The Magazine of Lenton Local History Society

Lenton Times Issue 2 - May 1989

Beyond The City Limits

To conclude our story of the Nottingham canal we provide readers with a brief armchair tour of those sections of the canal that can still be found beyond the City boundary.

The canal from Balloon Woods up through Trowell, Cossall, and Awsworth and on to Langley Mill was to suffer some forty years of neglect before Broxtowe Borough Council resolved to buy a 5.3-mile section from British Waterways. The Council bought it in 1977 to ensure that the route of the canal survived relatively intact and that its historic and natural interest could be enjoyed by future generations. Broxtowe actively began restoration work in 1984. The Council has used its own manpower, certain contract labour and until recently could employ people from Manpower Services. It also received practical help from a variety of local groups. Among these was the Nottinghamshire Trust for Nature Conservation, the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers and various canal societies. In the beginning some of these groups clearly hoped that most of the canal could one day be restored to something close to its original state. The restoration work however has hit a number of problems, some of which could only have been solved by the spending of large sums of money. Compromises have had to be made which rule out the complete return to water of the canal along some of its length, and even the infilling of other parts. As a result a variety of different landscapes are gradually developing to interest those who choose to walk along its length.

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Volunteers clear out the weeds from the Nottingham canal.

Let us begin our tour of the canal at the northern end and work back towards Nottingham. Until quite recently there were bits and pieces of the canal to be found between Langley Mill and Awsworth but open cast mining is now taking place in this area and so, for the time being at least, this part of the canal will be lost from view. The start of the canal is, therefore, up by the Bennerley Viaduct with pedestrian access from Park Hill in Awsworth. From here to Newton's Lane, a distance of 700 yards, the canal is full of water and looks just like a 'proper' canal. Not so long ago most of this section disappeared when open cast mining ate into the hillside on which the canal was situated. The mining finished in the early 1980s and the company then began to landscape the hillside and agreed to reinstate the canal. The new canal didn't quite reach Newton's Lane so Council funds were used to complete the job. Fish stocks have been introduced and the fishing rights leased to a newly formed Awsworth Angling Club. During the season anglers now throng the canal bank and with the cast iron railway viaduct in the background it now makes a most pleasing scene. The fishermen would like to extend their activities into the section of canal on the other side of Newton's Lane which runs through to Coronation Road at Cossall Moor. This part of the canal has already been dredged and refilled with water. For the time being it is to be given over to wild life that is being allowed to grow back and a mosaic of wetland environments encouraged - none of which would really suit the needs of the anglers.

Across on the other side of Coronation Road, a short section of canal had to be emptied following a landslide which weakened an embankment and meant the canal was liable to empty its contents on to a scrap metal business operating on land below. It remains empty as the Council felt it would cost too much to carry out all the necessary repairs to the embankment.

Broxtowe has assigned an annual budget of 18,000 for work on the canal. Over half is spent on engineering works including dredging, construction of dams, overflows and the like. Some 4,000 is set aside for footpath construction and sign posting, while a similar sum is handed over to British Trust for Conservation Volunteers who work on hedging, improving the footpaths and clearing weeds. Each year the Trust also organises a four-week summer camp, which attracts people from all over the country and from abroad to come and lend a hand. Currently the 'campers' are concentrating efforts on clearing the excess reeds/weeds from the canal in the Cossall area.

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The same stretch of canal after the volunteers had finished their
weeding. Both photographs are reproduced courtesy of
Broxtowe Borough Council.

The Cossall stretch has been leaking ever since it was refilled and works is being carried out to allow the depth of water to be controlled by the construction of new overflows. Prior to refilling, the canal had little or no water in it and the sides had dried out and become very cracked. To remove all the cracks the clay would need to be re-puddled; lowering the water level was considered a cheaper alternative. A similar problem was happening further along at Trowell. The residents of nearby houses were constantly finding rivulets of water flowing across their gardens. Given the houses' proximity to the canal and the anticipated cost of eliminating those leaks, Broxtowe Council decided it had little option but to fill in the canal from part way along Cossall Road to the Nottingham Road - a distance of one mile. The infilling is proceeding at the time of writing and is expected to cost about 30,000. Once completed and with topsoil laid, grass seed will be sown to create a thin stretch of meadow long which a bridle path will be established. Four small pools will also be constructed at intervals to add to the visual interest.

Broxtowe's efforts have focussed on the canal from Trowell to Awsworth. Trust volunteers have carried out some hedging but, this apart, the canal from Trowell to the City boundary at Coventry Road has so far been left alone. This section of the canal is split in two by the Trowell Garden Centre, which has been built across the line of the canal; but a footpath has been established which takes pedestrians from one part of the canal to the other. At some time in the future it may be decided to refill the section from Nottingham Road to the Garden Centre, but there is the problem that there is no easily accessible source of running water to tap into. (Incidentally the water, for most of those sections of the canal which have already been refilled, starts life as run-off from the nearby M.1). The other section up to Coventry Road is believed to run across a geological fault, which throws serious doubt as to whether the Council will ever countenance trying to refill it with water. These parts of the canal clearly still need a little loving care, but no doubt their turn will come. Even though they are rather overgrown they still have plenty to interest anyone who passes along the towpath.

If our article encourages a few more people to explore this bit of our past and present then it's a job well done!

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