Wednesday, 8 April 2009


T needs time and space to revise, so I set off back to Derwentmouth to sit and watch the grebes. The towpath is peaceful beyond the lock, as the towpath is now a dead-end, petering out at big lumps of dislodged concrete; these are the last remains of the demolished towpath bridge.

A chaffinch sits in a bush alongside to keep me company. There are three grebes fishing, popping up on the surface for a few seconds before plunging again into the depths. They reappear a long distance from where they dive. A harrier briefly hangs around overhead, but the air is mainly filled with crows that wheel around the meadows endlessly. Crows always seem like the ornithological punks, hanging around bored and listless, but aggravated by everything around them.
I watch a steady procession of boats motor up the river: some are clearly on a charge, and reach the still waters of the T&M with a sense of very audible relief. Others, however, are more relaxed about it and saunter up, happy to be puttering in at a snail's pace.

The Trent is still navigable beyond this junction, and the entrance to Shardlow Marina is a short distance upriver by Cavendish Bridge. Hundreds of years ago, the Trent was navigable much further still as there are the remains of locks at King's Mill near Weston-on-Trent and, I think, further up. There is very little interest in rivers now unless you can get 40' of steel narrowboat up them. The canoeing community keeps most of them open, but the canal community seem largely uninterested. The remoter sections of the system, and those bits not really considered part of the system, are mainly accessible to the GRP cruisers, but these are distinctly unfashionable now. Photographs from even the late 1980s show a profusion of GRP boats but they now stick primarily to the rivers and few are seen on the narrow canal network. I had seriously considered a GRP boat - a Viking 26 - last year but everyone online suggested they were not such a good idea as they are so easily damaged by 15 tonnes of steel boat. I still find it irritating that the main reason for not using these cheaper, more accessible boats is the incompetence of others.

A pair of kayaks appear from the Derwent, and again I am jealous of their ability to explore the wilder parts - where the Nicholson and Pearson simply don't reach. They continue down the Trent.

A man appears on a bike, asking how he gets to Sawley. I break the bad news. He takes it in good humour.

On the return, I follow a footpath across Derwentmouth lock and into the fields alongside the Derwent for a mile. Oxbow lakes are now stocked with fish for the local angling club, the Pride of Derby Club. Given the state of their football team, angling is about as much pride as they get in these parts, I suppose. Lambs and attendant ewes bleat hopelessly as I pass them. The fields here seem open to the elements, just a foot or two above the waters of Trent and Derwent. Despite the proximity of the roaring M1 a mile away east, East Midlands Airport to the south and the eternal presence of the power station at Ratcliffe-on-Soar, it is easy to disappear from the beaten track and find solitude among the trees, meadows and rivers here.

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