Two boats to Nottingham

Boats have been arriving at Nottingham for centuries – while the Tentatrice and Cleddau crews arrived (and left) in rude good health that was not the case back in 1330 when two boats arrived on a very grisly mission – more on that later in this post.

The Cleddau and Tentatrice flotilla left Trent Lock     on Tuesday in bright sunshine,   travelled east along the Cranfleet Cut, dropped down onto the Trent and   cruised the next four miles to Beeston along the winding River Trent. The river was flat calm and trees and cattle     were mirrored in the still surface of the water. White shocks of blossom shone out from the river bank. 

Then at Beeston the river disappears over a weir and takes an unnavigable course to the east of the city, while the navigation continues along the Nottingham and Beeston Canal.

The Beeston suburbs    give way to the huge Boots Estate.    On previous passages along this stretch the Boots facilities have been all but hidden; now though there is an open view across the huge Boots site.  On the four miles into the city some things came back to mind – porcelain upscaling you might call these…     The canal passes boatyards   and industrial units – and a Tudor rose painted on a boat. 

The towpath is popular with cyclists and people on lunch break walks. Optimistically the Captain greeted the towpath crowds. “Hello! Good afternoon!” Few folk replied. 

“We’re in a city. See, no-one makes eye contact,” was the Captain’s stark conclusion.

A fine mooring space right beside the path through to Sainsbury’s     made for easy grocery shopping. To wheel a laden trolley right to the side hatch is a benefit indeed! The fine weather prompted a plan for a barbeque. There was space. There was grass. Provisions were bought – and just before set up time it rained!

Some city exploration was on Wednesday’s agenda. The smooth towpath is widely regarded as a cycle path, to the understandable annoyance of pedestrians and boaters. Just the other side of the canal though is a purpose-built cycle super highway,    the pet project, apparently, of the Council’s Chief Officer. How wide it is, how spacious it is… how under-used it is!

Nottingham’s Castle stands on a rocky sandstone promontory.    It’s hard to miss. Caves and passages are obviously worked through it. 

After puzzling over the signposts inside the Broadmarsh Shopping Centre     it was decided that the Castle was the closest tourist destination… Nottingham of course is associated with Robin Hood and below the castle walls the tale was retold of how Robin enraged the Sheriff by entering an archery competition in disguise and winning a golden arrow.     A couple of other sculptures close by reinforce the Robin Hood stories.


Further up the hill is the entrance to the castle.     Why was there so little to see of Nottingham’s medieval stronghold? The first Norman castle was started in 1067. It was in a strategically important position, dominating the surrounding countryside and the River Trent. It was a much-prized royal stronghold and it is claimed all the English kings and queens spent at least one night there. And it was right here in August 1642 that King Charles I raised his standard to rally an army at the outset of the English Civil War.    By 1649 Charles had been beheaded and the castle was razed to the ground, assisted by the Nottingham townspeople themselves.

25 years later times had changed; Oliver Cromwell was gone, Charles II was on the throne and a mansion (sometimes described as a ‘ducal palace’) was being constructed by Henry Cavendish, the second Duke of Newcastle.


A Caves tour  was about to begin as the Captain and Boatwif arrived at the Gatehouse. A yomp through the grounds and up the 38 steps    to the Mansion proved an energetic start to a fascinating climb down, then up – and down and up again through the castle’s caves! Steps, passageways,     tunnels,     staircases. There were tales of battles,  bloodshed, intrigue and of an astonishing coup. On 19th October, 1330 on the order of the young King Edward III two boats arrived in darkness here at the foot of the castle.     Soldiers from one boat captured and took to London Roger Mortimer, the lover of Edward’s mother, Queen Isabella.  Here Mortimer met a grisly end by being hung, drawn and quartered. Into the second boat was bundled the Queen and she disappeared from public view, punished for her role in the agonising murder of her husband, Edward II, at Berkeley Castle.

The Ducal Palace now houses the city’s museum and art gallery.     A textiles exhibition displayed dresses from different periods    – and these iconic costumes, worn when Nottingham’s Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean performed their Olympic gold-medal winning ice dance ‘Bolero’ routine.    From the breezy terrace of the mansion there are wide views across the city and somewhere out there is the National Ice Centre.


On Thursday, in clear daylight, the two narrowboats left the convenience of the Sainsbury’s moorings and continued along the cut to re-enter the navigable Trent.


Only a mile or so downstream there was a request stop at the National Water Sports Centre,    just for a few pictures of torrents raging down the canoe slalom course.

And as the Trent widens and the wind gets a bit stronger the weir waters below each lock get more spectacular…


Distance and locks since leaving Aqueduct Marina: 117 miles, 69 locks

Distance and Locks remaining to Bedford: 208 miles, 30 locks

(Posted from Fiskerton Wharf, 5 miles from Newark)

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