Sunday, 21 April 2013

Happy days are here again

Today I have posted some pics on my West End Bowlers blog celebrating the start, albeit two weeks late, of the 2013 outdoor bowls season. It was typically anarchic as my photograph of Jim lying down shows. West End Bowls (& Social Club) are always in need of new members and the great thing is that, because of a grant the club received lat year from Sport England, anyone interested in playing bowls can play with the club free-of-charge at first. It's a great deal and Nottingham City Council are being very supportive, having agreed to sale West End Bowls four 'open' season tickets.

We're also a couple of weeks away from the 'Bluebell season'. It's very short and not to be missed — which is why I take myself off to Oldmoor Wood, near Strelley village every year, for a walk and a couple of hours surrounded by Bluebells. Last year, I blogged about my visit with friends from Stoke-on-Trent (click here to see blog). This year I planning to visit with friends from the Beeston WEA writing class I attend. If you live in Nottingham and want to go, see my map below, which promotes Nottingham City Transport's 35 bus route as well.

If I had just one day to show someone around Nottingham, I would use a 35 to take a tour of the city. I could show them all the things I am proud of. I would ask them to meet me in the Market Square by one of the lions outside The Council House at about 8am and would try to have them back by 6pm. Ten hours would be a push, but I think I could do it. Watch this space for a future posting on the subject (I'll do it by the end of May 2013 I promise). In the meantime look at my blog from last year and copy my map. Perhaps we'll bump into one another looking at Bluebells in Oldmoor Wood!

To end, my three favourite pics from last year...

I was this close to a Tree Creeper, quite a rare bird, and stood watching it for an age, until I realised that it was not moving for dear of being seen and my friend Paul took this long-range pic with his posh digital camera. A treasured moment.

This is my idea of heaven. Perfection.

This is not Tuscany, but the edge of Nottingham from Oldmoor Wood, with the M1 motorway just visible in the lower half of the pic on the right-hand side. OK, you can hear hear the traffic rumbling in the distance, but in the wood itself, nothing. Just silence broken by birdsong.

If you have never been to a Bluebell wood or it's been a long time since you last visited one, find a few hours to go this year. Heaven on Earth awaits.

I am hoping this week to finish my Erewash Canal walk.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Tomorrow is the day and out of place

Tomorrow sees the start of the 2013 bowls season, delayed by one week because of all the bad weather. The pavilion is all shuttered and closed up, but from tomorrow it will burst into life every day, as bowlers like me dig out their woods in the hope that this year will be much drier than 2012.

I'm going to make my regular day Tuesday in the hope that we can attract new players and will be making a day of it when the better weather comes. The Lenton high-rise flats in the background are being demolished over the coming twelve months, so next year's photograph will probably look a little different, assuming work goes ahead as planned.

Talking of different things. Here is photograph for nerds. Clearly visible on the left-hand side of the photo is The Savoy cinema on the Derby Road in Lenton, but the bus is wrong. It shows the number '28', when it should be '36'. Susan and I followed it back from Beeston on a Trent-Barton 'Indigo' bus, which got ahead of it in Lenton, so when we got off, I waited and took this photograph. The driver has obviously pressed the wrong buttons on the pad controlling the destination blind and the fact that it says 'Victoria Centre' is enough as far as its passengers are concerned.

Based on some if my blog material, the Nottingham Post invited me to write a short column once a month on 'Going Public' and the first column appeared last Monday (8 April 2013). They have another three 'in the bag', which I have already written, and they have used two of my recent Erewash Canal walks as well. Hardly an overnight success, but it is nice to picked up on.

I have been out of action for a couple of months or so recovering from a small stroke (I lost the use of my left-hand and wrist for about ninety minutes and I am left-handed), so I was under orders to take things easy. I'm on medication and have less energy at the present time, but I'm getting there, thanks to our wonderful NHS. Everyone has been kind and supportive, but I do want to start doing this blog once a week again at least, so watch this space.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Erewash Canal Walk Part 4: Langley Mill south to Cotmanhay

I'm slowly getting there. One more section and I will have walked the entire length of the Erewash Canal. Each pic covers some aspect of 'the walk'.

We caught a Trent-Barton No.1bus from Nottingham. The destination board can be confusing. Whilst all the buses go to Eastwood, after that they go three different ways and this is the one which will drop you off by the Great Northern pub.

However, Susan and I got off in Eastwood and had a bacon roll and tea here before beginning our walk. The food was good, wholesome and cheap compared to some places.
From here we walked the half-mile to the canal at Langley Mill.

The Great Northern pub sits right beside the Langley Mill Lock, with a small marina / canal basin in between.

Langley Mill Lock was full to overflowing as this picture shows. I have not seen this on lock gates for a very long time.  This end is the Erewash Canal and the other end what remains of the Cromford Canal.

This close-up of the lock gates at the end which open into the Cromford Canal Basin, which is no more than a canal basin going nowhere.

The sign says it all. Once three important canals met here and this was an important canal 'hub'. Now it is where the Erewash Canal ends. Any boats which get this far from Trent Lock by the River Trent in Long Eaton have to turn around and go back.

The width of the Erewash Canal looking south from Langley Mill gives a good clue as to how busy this would have been, even seventy years ago.

Along sections of the canal, fencing has been torn down and carted off wholesale, probably for use as firewood. We saw several styles like this. You can see the same thing on other sections we have walked.

Most of the towpath between Langley Mill and Eastwood Lock is little more than a mud path and, along a few stretches, heavily churned up as this pic shows. It is also the noisiest section of the Erewash Canal because of its proximity to the very busy Eastwood Bypass.

This is where what remains of the disused Nottingham Canal begins. About one hundred yards from the Erewash Canal and is signposted as 'The Erewash Trail' — something we plan to walk another day, beginning at Wollaton Vale in Nottingham. Our old A-Z Map show the canal coloured blue, indicating water. Unfortunately, it is now all overgrown at this point.

Eastwood Lock, where the towpath changes sides, from the west bank to the east bank.

Here, a canal race carries the excess water away down one side of the lock, so you avoid the water overflowing the top of the lock gates, as you saw in the earlier  pic of the Langley Mill Lock.

Just south of Eastwood Lock there are the remains of two large pillars suggesting that something quite large once crossed the Erewash Canal at this point. Looking at a 1921 Ordnance Survey map (no.129, Nottingham & Loughborough), which shows the area in some detail, the bridge  remains above and viaduct / piers in the picture below are both marked and there is a bridge across the nearby Nottingham Canal (which from Shipley Gate to Langley Mill ran very close together).

What we have is the remains of a railway line linking two Midland Railway Company lines. The linking railway ran between New Eastwood and Shipley Gate across the two canals, but by 1921 only dashes remain on the OS map for the section between New Eastwood and Eastwood Lock on the Erewash Canal. One hundred years later their once presence is still etched in a 21st century landscape. This is the where much of the joy from canal walking comes. Looking out for things others might miss, then going home and playing detective, knowing that the same walk in a couple of years will reveal more hidden secrets.

Beyond the canal bridge and between two of the disused railway's viaduct piers you can see the River Erewash, which flows under the canal at this point.

Turning my camera around 180 degrees and you have the River Erewash flowing towards the River Trent. This pic was taken from the canal towpath.

Shipley Gate Lock looking north towards Langley Mill.

The Erewash Canal and the Midland Railway are what you might call 'geographical buddies'. They both run close together through the length of the Erewash Valley, often within sight of one another as other pics in this series of walks show. Both were constructed during the relatively early days of the industrial revolution, within fifty years of one another. One at the end of the eighteenth century and the other during the second quarter of the nineteenth century. This pic is where the railway crosses the canal, from running on the west to to the south the railways moves to the east side of the canal's northern section. Today, the bridge is modern looking, so I'm going to look for a photograph of the previous bridge which, if I find, I will include in this blog at some point in the future.

During the two hours we walked we saw only one passenger train, one goods train and one engine on its own. The 1921 OS map shows sixteen stations close to the Erewash Canal: 2 in Langley Mill; Eastwood, Shipley Gate; Newthorpe & Greasley; Awsworth, 2 in Ilkeston, Ilkeston (main line); Trowell (near Gallow's Inn); Stanton Gate; Sandiacre; Long Eaton (town); Sawley Junction (now Long Eaton) and Trent (east across from Trent Lock, where the cottages close to the railway track remain as you pass on Nottingham — Loughborough trains looking south). Today there are just two stations: Langley Mill, which re-opened a few years ago, and Long Eaton, neither of which are central to the communities they serve.

There was also the Derby Canal which joined the Erewash Canal just south of Sandiacre, plus countless railway lines, a good few of which were stationless and no doubt  served
colleries and iron works, like the line from Stanton Gate to Dale Abbey.
to be continued later today (5 April)...

From Shipley Gate Lock to Cotmanhay, the Erewash runs in long straight sections with gentle linking curves and is at its quietest, away from the Eastwood By-pass. This is the view  of canal looking north, as you approach the Cotmanhay canal bridge.

The Bridge Inn on Bridge Street, Cotmanhay, where we finished this section of our Erewash Canal walk. We celebrated at 4pm in a lively and friendly public bar with a cup of coffee and a bag of crisps.

This is the view from the Cotmanhay canal bridge looking south, with the Bridge Inn just visible on the right edge of the pic.

Less than five minutes after leaving the Bridge Inn, we were waiting on Cotmanhay Road for a no.2 Trent-Barton bus to take us back to Lenton. They run every twelve minutes and within thirty minutes we were within sight of home, having caught once glance glimpse of the Erewash Canal, as our bus crossed crossed over at Gallow's Inn, where Part 1 of this series ended.

Te section between Cotmanhay and the Gallow's Inn on the road between Trowell and Ilkeston is probably as built up as it is between Trent Lock and Long Eaton. It hugs the railway, except where acres of modern warehouses block the view and on the west side, opposite the towpath are houses and the occasional open space. With this part completed, I can now fairly say that I have walked the Erewash Canal, all seventeen miles of it, and, in doing so, I have gained a greater appreciation of its historical significance and industrial importance. The Erewash Valley is a kind of East Midlands 'Black Country', with a string of local communities hugging its banks as worthy of our attention as Derby and Nottingham.

Most importantly, it is a really great canal to walk and explore by bus, with never more than a few minutes to wait for a Trent-Barton bus, be it Langley Mill, Cotmanhay, Trowell, Sandiacre or Long Eaton, which will whisk you to and from Nottingham.

Sometime over then next few weeks, I will give the Erewash canal its own page on my blog.
It has also prompted me to explore what remains of the Nottingham canal between Wollaton and Langley Mill, so watch out for postings.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Erewash Canal walk Part 3: Sawley Marina to Long Eaton

I’ve always loved canals, but I’ve never wanted to own a narrow boat, although I have thought at times it would be nice to live beside a canal. Boats are a bit like cars and bikes. They kid you into believing that they are liberating, when they tie you to a place. Go anywhere with one and you have to stay with it. Oh, you may go a few miles, but at some point you have to turn around and go back. Whereas bus and train walkers, only have to go one way. The bus or train takes you to your starting point, or close by, then at the other end it takes you home.

A Trent-Barton 'SkyLink' bus runs alongside the Erewash Canal as it returns to Nottingham from East Midlands Airport. This is the bus which took us from Lenton to Sawley Marina, where we began our walk. It runs every thirty minutes. We can also get to this part of our walk from Lenton on a Trent-Barton 'Indigo' bus as well, so we are spoilt for choice. The other Trent-Barton bus route along this road is Trent-Barton's 'My 15' bus service, which crosses the Erewash canal no less than four times as it snakes its way along the Erewash Valley to Ilkeston via Long Eaton, Sandiacre, Stapleford and Toton.

As a kid, I played next to, and cycled along, the Grand Union Canal near Wembley, where I grew up. My sixteenth birthday found me walking the Grand Union Canal with ‘Pop’, my maternal grandfather, from Cassiobury Park near Watford in Hertfordshire to the centre of Birmingham over five days, staying in pubs and B&Bs along the way, no change of clothes or a toothbrush, but it was 1960 and my grandmother had died three months before. I think Pops wanted to get away, so it just happened, as life’s best adventures usually do.

Little did I know in 1960 that ten years later I would be making Birmingham my home and pushing my kids in their pushchair  along the very same canal and writing about it. In 1980 I moved to Nottingham, my home ever since and I have walked along the canal from Lenton into town, or the station, most weeks.

With the help of bus maps I soon learned that there were plenty of canal and river  walks in and around the city, all with the added attraction that there are no hills to climb and you’re never far from a pub or a café — they cling to canals like limpets.

Somehow, I never managed the Erewash Canal until now. I must have crossed it a thousand times in a bus, a train or a car, but I never ventured once onto its towpath.  Back in 1988, I bought The Great Towpath Walk From London to York by Brian Bearshaw, published by Robert Hale Publishers, which devotes an entire chapter to the Nottingham Canal and River Trent between Trentlock and Gunthorpe. It is a small masterpiece and one of my favourite books. In the chapter, there is one paragraph about the Erewash Canal. It probably tells you all you need to know, so here it is:

‘At Trentlock the river (Trent) hits a crossroads which is also the start of the Erewash Canal running north for twelve miles. The Erewash was promoted by Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire colliery owners to transport coal from the Erewash Valley. The canal was completed in 1779, from Long Eaton to Langley Mill in D H Lawrence country. It cost £21,000 to build and was one of the most prosperous canals in the country, with trade from collieries, ironworks, brickworks and foundries. It has survived to provide boaters with a pleasant bit of navigable water, and walkers a lovely day out’.

I’m not sure the Erewash can be done in a day if you want to really enjoy the experience. There’s too much to see. Above all, it’s a friendly canal where folk exchange nods and greetings, usually no more than a word, be they on a boat, a bike, walking or with a dog (or two). It makes the Nottingham Canal seem positively hostile. No wonder I have fallen in love with the Erewash. I hope you do too.

What follows is some of the pics I took on the walk.

Sawley Marina is a bit like a large car park or a caravan site.

Sawley Marina is separated from the River Trent by two locks — one at each end.

Whatever way you approach Trent Lock, there are signs like this one and in the background there is alway Ratcliffe-on-Soar Power Station with its magnificent cooling towers. At one time, power stations in the Trent valley generated 27% of Britain's electricity. This was because of the proximity of coal in every direction.

Trent Lock Inn, where Susan and I rested an hour, enjoying coffee and cake.

Where the Erewash Canal joins the River Trent. Notice the sign to the right.

Trent Lock on the Erewash Canal, with seasonal tea rooms behind. Both times we have been here it has been closed, despite the sign saying they opened until '6pm'.

The Steamboat Inn beside Trent Lock. The tea rooms are to its right and Trent Lock Inn on this side of the canal.

A rather splendid house boat moored a little way from Trent Lock, as you walk north towards Long Eaton.

A footbridge providing access to some moorings opposite the towpath.

Modern floodgates installed as part of a multi-million pound project to stop flood waters from the River Trent reaching Long Eaton, which is likely to happen 'once every one hundred years' according the Environmental Agency.

The small Wyvern Marina / Basin is hidden from view between two railway lines. Below is text from the Erewash Canal information panels close by.

A long section of this walk could be described as 'built up', with houses on either side. At some time, all the railings were removed and now only the wall remains.

Sometimes a walk can made worthwhile by the unexpected. I have never, in my life, before seen ducks sitting on top of a hedge, not far from the Tamworth Road canal bridge.

Where the Erewash canal passes under the busy Tamworth Road.

The Tamworth Road and the Erewash Canal run side-by-side for a good half-mile. For a Saturday afternoon, the road is remarkably quiet. Looking north-east towards Long Eaton.

The Long Eaton Fire & Rescue Station is sandwiched between the Erewash Canal and the Tamworth Road and these trophies line one of the windows overlooking the canal towpath.

This canal footbridge links Long Eaton Town Centre with West Park.

Long Eaton town lock.

The end of this section of the walk is in view. In the distance is the Derby Road canal bridge, where part 2 of this walk (Sandiacre to Long Eaton) ends. The tall chimney and the old mill to the left and factories to the right, beside the towpath, remind us that the Erewash Canal was constructed for precisely these reasons — industry and the transporting of precious raw materials. We tend to forget that canals and railways co-existed in a great many places for well over a hundred years — until the 1950s in the case of the Erewash.

At the bridge, my wife Susan and I turned off and within a few minutes were boarding an Indigo bus back to Lenton and tea.