Nottingham is a city on a hill, which often makes the prospect of walking or, if you dare, cycling anywhere look wholly unappealing. However, there is a secret to getting around this city, that doesn’t offer such a steep challenge: towpaths!
Towpaths are almost completely flat by design, as boats can’t go up hills, neither can the canals, making the towpaths that run alongside them almost totally flat. The Nottingham Beeston Canal stretches the length of Nottingham, cutting across the River Trent as it meanders around the city. This makes it possible to cycle anywhere in under half an hour and even, if you’ve got a bit of time on your hands, take a leisurely walk.
There are three places I have cycled to on the Nottingham Canal and all can be done as a lovely day out or even an hour or so of exercise during lockdown times! The canal can be easily accessed from Beeston, Wollaton, Dunkirk and Lenton.
To get onto the canal from Beeston you will want to go to Canal Side and then take the bridge onto the canal. From Lenton, you want to head as if you were going to Castle Boulevard Sainsbury’s and then go through the pub carpark onto the canal. From Dunkirk, you can go to the bridges on Redfield Road or head onto Lenton Lane and find a path down to the canal.
West Bridgford is the posher part of Nottingham, it has some incredibly beautiful bridges and a waterfront in the shadow of a war memorial. The village itself has some lovely cafes and shops, with a farmers’ market running two Saturdays a month.
Cycle: 30 minutes from Lenton
Walk: 1 hour from Lenton
- You are going to want to follow the canal towards Nottingham Castle and through town, past the first lock.
- Continue until the canal meets the river, there will be a lock with a ramp and a bridge, and the Nottingham Forest football ground should be on the opposite side of the river to you. Turn right onto the river path.
- You will get to what is a called a turnover bridge, where the towpath changes to the opposite side of the canal, you will need to cross this bridge and carry on.
- Continue until you get to a fancier bridge and then go up and across it, continue up the main road past Trent Bridge and you will get to the centre of West Bridgford.
- Equally you can stay on the river continuing along until you get to a green with benches and even a coffee van if you are lucky.
- You can follow the same route home.
Attenborough Nature Reserve
It is a beautiful day out
Attenborough Nature Reserve is as close to nature as you can get, walking along the river you can see cows grazing on the other side and in the distance the soaring chimneys of Didcot Power Station, which whilst not brilliant for the environment holds its own beauty as a testament to humanity’s power. If you are lucky and go in the evening you can see the rare sight of a murmuration as hundreds or thousands of swallows feed on all the bugs in the air. It is a beautiful day out.
Cycle: 45 mins from Lenton
Walk: 1 ½ hours from Lenton
- Follow the towpath towards Beeston and away from town, you should pass a Boots factory along the way.
- You will reach a turnover bridge. You don’t need to cross it – carry on the towpath down to the lock.
- There is a lock where the canal meets the river, here you can easily find a turnover bridge that takes you onto to the river path and into Attenborough. Cyclists will need to dismount as you pass Beeston Marina but once you have done that you are into the Nature Reserve.
- Once in the nature reserve you can follow the river and signs to the café and visitors centre. I would not be Impact’s food editor if I did not mention that they have brilliant vegan pork pies and some very nice blondies.
- You can follow paths around the Nature Centre or even into Attenborough Village itself if you want more of a walk, or you can follow the same route home.
Colwick Country Park
In summer you can go for a paddle in the West Lake
The easiest version of this route does not totally follow the towpath, but it is a cycle that is brilliant as exercise in the morning before getting on with work or in the evening before dinner. In summer you can go for a paddle in the West Lake, which is regularly tested by The Environmental Agency to make sure it’s safe.
Cycle: 25-30 mins from Lenton
Walk: 1 ¼ from Lenton
Directions: Option One
- Follow the canal towards town.
- Come off the canal at the turnover bridge on Station Street and then double back on yourself down the A60 towards BBC Nottingham.
- Turn right onto City Link past the Urgent Care Centre, when you get to the end of City Link turn right onto Manvers Street. Go along the pavement until you get to the traffic lights adjacent to the railway bridge and cross over the road to get to the cycle path.
- Follow the cycle path onto Daleside Road, until you get to the roundabout with a statue of some horses. You are going to want to cross the road and then follow the road past the Racecourse, follow the road around, until you get to a small footpath that comes off it.
- Turn into the footpath and go down until you get to the lake. You should have passed two gates, you can then cycle/walk around the whole lake and then follow the same route home.
Directions: Option Two
- For a quicker, less scenic route you can follow the segregated cycle path from Lenton, down Castle Boulevard, past Nottingham College until you get to the roundabout by BBC Nottingham.
- Use the traffic lights to cross the road to City Link and then follow directions three and four from option one for the rest of the journey.
I’d like to end with a reminder that the towpath is a shared space between cyclists and pedestrians and you should always double check before going under bridges and make sure to use your bells!
Featured and in-article images courtesy of Alice Nott. No changes were made to the image.
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