A historal perspective
Following my exploration of the Cromford Canal during 2009 a continuation onto the Nottingham Canal appears logical, branching out at Great Northern basin where it joined with both the Erewash and the Cromford Canals.
Inclement weather and a desire to watch Aston Villa play Manchester United in the Carling Cup over lunch meant that we opted to walk the middle section first, starting at the Festival Inn at Trowell and walking north towards Awsworth. In the event the rain held off but Villa lost 2-1 with Rooney scoring the winner!
To put this canal into context I will provide my usual 'history lite' spin on its timeline:
With the nearby Erewash Canal opening for business in 1778, and the Cromford Canal approved in 1779, the Nottingham collieries could see their Erewash Valley counterparts stealing a march on them and losing their competitive edge. A canal was therefore proposed to join the Trent in Nottingham with the Erewash / Cromford at Langley Mill.
After a round of fund raising William Jessop agreed to engineer the line, but a protracted illness meant that James Green was employed under Jessops direction. Work the canal started in 1792, the first section from the Trent to the city centre opened in 1793 and the complete line completed in 1796. The construction coincided with a war with France which saw rampant inflation and the canal was delivered way over budget at £80k.
I love my old maps and I turned up the following from 1791, which was produced to illustrate the intended line for prospective investors. Whilst out on our walk we came across a rather lost group who complained that the map they were using dated form the early 1980's and was a bit out of date - did I have anything more contemporary? With a wry grin I pulled the 220 year old version from my pack and admitted to living with my head in the past.
The interesting feature of this map isn't so much the line, as the way the neighbouring mineral wealth of coal and ironstone is prominently displayed, leaving one in no doubt about the waterway's raison detre.
As night follows day so the railway followed that canal - with a first line, the Midlands Counties Railway, being built in 1836. By 1856 the canal had been sold to the Ambergate, Nottingham, Boston and Eastern Junction Railway Co. Actual completion of the deal took 10 years and a trip to ther House of Lords to achieve as the railway lacked the cash and ownership then passed to the Great Northern Railway in 1861 as a result of a merger.
Trade dwindled and by 1916 tolls were only £1000, and most of that was from the Trent - city centre section.
In 1928 an announcement was mabe to close all but the city centre section, and in 1937 it was formally closed. There then followed 40 years of neglect and silting when nothing more than minor maintenance was undertaken, mainly to maintian it as a drainage chennel. Flooding was a recurring problem and in 1952 Nottingham Council bought the length within the City and in 1970 Broxtowe Borough Council bought 5.3 miles from Balloon Wood / Coventry Lane through to Awsworth.
There were initial plans to restore the line from Langley Mill through to Trowell to full navigation standard but a later opencast mine at Awsworth and a major breach at Cossall Marsh resulted in the focus changing to a linear nature reserve, which it remains to date.
The amazing thing about the line is that for the most part it looks like a real water filled canal, almost ready for boats. The reclamation and investment has been maintained by Broxtowe over the years which, with no locks to worry about, must make it a real contender for eventual full restoration, as and when a way can be found across the bit lost to open cast mining.
I will post my photographic records over the next few days on the following segments:
1. Trowell and Nottingham Road Bridge
2. Grange Wood and the infilled section
3. Cossall Road to Robinettes Arm
5. Cossall Marsh Aqueduct
6. Shilo Way
7. Robinettes Arm
This route includes a well drained path which is well suited to walking or cycling.