Sunday, 20 April 2014

Nowhere in particular: In search of the abandoned Nottingham Canal Part 1

On Good Friday I left Susan at home finishing off seven weeks work creating a new version of the Nottinghamshire Local History Association website whilst I took myself off in search of the abandoned section of the Nottingham Canal between Wollaton Vale and Trowell. The map above shows where I walked (the section from Trowell to Langley Mill will be another walk).

1. I went to Wollaton Vale on a Nottingham City Transport 35 bus from Lenton and got off at the Grangewood Road stop. You can just see the 35 disappearing in the distance. The stop is over a pedestrian tunnel which follows the line of what use to be the Nottingham Canal if my 1954 Nottingham street map is correct. Then, all this was open farmland.

2. This is the footpath beside Grangewood Road viewed from photograph/location 1. It is following the line of what was once the Nottingham Canal.

3. In a couple of places along Grangewood Road there is what I can only describe as 'street sculpture'. It all very attractive in its way. If I had my way I would have a lot more public sculpture in our streets and parks.

4. Where Grangewood Road meets Latimer Drive you can look across and see this sign. It is the eastern entrance Nottingham Canal Local Nature Reserve and is right on the border between Nottingham City Council and Broxtowe Borough Council.

5. As you can see there is an excellent footpath which follows the line of the abandoned canal through what is now woodland.

6. The footpath follows the line of the canal and this is the first point where there was any water to be seen. Here it passed under the railway line which runs between the Trowell and Radford junctions. In the late-1988s the then British Railways proposed closing the line. Susan and me were part of a successful campaign by Transport  2000 (now the Better Transport campaign) to save the line.
7. At the western side of the Nature Reserve you have to cross Coventry Lane to continue following the line of the abandoned canal.

8. One of a number of Erewash Valley Trail information boards there are along the walk.
9. For a short distance sections of the old Nottingham Canal have water in them. Most of the walk though, the old canal in no more than a depression beside the footpath.

10. In places the footpath is slowly becoming a tunnel of greenery.

11. This was the first sitting place I came across. I rather like how stone blocks from the canal have been used to create more seating.

12. The first of two old canal bridges still in situ.  It may have once led to a farm marked on a old map as Swancar Farm.
13. The canal bridge is no longer in use and offers  views of the surrounding countryside.

14. The branch railway I mentioned under photograph 6 runs to the south of the footpath and just one train trundled by as I walk along. I caught this glimpse of it.

15. The first people I met were Millie the dog walking her friend. She had dropped her ball down the bank and I caught them as they struggled back onto the footpath after a unsuccessful search.
16. The footpath has to divert around the Trowell Garden Centre, an ugly collection of sheds, but it does have a loo and a café, so I am not going to say anything other than that its signage was its most attractive feature. After this point the walk, sadly, becomes unsuitable for wheelchair users and buggy pushers.
17. Just by the sign in photograph 16 above, there is this gate to the footpath which wraps around the garden centre.
18. On the far side of the garden centre, you come to a footpath crossroads with just two signs, although there are four routes.
19. In fact, there appears to be only three paths at this point, this being the third footpath. It is another old canal bridge. Immediately to the left, before you go over the bridge, there is a slope leading down to a grass footpath beside what remains of the Nottingham Canal at this point.
20. Not far along the footpath there is this sign. 
21. A few yards further on you come to this pool (or is it a pond?). It is the largest expanse of water you will see on the walk and there is a bench overlooking the pool, which I was sitting on when I took this photograph.
22. At this point the footpath had just dipped so that it could pass under the M1 Motorway alongside the Nottingham Road. I took this photograph looking back and you can just make out the Motorway bridge through the trees. The number 'TWO' Trent-Barton bus stops right beside the bridge and the name of the stop is 'Motorway Bridge'. It is here that wheelchairs and buggy pushers can rejoin the walk.
23. This section of the footpath runs in a shallow loop between two points on the Nottingham Road and is probably the longest stretch where a clear imprint of the old Nottingham Canal remains.

23 extra. Peeping out from among the brambles, across from the footpath, is this warning!

24. Then you dip down under the Nottingham Road on the edge of Trowell. The top of the bridge at road level appears original and may have been constructed using reclaimed stone, but the path its self is new and what remained of the canal filled in and concreted over.

25. A rather grubby sign marks the beginning of this section of the footpath on the north side of the Nottingham Road.

26. This sign close by is altogether cleaner, although there is evidence to suggest that at least one bird has had a close look.

27. This section of the footpath gently curves for about half-a-mile until it reaches Grange Wood on the eastern side of the footpath. It did make me wonder if the 1960s road off Wollaton Vale where this walk began had any link to this wood.

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28. It is here I had already decided to end my walk along the line of the old Nottingham Canal. I will come back here before too long and finish following the footpath to Langley Mill, where the canal used to meet with the Cromford and Erewash Canals.

I love the fact that the sign simply says 'Shortcut', but not to where!

I should also say that this is not a good place for wheelchair users or buggy pushers to end their walk...
29. The stepped 'Shortcut' footpath to and from the line of the canal and Grange Wood is a bit too steep for cyclists, who have worn a groove over the years pushing their bikes up.

30. The 'Shortcut' footpath leads to a lane, with this railway footbridge opposite.

31. As you walk over the footbridge you get this view of the railway heading north towards Chesterfield and Sheffield from Long Eaton to the south. It is a kind of historic railway 'bypass' of sorts, as the main passenger line between these points runs via Derby to the west.
31 extra. The footbridge brings you out onto the Ilkeston Road, a few hundred yards away from where the walk ends and, by chance, a Trent-Barton TWO heading towards Wollaton and Nottingham's Victoria Centre Bus Station was coming towards me. Trent-Barton 'brand' many of their bus routes instead of using numbers, although the other two buses I could catch back to Lenton and Nottingham from here both have numbers — the 20 on Sunday and 21 Monday–Saturday (both hourly).
32. A couple of hundred yards on the River Erewash is where the Ilkeston Road becomes the Nottingham Road (and vice-versa). The Erewash through Trowell also marks the county boundary between Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire.
33. My walk ended with a real canal — the Erewash Canal. With the amount of debris just visible in the lock it is obvious the gates have not been opened for some time. It is only in recent years that I have walked (and blogged) about this wonderful canal. A forgotten historic gem, at the heart of our industrial past.

I suspect that this is the perfect ending for any walk — a good old fashion English pub with real people and real ales. In other places this scene would be full of folk enjoying a chat and a pint in the sunshine, but not this Good Friday afternoon.

There are walks and places which appear to the unknowing passer-by to be 'nowhere in particular' and this walk could be described as one of those walks. Walking the Erewash Canal is another, but they are my England, the one I love.

Good English local history is like a British postage stamp. I remember asking as a kid why our postage stamps do not bear the name of our country, like other nations' postage stamps? The answers I got was a retort of sorts. "You know who you are don't you? It is an inborn confidence which comes from knowing who and what you are.

On this walk I met one dog and her companion, exchanged greetings with two unknown cyclists and saw a man taking photographs of his daughter in her buggy near Coventry Lane. Otherwise I was in my own world, one full of clues as to what once was and, at times, these feelings were palpable. No walker can ask for more.

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