The Grantham Canal Walk (3): Kinoulton to Harby
Further on along the Grantham Canal see’s today’s walk take us from Kinoulton to the historic village of Harby. The route passes through the charming Hickling Basin.
Hey-ho, let’s go! It’s off and strolling with stage three of the summer 2006 Grantham Canal walk! After last week’s brush with inclement weather there were no such problems this time on a fine and sunny day of around 24C. Starting earlier by necessity on this occasion, we left a car at Harby and duly backtracked cross country via Colston Basset to the pretty village of Kinoulton, scene of the conclusion of last week’s walk.
The first notable thing we talked of was how this plan, using linear routes week by week and beginning at last week’s end point, really gave a feel of continuity and of a true long distance walk. Stepping back off the lane and onto the canal at Kinoulton Bridge, it felt good to be back on the towpath that we have faithfully followed over the past three weeks.
Retreading footsteps. The beginning of this week’s walk at Kinoulton Bridge
But a short sunny stroll of a mile or so later, we strode off the canal for a little look around the diminutive and attractive village of Hickling. The village boasted few buildings and a rather lovely atmosphere by its broad stretch of water, Hickling Basin facing the ancient Plough Inn, sadly shut tight at our time of passing. A little local information told us that the basin once had a legend staunchly upheld by the local children that a whale lived in there, it being the only area where the creature could possibly have the space to turn around!
There were tales also of local skaters, men, women and children on the sharpened blades, or perhaps that should be sharpened bones, who in more frigid times would take to the ice of the canal for lantern-lit skating sessions. Even on a hot summer’s day it was not difficult to imagine such a lovely and magical scene, one that was more typical of the eastern fens of England many years ago. I personally adore this now almost lost image to this country, having participated in outdoor skating sessions on the lakes of Canada and its frozen winter conditions.
Also overlooking Hickling Basin is a small warehouse which though not particularly notable to the eye, was tellingly built in 1793, the first year of the construction of the canal. The fairly petite industrial building now has a preserved order status, clearly illustrated by its pristine and serviceable state.
It was somewhat difficult making the move on from the lovely basin bathed in sunshine but rewarding all the same as the Grantham Canal manifested some of its wider stretches along its length, regularly canopied by elegant and whispery weeping willows and lined by stately upright reeds.
Today was largely a swan day. There were literally dozens of them brooding over their signets along the waterway. It has been a feature of my summer walking the canal, watching the young signets growing and maturing. From the diminutive bundles of grey fluff in early June, the young ones appear now almost full size. A great benefit of being able to be outdoors and observe so much of nature at work this summer. What’s more – they actually seem to have accepted our presence and are happy to share the canal towpath too!
Of course the winding water that has become our placid and tranquil friend over the past few weeks still has its dangers! Witness the sheer abject terror etched upon my walking partner on this occasion by her bovine foe! There was some questioning of whether the cows could transport themselves to the ‘wrong’ side of the canal, i.e. the one we were walking on, but happily for Barbara this was never more than a fanciful flight of fear.
More fear and loathing on the ‘Grantham’. Is there no beginning to this woman’s courage?
Soon appearing on the pleasant vista came Clarke’s Bridge with an original hand painted name plaque underneath its arches. The plaque was visually undistinguished, the most notable thing being that it was originally painted in 1793 at the beginning of the Grantham Canal story. We were fortunate to eye swans with their signets here, swimming in single file and framed by the bridge’s coping stones, offering a unique photographic opportunity
After a pair of interesting and durable looking swing bridges offering access to farmer’s fields, we approached the little gem of Hose Bridge adjacent to the village of the same name. A most appealing spot for picnics was available here by way of some welcoming looking wooden seating. Unfortunately as time did not allow today we were unable to stay awhile or indeed take the short half-mile walk into Hose for an investigation. Maybe next time.
Over to our right the original Langar airbase could be viewed across the fields. Nowadays the former bomber base is used by a parachute school but once there was much more serious business to attend. In 1940, 207 Squadron featuring many Canadian airmen was housed here when the base was built. After closure six years later, the base was re-opened in 1951 by The Royal Canadian Air Force until it closed once more in 1963. The brave Canadian flyers were well thought of and received in the area. As an aside, it is probably due to the presence of the ‘Canucks’ that the city of Nottingham came to be such a bastion of the game of ice hockey which even exists until present day. During the bleak years of World War II, the Canadians would often strap on the skates to entertain local crowds in vivid displays of the game on ice in the recently built Nottingham Ice Stadium (1939).
The area of Radcliffe-on-Trent where my walking partner, Barbara resides is indeed named ‘The Canadian Estate’ after the settlement of Canadians in the area years ago. Many names familiar to those of us with a connection, love or admiration of the land of the Maple Leaf are evident there in its roadside displays of Vancouver, Granville, and St. Lawrence et al.
A feature of the walk today had been the purpose built buildings stood sentry by the canal in order to serve its industrial past. This was never better illustrated than when approaching Harby Mill Bridge. The Harby Tower Mill and attendant granary built in 1836 stand in full view from the waterside, complemented by several other warehouses dating back to the 1790s’.
Raising ourselves from the canal for the day we tracked back to our car left nearby and looked forward to a drink and a rest after our third stage of the walk was completed. Harby has two pubs which face each other from opposite sides of the street. The White Hart, a long, white stuccoed building was left untroubled on this occasion as we plumped for The Nags Head to our left. Almost completely deserted but in pleasant contrast to the promising looking yet ultimately disappointing Nevile Arms of seven days ago, it offered flagstone floors and a few original looking features. A drink in the bar would have been exceedingly pleasant but an enclosed garden held even more appeal in the still bright and warm early afternoon sun. The Nags Head apparently has some origins dating back to the 1400s’. An original use was for accommodation for monks in the area whilst their cattle resided downstairs – byre style. If the Grantham Canal ever resumes more regular use by boaters and other leisure pursuers, this pub will prove to be a great asset to the ancient waterway.
At the end of a sometimes tempestuous walk which took us past the beautiful clearing of Hickling, a historic bastion of the dominion of Canada and the significant half-way point, we planned our next gentle assault on The Grantham Canal in the garden of the Nags Head. Next week we would hug the towpath from Harby to the much sought after and well-known village of Redmile. Along the way the hamlet of Plungar and the satisfyingly named Barkestone-le-Vale would be available to open our eyes to more of The Vale of Belvoir and its beautiful view. Join us once again.
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