Bennerley Loop - Part 03
w/e 08 June 2014
All of this week's pictures were taken with a Kodak DX6490

We began this Bennerley Loop walk along the towpath of the Erewash Canal and now as we begin the return section, we pick up another towpath, this time along the disused Nottingham Canal.

Squeeze Stile

After passing through the squeeze style at the end of Part 02, the Erewash Valley Trail turns sharp left to follow a footpath between the canal and the Awsworth by-pass but our route is straight on through another squeeze stile and on to the towpath. The two routes which form the Willoughby Top Cut Nature Reserve will converge again at the end of this part and we actually walked both paths back in 2006 (link) when I also photographed a board that gives a whole lot more information about the area. (link)
Willoughby Top Cut

The name Willoughby Top Cut is derived from two sources. The ancestral home of the Willoughby family was Wollaton Hall at Nottingham which was built in 1568 by Sir Francis Willoughby. The nature reserve was created following the construction of the Awsworth by-pass in 1997 on land that was formerly part of the extensive Willoughby estate. Top Cut is the local name given to the Nottingham Canal which ran at a higher elevation along the valley side than the Erewash Canal or Bottom Cut.
Bennerley Viaduct

Intermittent gaps in the hedgerow along the towpath open up views across that finger of grassland we saw in Part 02 to a less familiar aspect of the Bennerley Viaduct which is more usually seen from the other side.
Nottingham Canal

The original Autumn Footprints walk said that it would take in some of Ilkeston’s industrial past and while today it is a pleasant walk along the towpath, the canals of course owe their origins to industry. Both the Erewash and the Nottingham Canals connected the Cromford Canal at Langley Mill with the River Trent. The Erewash Canal followed the Erewash river down the valley for about 11 miles to Sawley but the Nottingham Canal at nearly 15 miles in length veered off the Erewash Valley to the east to reach the Trent at Nottingham.
Flood Plain

Another gap in the hedge to the west reveals that the grassland has opened up into the flood plain of the River Erewash and the sharp-eyed will also notice a group of horses at the pool of flood water in the valley.

The Nottingham Canal is no longer navigable and opencast mining has obliterated parts of it altogether but this section at Willoughby Top Cut is very popular with anglers. We passed several on the way and this group was supplemented by a number of cockerels, hens and even a duck from the nearby farm. The canal had opened in 1796 to carry coal and other goods to and from the area but suffered with competition from the railways which arrived in the 1840s. Its decline culminated in its abandonment in 1936/7 and now its main use is for leisure activities.

Pausing for a few words with the anglers we discovered that it was the fish bait that had attracted the poultry and that one of them had moved his maggots several times out of reach of the birds.
Farm Friends

As we passed the farm buildings there were more birds ahead on the towpath and a couple of farm cats and as we neared them another cat appeared out of the reeds by the canal before they all disappeared together through the hedge on the right. The cats and the hens appeared to be firm friends.
Shilo Way

The Nature Reserve ends at Newtons Lane and the towpath and the Erewash Valley Trail which runs on the other side of the canal by Shilo Way, (the Awsworth by-pass) converge to continue together on the other side of Newtons Lane. The lane used to run all the way up into Awsworth but since its bisection by Shilo Way which now carries most of the traffic around the village, only pedestrian access is possible on the other side of the by-pass.
Newtons Lane

In the other direction Newtons Lane winds down the hill to cross the river and the railway before entering Ilkeston. In days gone by, this was the main route from Awsworth to Ilkeston and before the advent of the motor vehicle, many travellers between the two would have been grateful for the Blue Pig, the seat on Awsorth Lane where they could rest their weary legs before continuing their journeys.

And it is from here where the Nottingham Canal crosses Newtons Lane that we will continue our journey in the next part of the Bennerley Loop.
Back to Part 02
Forward to Part 04

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