About this walk
The walk described below starts at the Great Northern in Langley Mill and finishes in Kimberley. However, the start and finish points are interchangeable and you can easily get there by a variety of Trent Barton and Your Bus services. There’s also a mainline railway station in Langley Mill providing access by train. If you don’t want to complete the whole walk, you have the option of catching a bus home when you reach the half-way point at the Gallows Inn, Ilkeston.
The overall route covers just over eight miles easy walking along mainly flat ground following parts of the Erewash and Nottingham canals. There are several pubs, fairly evenly spaced along the eight mile route, serving good cask ales. So, it’s a comfortable four-pinter, allowing you to arrive home calorie and carbon neutral and none too worse for wear. The pubs include: Great Northern, Bridge Inn, Gallows Inn, Gate Inn, Nelson and Railway.
As well as the good ale, there are also along the way a number of points of historical interest. These include: the Great Northern Basin and the Erewash and Nottingham canals, the Bennerley Viaduct and Bennerley Ironworks, the Great Northern Railway Derbyshire Extension, and the Giltbrook Viaduct or ‘Forty Bridges’. Some background information about these points of interest, and relevant images, are featured in the route description below
The route description
1. To the left of the Great Northern pub, you will find the Great Northern Basin and the Erewash Canal. Walk under the bridge that carries the main road over the canal and continue along the tow path for approximately a quarter of a mile until you come to the next canal bridge. Turn left to go over the bridge and, after a hundred yards, turn right onto a footpath that follows the route of the old Nottingham Canal. After walking along this footpath for a few hundred yards you will start to see, on your left, evidence of the old Nottingham Canal and, shortly after this, the footpath will meet a narrow roadway. Turn right here over an old canal bridge and then turn immediately left to continue along the old Nottingham Canal for just over a quarter of a mile where you will reach the junction with Newmanleys Road.
The Great Northern Basin once formed the junction of three waterways which were constructed between 1779 and 1796: the Cromford Canal, the Nottingham Canal, and the Erewash Canal. Later, in the 19th century, the basin was flanked by two great railways: the Midland Railway and the Great Northern Railway. The wharfs and facilities of the basin, and the two railways, provided a major transport hub for the mills, coal mines and ironworks, that developed in and around Langley Mill with the industrial revolution. Although commercial traffic stopped in the early 1950s, the basin and the Erewash Canal remain open today thanks to the work of the Erewash Canal Preservation and Development Association which was set up in 1968. The Erewash Canal runs for approximately eleven miles to Trent Lock where it joins the River Trent. However, much of the nearby Nottingham Canal has been filled in though some sections remain as a haven for a variety of wild life.
2. Cross over Newmanleys Road and take the footpath that follows the general direction of another filled-in section of the old Nottingham Canal. (Directly in front of you, in the distance, you will see ‘Winston’, Severn Trent’s wind turbine at the Newthorpe sewage works.) After about half mile you will reach a T-junction at the bridle way where you will turn right. Continue on for a further quarter of a mile and follow the sign to Cotmanhay along a path will take you over the River Erewash and under the main-line railway. A hundred yards past the railway you will see, on your left, the westerly end of the Bennerley viaduct in front of which was once situated the Bennerley Ironworks. Continuing on the path, you will soon arrive at the Erewash Canal and the Bridge Inn on the opposite side of the canal.
The Bennerley viaduct is 1452 feet long and over 60 feet high. It was completed in 1877 to take the Great Northern Railway Derbyshire Extension over the Erewash valley. Most railway viaducts at the time were brick-built, but it was felt that the lighter wrought iron lattice-work design was more appropriate to the underlying ground conditions. Restoration of the Viaduct is currently underway to incorporate it into a new cycle-path. Next to the viaduct, the Bennerley ironworks were opened in 1874 and three main blast furnaces operated until its closure in 1934. During the first world war, in 1916, a German Zeppelin dropped seven high-explosive bombs just to the north of the viaduct causing damage to the Midland Railway line at Bennerley Junction, which served the ironworks.
3. From the Bridge Inn, with the canal on your right, continue down the towpath for approximately two miles. This will take you alongside Cotmanhay and then, further on, through the eastern suburbs of Ilkeston. Eventually you will reach the Gallows Inn at the southern end of Ilkeston. Turn left in front of the Gallows Inn and walk along the A609 main road, in the direction of Trowell, for approximately 200 yards. Cross over Furnace Road and, having just crossed over the River Erewash, turn left onto the path which leads to a footbridge over the railway line. Over the footbridge, carry straight on for a further 200 yards up a steep bank, and at the top of this turn left onto another filled-in section of the old Nottingham Canal. The walk now follows the route of the Nottingham Canal, northwards, back in the general direction of Eastwood and Langley Mill.
The Gallows Inn takes its name from the gallows which once stood nearby. In the 14th century, the plague threatened to interfere with the judicial system in Nottingham. As a result, the assizes were moved to Ilkeston and gallows were erected for the execution of convicted criminals. The gallows eventually fell into disrepair but remained standing until 1870 when they were blown down in a storm. The first inn on this site, The Crown, was built in 1765 but by 1798 it had become known locally as the Gallows Inn. The present building was built in 1936 by Joseph Shipstone and Son.
4. Walk along the route of the old Nottingham Canal, and in half a mile, the original water course becomes apparent just after the Cossall Road car park. From here, continue along the canal for a quarter of a mile where, at the left of the tow path, it’s possible to take a short-cut across the field avoiding the loop as the canal ‘hugs’ the contour of the valley. (If you don’t take the short-cut, half-way around the loop you will see, joining the canal from the right, a short branch known as Robinettes Arm which served a nearby coal mine.) Where the short-cut re-joins the canal, continue for three quarters of a mile, cross over the bridge over Coronation Road, and carry on until you reach the pedestrian crossing over the A609. Cross the road and carry on along the canal for three quarters of a mile until you reach Shilo Way which marks the end of this section of the Nottingham Canal. (Just before you reach Shilo Way you will have a clear view of the whole of the Bennerley Viaduct.) Turn right onto Shilo way and up to the A609.
Prior to the opening of the Nottingham Canal, the transport of goods from the Erewash area, into Nottingham, was by the circuitous route along the Erewash canal to Trent Lock and up the River Trent. Also, without a more direct canal route into Nottingham, the Erewash Canal, and then the Cromford Canal, were exploiting Erewash Valley coal at the expense of Nottingham coal. This provided the impetus for Nottingham businessmen and coal owners to implement the building of the Nottingham Canal which became fully operational in 1796. The canal was designed by William Jessop and, in order to limit the need for locks along the Erewash valley, wherever possible the route ‘hugged’ the contours of the valley. Naphtha House, now a cattery and kennels, is all that remains of a major chemical industry in the area which produced the oil-based product, Naphtha, used in the petro-chemical industry.
5. Cross over the A609 and, in front of you, take the right hand path up to Park Hill and on to Station Road into the village of Awsworth. At the end of Station Road, cross over at the T-junction and bear right into Main Street which then leads onto Awsworth Lane. A few hundred yards up the lane, you will see the Gate Inn on the left and, just before that on the right, a set of steps leading up to the Great Northern Railway footpath. (The top of the steps marks the point where the railway’s Bennerley spur crossed over the main road and on to Ilkeston and eventually Derby. Three hundred yards further on the footpath, to your left, marks the point where the railway’s Pinxton spur branched off to cross over the Giltbrook Viaduct into Langley Mill and on to Pinxton.) From the top of the steps, continue along the Great Northern Railway path for just over a quarter of a mile and follow the footpath that takes you left, off the main footpath, and down a meadow. Walk to the bottom of the meadow, re-join Awsworth Lane, and turn right to follow the lane up to the underpass under the main A610 dual carriageway. Taking the underpass, continue up Awsworth Lane to the T-junction with Eastwood Road. Turning right here will take you into Kimberley.
The Giltbrook viaduct, known locally as ‘Forty Bridges’, was completed in 1875 and formed part of the Great Northern Railway Derbyshire Extension. Up to this time, the rail transport of coal from the surrounding Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire pits had been controlled by the Midland Railway and the Derbyshire extension to the Great Northern Railway was built to try and counter this monopoly. The viaduct was built using red bricks to create 43 arched spans with a total length of 1,716 feet (523 m) and a height of 60 feet (18 m). The viaduct was S-shaped and built in four sections. Houses were built into two of the arches and it is said that they were used as makeshift air raid shelters by school children from Awsworth during a First World War Zeppelin Airship bombing raid which dropped bombs at Bennerley Junction. The viaduct was demolished in 1973 to make way for the A610 bypass.