The year 2020 will go down in history as a bit of a stinker. You know why. However, I was able to go to places I had never been to before, and have some great days out that I wouldn’t have had if I didn’t do this blog. In the next few weeks, I will be looking back at 2020 in travel, from the early morning in Long Eaton in January, to the last trip before lockdown in Bleasby in March, the new start in Newstead in July to the last journey of the year in Longport in October.
The year began in Long Eaton on a cold Saturday in January. I got up early in the morning to catch the train from Burton which went straight to Long Eaton. It was still dark when I arrived in the Derbyshire town, so there was nothing open and nobody around, apart from some early morning dog walkers. I headed for the canal and had a (careful) walk around the towpath, then back down the road to the station. In spite of the brevity of the trip, it was a great experience. All being well, I will make a return trip to Long Eaton for a proper look around sometime.
In January, I started making a list of places to visit, on the East Midlands Ranger Area list, and local places to Burton on Trent that I could easily reach on foot or by bus. One of those was the village of Tatenhill, located a few miles north west of Burton.
I took a walk there via Branston and a pedestrian tunnel under the A38 road, the main road into and out of Burton. There isn’t much to see in Tatenhill, apart from a few houses, a pub and a church. I later found that I could walk there via Sinai Park House, an ancient house in Burton, although I haven’t got around to it yet. Hopefully in 2021.
The next trip in January was to Ilkeston, a town in Derbyshire which didn’t have a railway station of its own for 50 years, until a new one was opened in 2017. In spite of the rain, I had a great day out in the town, exploring the area and a pleasant walk by the canal, something that would become a bit of a trope in 2020. You name a canal in the East Midlands, I’ve probably walked down it in 2020. I spent a bit too much time exploring and arrived back at the station just in time to see my train moving away from the station. An hour’s wait in the rain wasn’t ideal, and neither was the cold which I caught that day.
A couple of weeks later, the weather was much more pleasant in Oakham, Rutland, when I visited the largest railway station in the county, and, in my opinion, the best station in all of Rutland. Yes, it’s the only one in the county.
Oakham looked great in the winter sunshine, in spite of the cold weather. I had a visit to the ancient Oakham Castle, a walk in the castle grounds and a visit to Tesco to buy lunch. There wasn’t time for me to visit the famous Rutland Water reservoir or the Rutland County Museum, but I may return to Oakham in the future.
The first visit of February was to Hucknall in Nottinghamshire, on another cold and sunny day. It is the next stop up the line from the previously-visited Bulwell station, and is also the terminus of one of the lines on the Nottingham Express Transit trams. Hucknall is a former coal mining town, reflected in a statue close to the railway station. The Ranges in Hucknall is a former coal spoil heap which was turned into a nature reserve and walking area, with spectacular views over Nottinghamshire. I chose the wrong footwear for the day, though, and had to tread carefully to avoid getting caked in mud.
Hucknall is also famous for being the final resting place of the poet Lord Byron and his daughter, Ada Lovelace, who is credited as the first ever computer programmer and whose pioneering work in computing is celebrated every October on “Ada Lovelace Day”.
In mid to late February, flooding was a major concern in the UK, and closer to my home in Burton on Trent, which curtailed any travel plans I might have had. However, by the 24th of February, I was itching to go somewhere, and then I realised the perfect place to explore was right on my doorstep. Or at least one stop down the Derby – Birmingham line. I had been to Tamworth a couple of times over the years for various reasons, but never had a good look around. So it was on with the waterproofs and up to the station to get the train for a short ride to Tamworth.
I visited the castle, where I almost got blown away in the wind, and also the Ankerside Shopping Centre. The River Anker was quite high, what with the rain and all, but I still had a stroll around the castle grounds. As I have said about pretty much every place I have mentioned so far in this review, I hope to go back again when the weather is better and this virus has receded.
In March, it was back to Nottinghamshire once again to visit Bleasby, on a sunny spring morning. It is a small village located between Nottingham and Newark on Trent, and it must be one of the smallest places by population to have its own railway station with a regular service (its population was 824 at the last Census). They must have all been hiding when I visited, however, as there was hardly a soul around. I had a wander around the village in the short time I was there, and saw the ancient Glebe Field, St. Mary’s Church and the impressive Waggon and Horses pub. I also saw the Air Crews Memorial, a sculpture dedicated to airmen who were killed in a wartime crash in the area.
The blog post for Bleasby teases an upcoming trip in March which involved changing trains in Derby. I can’t remember where I had planned to go, but it didn’t matter. The country was placed into lockdown on the 23rd due to the coronavirus pandemic, which called a halt to any travel for non-essential reasons.