The Tears of a Clown

Now if there's a smile upon my face…

Nottinghamshire countryside: Stoke Bardolph and The Ferryboat Inn

The waters of the River Trent have a busy and industrious past. These days they are more tranquil in the main and enjoyed by leisure boaters. Decades ago the river was used for transporting coal and other freight via barges and there are odd indications of the river’s hard-working past along the way via the various locks.

Todays walk was a circuit and after some time the path veered left away from the river bank to follow the pleasant meadows of the Trent basin. The fields were still and quiet as winter steadily approaches. They were however pretty, green and somehow welcoming for all that. Thoughts flowed fluently and enjoyably as always happens on these occasions. There is indeed something about the great outdoors that commands a relaxed manner.

Another day and another walk. These days seem to be a little less often than previously but are still totally relaxing and worthwhile.

Today’s amble was by the side of Nottinghamshire’s River Trent. Stoke Bardolph specifically was the beginning and return point as I set off on a cool breezy mid-morning on the tow-path by the river bank.

The Ferryboat Inn at Stoke Bardolph lies around six miles from Nottingham. The pub was originally reputedly built on the site of a boatyard near the river. The Inn enjoys a nice location because of this and often customers will take their drinks outside onto the grassy banks by the Trent.

Nearby the pub lies a disused slipway whilst on the opposite bank another slipway is situated which is now heavily overgrown. Occasionally there are people to be seen camping on the grass by the Inn. At the rear of the pub Gedling Town’s football ground sits proudly. Almost immediately into the walk there was drama as a huge rat scampered out from a hedgerow a mere three feet away, scuttling away to a safe destination via the day’s first cattle grid. Those long tails are just unmistakable at any range aren’t they?

With the wind in my face I considered that I had not dressed warmly enough but this feeling soon gave way as I warmed into the walk by the placid, soon to be frigid Trent waters. Sadly not considered as a friend of the public these days, Canada Geese picked around in the long grass by the river bank. The large and majestic swans nearby ignored their ‘lesser’ neighbours somewhat imperiously.

The walk ended all too soon as The Ferryboat Inn came into view in the near distance. The Inn I find to be to noisy and crowded for my tastes come busy periods such as Sunday lunch when in fairness many families visit. Today however at nearly noon on an autumn Tuesday. ‘The Ferry’ presented a welcoming prospect indeed.

On entering, I remembered the pub in its former apparition from visiting there many years ago. Like many it has had to change with the times and for The Ferryboat this has meant a conversion into a chain eating pub. The interior flatters to deceive with its artificial wood and mock stone flag flooring. This type of thing always bemuses me about British pubs and I well recall the original guise of the pub having many original features ironically.

There really is nothing exceptional to say about the type of fare offered at The Ferryboat. It’s a laminated menu experience. Today though in a mainly empty pub and with a pint of Guinness on the table in front of me I had only warm feelings for this old building – one I had probably first visited some thirty years previously.

After a drink and a chat in the bar and I made chose some a dinner and stayed for another drink. The food was good enough and value for money. The great thing about The Ferryboat is the view from the window side seats which look over the river outside. This in itself makes the pub exceptional if nothing else these days.

In the past the sight from the window outside would have been of one of the many actual ferryboat crossings. The history and even present day state of the River Trent dictates that there are relatively few bridges that cross the ambling waters. Entrepreneurial locals would at one time have kept their small boats by the river bank and charged a small fee to take customers across to the other side. Some of these ferries were occasionally hauled by the boaters across the water by chains or ropes attached securely at either bank. Some of this business was taken away when the government of the day ordered a brand new bridge to be built at nearby Gunthorpe, in order to create work for the unemployed of the 1930s’. Pictured right is one of the original ferries situated at nearby Radcliffe-on-Trent

Much of the river still serves as a reminder of the past. At the right time there is plenty of wildlife to be observed along the banks, that most reticent of creatures, the weasel, herons, brown trout and the odd green woodpecker and most thankfully today a rare glimpse of the astonishing colours of a kingfisher. It’s always worth considering bringing a sandwich, a drink, a pair of binoculars and plenty of patience on a walk in these parts.

Let me tempt you to come for a walk at Stoke Bardolph in the autumn or winter. Bring your coat as the wind blows cold and true by our old river. I assure you that you will go home enriched by the experience – just as I was today.

October 9, 2007 - Posted by | On The Road | , , , ,

3 Comments »

  1. Hi Stuart.

    You seem to have a knack of having nearly parallel memories to mine. I remember a few trips to the Ferry, mostly around, or just before the time I started DJ ing in the late 60’s It was an idyllic spot then, and one where I had the best pint of bitter I ever recall. Clean, fresh, hoppy and spicy. I can still almost taste it.

    I remember that on a side wall of the pub was what seemed to me to be an ancient poster advertising ‘Ruddles Family Ale’. Now I’d never heard of Ruddles at the time and it seems it was perhaps 10-15 years later when the name re-appeared on cans in the ‘offy’, so maybe it really was an antique poster.

    Comment by Colin Berresford | May 26, 2008

  2. Hi Stuart,

    World is a small place! I was doing some research about a pub near St. Ives I visited on Sunday, and I accidentally got here :)) Nice to bump into familiar people on the Internet!!!

    Comment by didi | August 19, 2008

  3. Yes indeed, Didi!

    I think that’s one of the things I love about it. Just popped over and read your story – very interesting!

    http://www.keepweavingwords.com/?p=40#comment-13

    Comment by Stuart | August 20, 2008


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