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
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)
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.
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.
The original Autumn Footprints walk said that it would take in
some of Ilkestons 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.
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
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.
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.
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
And it is from here where the Nottingham Canal crosses Newtons
Lane that we will continue our journey in the next part of the