Along the waterfront and into neighbouring Nottinghamshire.
Distance 9.3 miles (15km)
Minimum time 5hrs 30min
Level of difficulty Medium
Paths Canal towpath, easy riverside and lakeside paths and tracks, a few stiles
Landscape Riverside and wetland
Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 260 Nottingham
Start/finish SK 490313
Dog friendliness Dogs can run free along the canal, but keep on lead when in nature reserve
Parking Trent Lock car park
Public toilets At car park
1 Turn right out of the car park and pass the Navigation Inn and its waterside garden to reach the banks of the River Trent. Turn left along the riverbank, cross the footbridge over the Erewash Canal by its confluence with the Trent. The Steamboat Inn and Lock House Tea Room will be on the left, and probably teaming with tourists. Turn right along the Cranfield Cut towpath. The Cut was built in 1798 so that the barges could avoid the river's Thrumpton Weir. At this point the eight huge cooling towers of the Ratcliffe power station dominate the scene.
2 Beyond two railway bridges carrying the busy Derby and Nottingham main lines, the Cut rejoins the Trent. Over a stile, the path follows the riverbank flood barriers. Ignore the path on the left, marked as a circular walk, and stick with the riverside.Past Thrumpton village on the far bank, the river meanders left and you see the first of many large artificial lakes. You're now in the Attenborough Nature Reserve.
3 Once again ignore a turn to the left, this time signed the Trent Valley Way, and follow the meanderings of the Trent by the gravel pits. Barton-in-Fabis, on the far bank of the river, shelters beneath a wooded hillside. The path passes a couple of secluded cottages, before crossing a footbridge over a waterway (south of Ferry Farm). You would think you would be treading water, but the thick scrub woodland and wetlands dispel this feeling.
4 The river and path turn north and fishermen's chalets line the far bank. There are signs for the Beeston Marina's teas and the Riverside pub. You can see the boats on the marina on the river bend ahead before you take the left turn away from the river. This path goes between more pits before coming to the busy railway. The path turns left to follow the railway for 250yds (229m), then turns left again (south) through more woodland. Beyond a footbridge it enters the suburban Attenborough.
5 Take the lane past the cricket ground, follow it round to the right, and then turn left down Church Lane. Take the path signposted 'To Barton Ferry Lane' through the gates on the right of the churchyard, heading south between Ireton Hall and Poseidon House, back to the gravel pits. After 500yds (457m) this comes to a large car park. At the far end turn left along a wide track, passing the old Ferry Farm, beyond which the path meets the outward route.
Trent Lock lies where the River Soar flows into the Trent and where the Erewash Canal starts out on its way north towards the coalfields. It's a bright colourful place where East Midlands people come to see the boats. Sailing dinghies race by, while colourful barges take a more leisurely pace down the network of waterways. The Trent is a navigable hub here, with connections up the Soar to Leicester and beyond, west around the underside of the Pennines to the Mersey and east to the Humber and the North Sea as well as the now shortened Erewash Canal which once penetrated the Peak District to the north.
This Site of Special Scientific Interest was established in 1966. It extends across a series of disused gravel pits, which were excavated between 1929 and 1967. The pits show varying developments of natural vegetation. New plants colonise the reserve each year but you could well spot meadow saxifrage, flowering rush, ragged-robin and yellow rattle. Most eyes however will be focused on the abundant birdlife. This is an important wintering site for many wildfowl, including shoveler, mallard, wigeon and teal. In summer great crested grebe, shelduck, common tern and little ringed plover come here to breed, and you can often see a variety of warblers, including the rare grasshopper warbler.
You can get excellent detailed leaflets on the wildlife at Attenborough from the Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust, 310 Sneinton Dale, Nottingham NG3 7DN. For a different perspective try a boat cruise with the Thompson Boat Company, up river from Trent Lock on their 40ft narrow boat, Destiny.
The Navigation Inn at Trent Lock serves excellent bar meals in a large lounge bar with maps of various estuaries on the walls. It's a free house with a large choice of good ales. The Steamboat Inn (free house) overlooks the locks themselves and serves equally good meals. Dogs are not allowed in the lounge area. Both inns are child friendly. For coffee and cream teas, try the Lock House Tea Room, which is next door to the Steamboat.