Tuesday, 28 April 2015

The Grantham Canal

Route 15 of the National Cycle Network runs along the towpath of the Grantham Canal, which is one of those canals which are not connected to the main canal network and therefore not accessible to boats unless they are taken there on a lorry or trailer.
Nevertheless, it makes a fine cycle ride as the surface is quite good and there are some pretty villages and some interesting buildings in the vicinity. In particular Belvoir Castle, seat of the Dukes of Rutland stands on a ridge high above the rolling fields and the view from there makes the climb worth the effort.
Also Harlaxton Manor now Harlaxton College a branch of the American University Evansville College.

Click on pictures to enlarge them.

From Granthan Railway Station we take the leftmost arch here, onto Harlaxton Road, which though quite busy with traffic, has a shared path to take us away from the Grantham conurbation

The first port of call is to turn onto the entrance drive towards Harlaxton College which is behind these locked gates, but fortunately there is a narrow entrance for pedestrians and cyclists to the left of the wall.

                           The entrance gates are impressive but wait until you see the house...........

The long and impressive drive gives an idea of the size of the grounds, the actual building being hardly visible in the distance although you can just make out the arch at the lodge gates.
Anyway a relief to get away from the road traffic. Very few cars pass this way. Nor should they since "Roads were not built for cars" according to Carlton Reids new book.

The main building is just visible now through the lodge arch, but the public may go no further.

                                       Some fine architectural detailing above the archway.

                            And this is the house/college, not normally open to the public

On now to Harlaxton village
which like many villages in East Anglia, has a unique sign on the
                                     ........and has some lovely old cottages like this.....

                                                   .....................................and this.
Interesting chimneys, which appear to have been extended, either to improve the up-draught for the open fires or perhaps to impress the neighbours.

                                                      and also a fine church

After crossing the main road, we arrive at our first sight of the Grantham Canal, here at Harlaxton Wharf, once no doubt a very busy place. The viewpoint is from Bridge no. 66.

    The towpath surface is not the best but perfectly adequate for cycling and here we are on Route 15 of the National Cycle Network..

              Here at the Sustrans mile post, Route 15 leaves the canal bank onto a disused  railway track.

                                                                   Over this bridge.

                  But we are never far from the canal and we return to this point on the return journey.

The railway track section is heavily wooded and has a rudimentary ash/grass/earth surface.  OK in the dry weather but no doubt a bit dodgy in the wet.

Turing right where the green track meets a lane, brings us to a fine stop for a meal at the Gap Inn which has a large modern restaurant behind this simple façade. From here we head towards our next grand edifice of the ride .........................................

Belvoir Castle, which  stands high on a hill, but the views from here make the climb worthwhile, and of course it's all downhill back to the canal towpath....................................

                                        .............. where we re-join NCN Route 15 ...............................

                                               .............. for the ride back to Grantham

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

The Nutbrook Trail

The Nutbrook Trail runs along the Erewash Valley on the Derbyshire/Nottinghamshire border.  It is easily accessible from the train station at Long Eaton and runs northwards to Shipley Park where there is an excellent café at the Visitor Centre.
The route is almost entirely flat, completely traffic free and well signed as Route 67 of the National Cycle Network. For most of it's length it has a tarmac surface suitable in all weathers and for all kinds of bicycle, even those with the flimsiest of tyres and the most fragile of frames.
The length of the route is 11.5 miles from the station here to the Visitor Centre at Shipley Park
Trains from Derby are frequent and the cost is very reasonable.
An Anytime Day Return cost only £2.95 with my Senior Rail Card and of course bikes go for free.

Click on pictures to enlarge them.

On alighting at Long Eaton train station we follow the signs towards the town centre, that is straight ahead here..

                   We soon catch sight of the Erewash Canal which runs alongside the road.

                                      And have a choice of riding on the towpath ........................

     ................... or on the excellent shared path alongside, which does have the better surface.

                               Eventually however, we have to take to the canal towpath

The canal passes many industrial buildings and the route has been well marked by the Erewash Valley Sustrans Rangers. There is no need for maps, as you cannot get lost if you follow the "67" signs..

The signs lead us to leave the towpath for a short distance onto this raised embankment which runs parallel to the canal.

                                   As with all canals there are no hills except for the rises at locks.
                                           This is the approach to Sandiacre  Lock.

.                                            With it's picturesque lock keeper's cottage.

And at the head of the lock the closed off junction with the redundant Derby Canal, which one day will re-open to join the Trent and Mersey Canal at Swarkestone where Route 6 of the NCN runs from Derby into Leicestershire.  This will include a cycle friendly towpath and give us the option of a great circular ride back to Derby.
It will cost many millions of pounds and take many years to re-open the Derby Canal, but the  Derby and Sandiacre Canal Trust are working to this aim, which will transform the area for leisure and industry. A massive National Lottery Grant would seem to be the most likely source of funding but a generous and wealthy benefactor would be acceptable, so should you happen to inherit a few million pounds and don't know what to do with it, you might like to consider this project.

The canal passes through the urban areas of Long Eaton, Sandiacre and Stapleford and many of the house owners have gardens with moorings for their own boats.

The surroundings become more pastoral and you can see here the very high quality of the path and it's environs.

                             Eventually we have to leave the towpath, crossing the canal on this bridge

Take this gate where the route passes through the site of the now demolished Stanton Iron Works, the path being enclosed in high steel fencing, remaining of high quality in spite of the industrial detritus on the other side of the fence.


As some recompense for the uninspiring landscape behind the galvanised fence we have this sculpture on the grass verge.

It is entitled "Wild Weeds Vetch" and there two similar ones in the area, one near to Shipley Park and one near to the ASDA Supermaket in Long Eaton..

            As we pass by the entrance to the Stanton Reclamation Centre the route goes up this slope.
                                         Watch out for heavy artics hereabouts.

We now enter a newer and more picturesque landscape following this lovely flat and straight traffic free road towards Shipley Park.

                                                    If only all roads were like this!

                                Follow "67" signs pointing towards Shipley Park and Heanor.

Having left the old railway route the path meanders and there are some slight gradients as we enter Shipley Park, a wonderful natural landscape and nature reserve.

                                     Watch out for Mr. Mole emerging from the grass verge.

                                             Several fresh water lakes visible from the path.

And several paths to the side, in this case carried on a bridge, over which this bower of blackthorn blossom hangs.

                                                   A final climb up the hill .....................................

.                        the Visitor Centre where the café awaits.

                          Sit outside for a drink or some food if the weather is suitable.

The daily specials are extremely good value and on Mondays the cakes are half price.
£1 is not bad for a great wedge of Victoria Sponge.  Just the thing for the hungry cyclist, and replaces all those calories that you have burned off getting here.

Derbyshire County Council, Erewash Borough Council and Sustrans have done a superb job here in trans-forming a grim and derelict landscape into the most beautiful and attractive countryside area which is as good for wildlife as it is for humans..
In particular Shipley Country Park is superb and we have seen but a small part of it here.
The route and the park give us a chance to get away from the pressures of modern life, the traffic, the noise and the never ending rush by manic motorists to get somewhere else as quickly as possible.
This route would score maximum points if it were not for the graffiti which has been sprayed on the lovely old stone walls and bridges by those morons who have nothing better to do and have no appreciation of beauty. You will find no photographs of such sacrilege here.