeking a radical alternative which might be able to mount a serious challenge in 2015. It can be done, but with limited resources, especially money, it will not be easy and any challenge will have to be in all twenty wards. No political group which contests only a few seats ever deserves to be taken seriously, except in exceptional circumstances (usually relating to a local issue, specific to the ward in question). Such a group needs to have a manifesto which sets it apart from other political groups.  I have some ideas which I plan to elaborate over the next few months.

All these things and more were in my head yesterday and I walked along the Erewash Canal. I'll be back with the pics over the next couple of days.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Erewash Canal 90 minute walk: Sandiacre to Towell

At the beginning of 2012 I promised myself that I would walk what remains of the Erewash Canal. This 'ambition' was partly prompted by the fact that Erewash Borough Council, a few years ago, created, with other bodies, an Erewash Canal Trail. Like so much else in my life, I have left this intent to the very last moment, so I only did the first section of the walk last Wednesday. It was a cold, grey, overcast day. The kind of day I actually like. What follows is little more than a collection of photographs and a map (the yellow line shows the course of the canal, which is the right of the line). The top of the map is north and the towpath runs along the east side of the canal.

 Not the best of maps, but for local folk who might be interested. Sandiacre is at the bottom and I got there on a Trent-Barton i4 bus, which runs every 10 minutes along the Derby Road from Nottingham Broadmarsh Bus Station and Friar Lane, in the city centre, via Lenton and the QMC Hospital, towards Stapleford, Sandiacre and Derby.

Trowell is at the top and Trent-Barton's 'two' bus and runs between Nottingham (from the Victoria Centre Bus Station) and Ilkeston / Cotmanhay, via Canning Circus, Ilkeston Road, Radford and Wollaton every twelve minutes, so it's an easy bus for Lenton residents to use.

I got off a stop early, so that I could walk over the long railway bridge towards Sandiacre and cross into Derbyshire on foot.

I also wanted to see what the River Erewash looked like at this point on its journey to the River Trent. A bit like the River Leen at Lenton in truth. Both were once 'working' rivers and played an important role in the early days of the industrial revolution, when they had a good few mills along much of their length.

And this is where Station Road, as you enter Sandiacre, goes over the Erewash Canal, looking north.

You get down onto the towpath on the south side of bridge and this is the view south towards Toton and Long Eaton. It was at this point that I decided to walk north to Trowell. Up to this moment I could have gone in either direction.

The canal towpath has lots of information boards like this.

I took this picture standing under the bridge looking north. The building on the left is The Red Lion pub and, on another day, might be a good place to visit.

An old factory which has been converted into apartments. The road they are on looks like Bridge Street

A little further along, on the canal's west bank, the gardens of some modern houses, which have been built on Mornington Close.

On the northern edge of Sandiacre, the canal runs straight and there was not a soul to be seen. To my right was the main London – Sheffield railway line and the long abandoned Stanton Gate New Sidings, hidden form view by thickets of Willow and Ash. On the west bank there are a good few modern factory and warehouse units, in front of which there are a few narrow boats moored. All appear to be lived in.

This footbridge runs from the east bank of the Erewash canal towards Stapleford and its length gives some idea of just how big the Stanton Gate sidings used to be. The trees in the distance have all grown up where the yards used to be. Now, only four railway tracks remain and these are just visible through the iron trellis work.  

The footbridge is in line with this canal bridge. This pic is looking south, towards Sandiacre, because I was able to catch a reflection of the town's parish church on its northern edge. It's location is a little puzzling, but I have since found out that the church dates back to 'Saxon times', so I'll try and find my way there on another day. I can only assume that, at some point, in history, Sandiacre has 'moved'.

If I remember correctly, this is 'Junction Lock', one of four along this stretch of the Erewash canal, which has a race to one side.

A view from Junction Lock north towards Trowell.

Most of the time I was on my own. These were the only cyclists I saw and of the eight or nine people I saw, probably five had a dog with them. Everyone exchanged greetings. In the background is the M1 motorway, amazingly free of traffic, given that this is at about 3pm on a Wednesday afternoon.

Another narrow canal bridge between Toton and Trowell, with a lock just beyond…

…which I took a picture of. During my walk the few narrow boats that I did were all moored. It will be interesting to see if I see any 'moving' boats when I walk other sections of the Erewash canal.

The view of the River Erewash with a London–Sheffield railway line bridge in the distance. The river is the county boundary along most of its length between Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, so areas like Sandiacre and Long Eaton, which are very much part of the Greater Nottingham conurbation, are actually in Derbyshire.

Seeing this sign beside the canal, I knew I must be close to journey's end. In the distance you might just be able to make out the tower of Trowell parish church.

The only narrow boat I sawed moored at this end of my walk.

This section of the canal is obviously used by anglers for competitions. Every five yards or so, the canalside vegetation was cut back so that anglers could fish. Most had numbers like this in place. I believe that where an angler gets to fish in a competition is determined by which number they draw from a bag.  I have no idea whether '108' is a good spot or not.

The trees to the left hide housing and to the right are acres of football pitches and a large pavilion. Not that I could hear anything, except the sound of gulls and crows.

And around the next bend I came to Trowell and the Nottingham Road canal bridge…

…next to which there was another lock and The Gallows Inn public house. For many folk, this stretch of the Erewash Canal makes for a perfect walk. Ninety minutes long at an amble and with a pub at each end, plus regular bus services.

And as I turned from taking the picture of The Gallows Inn, what did I see speeding towards me, but a Trent-Barton 'two' bound for Nottingham and home. Luckily, I didn't have too long to wait for the next bus and then it was home for a nice cup of tea and a biscuit with Susan.

I won't pretend for one moment that my walk was through idyllic countryside. It wasn't, but history and post-industrial scrub surrounded me for much of my walk and there were plenty of clues as to why the Erewash Canal was constructed (it opened in 1779 according to Wikipedia) and, despite the fact that it was joined by the railway in 1848, it continued to carry cargo until 1952. 

The Erewash Canal is part of my urban England. I have spent my live living in places others spend much of their life trying to escape from. They do not see that, beneath what is no more than a veneer of greyness and drabness, there is a far richer landscape full of people, past and present, who have made us what we are today. We are all part of the same heritage.

I also found a website / blog about the Erewash Valley which might be of interest.