Time to move on from Nottingham and make our way downstream towards Newark . The plan was to lock hop-or as I kept saying “we’re hop locking” mainly because we’re true codiwomplers and we like to travel slowly. Until, that is, we arrived at our first lock and I saw this little off shoot from the river… Holme Pierrepoint which is where the National Water Sports centre is and I saw the white water rapid run…oh boy did I want to have a go, but Eric insisted that Firecrest was too long to take the turns and twists. Can’t think why. So while he stayed on our mooring, polishing the brass, I went to find out how I could get my adrenaline rush. Frustratingly the event they suggested would be suitable for me, a complete novice, wasn’t available until the weekend and I knew we’d have moved on by then. So I kept my dignity intact and just enjoyed watching others risking life and limb. The whole site has several activities on offer, a proper mile long rowing lake, an adventure lake/river and the rapids, plus some land based activities, high wires, climbing walls and obstacle courses. I could easily have spent another day here watching it all. Eric has promised we can come back one weekend. But is still insistent that Firecrest won’t be joining me.
Victoria Embankment is a great place for people watching and an even better place for boat watching. Although I think Roger the anchor man had been at it a bit too long and had forgotten to come down for his dinner. There were the large. Several huge floating gin palaces came past, full of happy people, the later the hour, the noisier and flashier the lights, but they were travelling sedately so didn’t cause firecrest to rock, so not a nuisance at all.Not like these maniacs on their hover speedboat. They were ‘playing’ with a jet skier, racing round like Vettel drawing donuts. Don’t get me wrong speed can be great fun, but they weren’t wearing life jackets and the consequences didn’t bear thinking about if they had crashed into each other. And they created a huge wash. There were a lot of rowers or skullers, I’m never sure how to tell the difference. Some were obviously in training with coxes with microphones and coaches on bikes racing along side on the bank.Some like the Dragon boats looked ready to take on the speed boat.Some just prefered to sit with a fishing rod watching the world go by. These girls had brought their picnic so stopped paddling for a bit to eat.I chose to wander into town, West Bridgford is the rather attractive town separated from Nottingham by the river. About 5 minutes walk from our mooring, I found the thriving buzzing high street. Lots of rather nice street cafes, not that we could afford to ‘take lunch’ in them. And itC turns out to be where one of our best friends was born, and his parents had married at the parish church, St Giles.I went to the Sunday morning service and received a warm welcome, Bridgford is lucky to have such a lively thriving parish church. Definitely one I’ll return to. While we were moored here, our friends Ian Joy and Kate joined us. Trad sterns aren’t the best place for 5 people to stand whilst cruising so we let the fellas do their stuff at the helm.
From our mooring on Victoria Embankment, we could just about see a windmill in the distance, north of Trent bridge. I had to do a bit of digging to find out more, and discovered they were having a summer fete, and what’s more, it was only 1.5 miles away.
George Greens father built the Green’s mill in 1807, when it produced flour for Sneinton. But when George inherited the family business he chose to install a manager so study science and mathematics at Cambridge. After several owners and disastrous fires the mill is now grinding flour again as a charitable organisation and also promoting science and maths to children. The fete was to be officially opened by the Sherrif of Nottingham. For some silly reason I was quite disappointed to see an ordinary lady Sherrif instead of a villainous greedy Walt Disney character. We took the tour to the top of mill and guess what, we could still see Nottingham Castle, on the left of the picture. I could also just about see Trent bridge, but not good enough for a photo. Greens mill is one of the recognised attractions of the area and the lovely park around it makes a perfect picnic spot.
On leaving the Beeston Canal we were planning to turn north and head downstream but a couple of people had said Victoria Embankment was a nice place to moor. So we came through lock 1, and turned south to go upstream instead. There is about 2 miles of navigable river before we would have to turn around. Passing by the Nottingham Forest football ground, and under Trent Bridge itself. Now it’s a beautiful 3 arch stone and iron bridge, painted in blue and gold, built in 1868. The first was built in 970 but I couldn’t find any photos. The second built in 1156 had 20 stone arches and a chapel dedicated to St James. But they continued to be destroyed by flood. Here the river is now contained by concrete steps on either side, which not only greatly widens it’s flood volume, but makes Victoria Embankment a very attractive place for us to moor and a real asset for the local community. It was packed with people from the County Hall taking their lunch breaks.Sir Jesse Boot, founder of Boots chemists, had the memorial gardens built on this section but sadly they have suffered from lack of maintenance, so despite these impressive gates, the gardens were weedy, and the grand rockery was starting to fall apart. But the grounds are expansive and beyond the formal gardens are fields that double as a car park for the nearby sporting venues.You can conveniently cross over the river on a suspension footbridge known as Wilford Bridge. On Thursday we looked out to see hordes of people doing so because the most famous sporting venue here is the Trent Bridge cricket ground. And England were playing India. The atmosphere was party like all day so we couldn’t have guessed from the demeanour of the crowds going home who had won. We could hear the roars of the crowd cheering. I took a photo in the morning for a family who were obviously of Indian origins, so I asked who they were supporting- mum and dad instantly said India, the children England. India won. This was taken from Wilford Bridge. The flood lights and curved roof on the right are the the Trent Bridge cricket ground. The green roofs are the County Hall. Notts Forest FC is behind the scaffolding on the left. And that’s the bridge itself on the left. Firecrest is the 7th boat from the right. Perhaps the sunshine has helped but this has proved a very sociable mooring, one we will use again. Lots to explore.
The 5 mile Beeston Canal bypasses an un-navigable section of the river Trent and takes us through central Nottingham. I thought this would be a treat, but the anticipation of a big shopping centre failed to excite me once I got out to explore. I morn the demise of a proper high street with independent shops selling goods they are proud of. But it’s not all bad, there has been some effort to take advantage of the canal and make it into an attractive community space.Fellows Morton and Clayton had a big warehouse and wharf here which is now a thriving bar selling craft beer.One good thing about town centre canals is that there’s often a supermarket close enough for me to surreptitiously take a full trolley right back to the boat. And there was a super view of the castle from the retail park. Mooring was unrestricted by Sainsbury’s but we moved on around the corner to take advantage of an over hanging tree. Although there were a lot of people using the tow path and some rough sleepers, it was a quiet night. We set off the next day to complete the last two miles of this section.Quite a mix of old and new buildings to catch our attention. Nottingham is a tall city. This one particularly caught our eye.And some lovely bridges.although not every one agrees with CRT’s recent rebranding, spending goodness knows how much on promoting the canal network to a wider audience. Not sure how wide an audience this sign will reach being underneath the bridge.
I was lucky enough to find out that Nottingham Castle was due to close for a multi-million pound revamp over the next two years, but even better for us, they had removed the entry charge for the week. So off we went to see what we could find. The kids were in, attempting to build a replica out of Lego.The castle was full of atmosphere, and history. William the Conqueror built the castle in1067 but it became dilapidated and was demolished in 1649. The Duke of Newcastle built the ducal palace in its plac, but in 1831 rioters burnt it down. The Duke was paid £21000 in compensation but didn’t rebuild his home and eventually in 1878 Notingham council rebuilt it as a museum and art gallery.
The castle was built in a huge sandstone rock and overlooked an array of old and new buildings. The one that looks like a stadium is actually the HMRC offices, (which is right next to the canal.)We wondered which building Robin Hood would be frequenting now.One of the other things Nottingham is famous for is that it is the home of Torvil and Dean and their Bolero costumes from their 1984 are on display in the castle.
The Castle dominates the city and as we cruised through Nottingham we could look up through the houses we could see it. The castle was a good place to spend the day, but I hope when it is re opened in 2020/21 it won’t be known as the castle because sadly it is not a castle any more.
That’ll be starting with
George the Beekeeper of Beeston who took his place in the shopping centre along with his hive 30 years ago. I think he looks rather content.
Unlike the canal company men who in 1844 who fell victim to cost saving measures. They had their free Beer privilages withdrawn “…unless absolutely necessary and then never more than a quart per day”
But canal workers must have been clean souls, apparently Beeston lock contains the equivalent of 1500 Bathtubs full of water.
And then there’s the Beautiful Beeston. On Saturday there was a multi cultural community Bonanza. It was a fabulous event, designed to bring together the richly diverse cultures of the area. Nottingham University attracts a lot of Chinese students, who have gone on to make their home here. bringing their dancing dragons with them.the Dragon display was performed by the martial arts club
We were all encouraged to have a good at some Bollywood moves. All too energetic for me. But there were some lovely choirs and other dance groups to watch and enjoy.Sadly this week, Beeston was at the heart of commemorations for the Chilwell Bomb Explosion, where 139 people lost their live at a shell filling factory a few miles down the road from here.
You might have guessed I’d want to know if which came first, Beeston or the Bees. Beeston got its name from it’s Saxon heritage Bes was the type of grain grown, nowadays known as Rye and Tun being a settlement. Bes-Tun became Beeston. And as its got Bees it’s also got Birds. The Attenborough nature reserve lakes next to the river attract an even more diverse selection of birds than the town has cultures. The Sandmartins are fully occupied feeding their young which was quite spectacular to watch so close. Although nothing will beat me seeing a wild Osprey flying over. Osprey use the river Trent as a navigational aid on their journey north. And they are seen quite often at Attenborough. Of course you’ll have to take my word for it cause I was too slow to get camera out.
The River Trent skirts the southeast of Nottingham but it can be rocky, shallow and not navigable for narrowboats, its also prone to flooding hence the need for huge weir.
And a canal to maintain transport links.The Beeston Canal was completed in the late 18th century. It runs from the river into the centre of Nottingham where it connected with the Nottingham canal bringing coal down from Langley Mill, however that section was closed and filled in leaving us the 5 miles into and out of the city to explore.But first, with a good mooring (we’re on the left just before the trees start) and temperatures set to bake we decided to explore Beeston itself.And what better place to start than the Beeston Marina Boathouse Cafe, where Tony serves a huge breakfast.Followed by doing ALL the washing at this brilliant launderette, -worth checking out these Revolution outdoor launderettes, they’re springing up all over the place. Which of course meant I could justify the best ice cream of the season at the canal heritage centre next to the lock. Before going back to some sun soaking
We’ve now arrived in Nottingham which has been our destination goal for a while now. The reason being is that during the annual Methodist conference there is a service of thanksgiving for its ministers who have died over the past 12 months, and this year’s venue is Nottingham university.Eric’s dad was ordained as a Methodist minister in 1953 He cared for several churches around the country, starting out in the North East moving gradually south until he retired in South West in 1990 He and Mum then moved to Hampshire, nearer family, where he carried on preaching for another 20 or so years. Almost 70 years caring for people, and he truly was a most caring and compassionate man, always willing to support and guide anyone in need. We said our farewells to him at his funeral last November, but this week the church he’d served so faithfully paid their respects and gave thanks for all their departed ministers. It was a moving and appropriate tribute. We are glad we came.
It wasn’t to be a day of sadness though. We were joined by one of Eric’s brothers, David and his wife Amanda. Which meant that we enjoyed a day of reminiscing as well taking them on a short cruise on the Beeston Canal. David has researched the family tree and discovered that Willie Jones, Eric’s great grandfather had been a canal wharf porter in Warrington. No wonder we felt drawn to life on the cut.
The Erewash canal is part of the Grand Union Canal network. Nowadays a dead end arm off the River Trent going up to Langley Mill. It’s 11 miles long and has 14 locks. We were given mixed reviews about whether or not we should venture onto it.
But here at Trent Lock, the start, we were pleasantly surprised by crystal clear water providing us with our very own aquarium so we could watch the fish.The first stretch is home to some spectacular houseboats which I believe were used by the Nottingham lacemakers.
There are several mills along the canalside which was where the lace was made. This one is desirable flats now, others are derelict and some have been converted into smaller units. The canal itself was built to transport coal as this was a predominantly mining area. Both Eric and I have northern roots so it gave us great pleasure to see this style of street.It obviously was a prosperous area in its heyday although I doubt the miners themselves had much spare cash. Seeing the area from a narrow boat gives a strange perspective of a location, lots of attractive well cared for properties, but seeing people sitting on vandalised benches nursing their cans at 9 in the morning does make you think. We had been warned to be alert for opportunist theft, but the people we met, both young and old all seemed very friendly and non threatening. In fact we got the impression that they weren’t used to seeing many boats on the move, such was the interest shown as we cruised. And the boaters were helpful, setting locks for us in anticipation. We cruised to the Great North Basin at Langley Mill and turned the boat to return as we needed to be in Nottingham later in the week.This plaque showing us how far we were from various places.We didn’t quite gallop back but enjoyed another night in a peaceful rural location turning a blind eye to the kids swimming in the locks. When the temperature was pushing 30 degrees it’s understandable that the kids want to be in the water and as we had no power to enforce them getting out why spoil their fun. And to give the kids some credit, when we did need to go through a lock they didn’t hesitate to get out and wait for us.As has become my custom these days, this heat demands ice cream. I was gutted this place was closed when we arrived.Next best thing, a mooring under a tree for shade. We can now say that we have ‘done’ the Erewash, it was pretty and peaceful, and we will do it again. Sadly it lacks easy mooring as the banks are shallow, – but at least you can see so before you attempt to come in. I am sure we will do it again some day.