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.

1 comment:

Steve Foster said...

The railings on top of the walls in Long Eaton were removed during the war as part of the need to collect metal for the war effort