Wrap up well for this walk because the wind off the River Trent at this time is often called ‘a lazy wind’, rather than go round, it tries to cut straight through your jacket. Nevertheless it is an ideal winter walk for it is along wide, level, well surfaced tracks more than often sheltered by bushes, and as a reward there is a pub half way along at Beeston Marina, together with a popular café at the Nature Centre selling warming things like hot soup, the perfect way to end a bracing walk on a cold day.
Attenborough Nature Reserve covers around 360 acres of abandoned flooded gravel pits worked between 1929 and 1967. The site is still owned by CEMEX who continue to extract gravel from nearby areas, and whose heavy barges occasionally pass through the reserve. Once these sections are worked out, they are restored as wetland, expanding the nature reserve from time to time. In fact as recently as 2010 the area known as Thrumpton’s Land to the west towards Trent Lock was restored in this way. Attenborough Nature Reserve was established at the completion of an earlier phase of the workings, in 1966 and was opened by the wildlife naturalist and broadcaster, David Attenborough.
The reserve, now designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) covers the flooded land downstream of the confluence of the River Erewash and the Trent, with the total area covered by the SSSI totalling over 560 acres as it gradually extends westwards towards the county boundary. The reserve covers five large flooded pits, known as Church Pond, Clifton Pond, Tween Pond and Beeston Pond, plus drier areas of scrub and grassland such as Corbett’s Meadow and Erewash Field. Native willow and other water tolerating trees have colonised the land together with shrubs such as bramble. In open spaces between the bushes and trees, grasses and summer flowering plants have begun to thrive. Along with a wide range of water fowl enjoying the year round freedom, visitors come every winter from the arctic and Siberia. Two comfortable hides and timber-planked shields are a good place to spot the wildlife.
4½miles (7.25km) of level walking on wide gravel-surfaced tracks used by walkers and cyclists.
Recommended Map: Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 Explorer Map, Sheet 260 Nottingham and Vale of Belvoir.
Public Transport. Trains from Derby and Nottingham stop at nearby Attenborough Station. Buses from the same.
Car parking on site paid by donations.
Refreshments at Beeston Lock and the Nature Reserve Centre.
Birds seen on our last visit to Attenborough Nature Reserve 27th October 2016:
Whooper Swans • Snipe
Green Sandpiper • Canada geese
Meadow Pipit • Little Grebe
Golden Plover • Pintail
Ruff • Red crested Pochard
Reed Bunting • Tufted Duck
The Walk with Rambler
- From the car park, walk up to the mini-traffic island and turn left.
- Follow the surfaced track between parts of the flooded pits. Pause now and then to use the hides, or spy through gaps in the undergrowth to see what is happening – maybe the incoming migrants have arrived from the far north.
- Reaching the Trent, turn left at the track junction and walk downstream with the river on your right. Look out for what appears to be sections of fencing with viewing spaces, put there for adults or children to use when searching for whatever is floating innocently on the nearby water.
- Ignore a side path after about a quarter of a mile. It can be used as a short cut back to Attenborough, or to a hide on one of the islands.
Continue downstream for three quarters of a mile until you reach a path on the left beside a finger post.
- Ignoring the path going left, continue to walk downstream until you reach the marina and Beeston Lock.
The lock is at the start of a canal running inland to the centre of Nottingham. The Trent ceases to be navigable for some miles downstream from this point due to a weir installed to keep water levels as high as possible upstream towards Trent Lock and the start of the Trent and Mersey Canal at Sawley.
- Walk up to Beeston Lock to watch boats using it to enter or leave the river. There is a pub and friendly café nearby making this an ideal temporary stopping place.
- Return to the finger post and turn right on the path winding between shrub-covered islands.
- On reaching the railway, turn left beside it and walk through trees popular with non-water dwelling birds.
- Beyond the flooded area between the railway and the path, walk through the outskirts of Attenborough, bearing right and then left, past the church.
A plaque on the side wall of the house next to the church says that it was the birthplace of General Henry Ireton, Lawyer, Confederate and son-in-law of Oliver Cromwell. He was born in 1611 and died during the siege of Limerick in 1651.
- Continue along the track away from the church and as far as the car park and the end of the walk. The Nature Centre and café are directly ahead beyond the mini-roundabout.
Attenborough Nature Centre
Accessed by narrow Barton Lane running towards the Trent from the A6005 near Chilwell, the Attenborough Nature Centre stands on a little island connected to the car park and picnic area by a metal bridge. Not only does the Centre offer first rate refreshments, but there is also an excellent educational facility where volunteer staff are frequently around to name that unusual bird you might have seen on your walk. The Centre was completed in 2005, since which it has won a Gold award for eco-tourism. Almost 40 years after he opened the reserve itself, Sir David Attenborough returned to open the Centre. An article in BBC Wildlife Magazine listed it as number nine in the top ten ‘eco places in the world’. The facilities are open seven days a week.