So, lockdown in March put the buffers on this blog. I did have a couple of tricks up my sleeve, though. One of them was a trip I had made in 2018 to Lichfield, and the other was an idea to have a look at some of the sights closer to home, in Burton on Trent. The restrictions at the time allowed daily exercise in the local area, so I took advantage of the opportunity to take some photos of local landmarks for the Burton Landmarks series.
After Covid-19 lockdown restrictions were eased in July, I made plans to go back on the rails and chose to go to Newstead in Nottinghamshire. The weather was typical British summer weather; cold and wet. I meticulously prepared for the trip under the new travel guidelines, with two face coverings (one for the journey there, a clean one for the trip back), a bottle of hand sanitiser and a two-metre long stick to prod anyone who came too close to me.
Newstead is a former mining village with a country park created on a former colliery site which boasts a wonderful attraction; a giant wind turbine that you can actually walk up to.
There is also a disturbing sight near the local school which you wouldn’t believe unless I posted a picture of it. They have two lines of dummy schoolchildren alongside the road, for reasons that I have never been able to get to the bottom of.
Newstead also has an abbey, called Newstead Abbey, which is usually open to the public when there isn’t a virus hanging around. I didn’t visit on this occasion, though, as there wasn’t time.
August’s travels kicked off with another trip to the Derwent Valley Line to complete the list of stations on that line; Duffield and Belper. Once again, the weather wasn’t on my side, but I had a pleasant stroll from Duffield station (which is also home to a heritage railway line which is worth visiting when this pandemic is over) up to the town of Belper. The town used to be home to several textile mills, some of which survive today. It also boasts some fantastic parks, including a hidden gem which I accidentally found called “Beaurepaire Garden”, a community garden packed full of statues and other curiosities.
Also in August, the Burton Swan Trail launched in Burton on Trent. 25 wooden swans, decorated by local and national artists, were installed at various locations in the town. I got up early one morning to beat the crowds and visit each and every one.
Later in the month, I went back on the trains and visited Longton, near Stoke on Trent. It turned into a mini tour of Staffordshire, as I had to change trains at Stafford and Tamworth on the way back to Burton. Longton is home to a large retail park called Longton Exchange, as well as the Gladstone Pottery Museum, neither of which I visited.
I did visit two parks, though, which looked amazing in the summer sunshine. Fenton Park in Longton, and Hanley Park, a fine example of a Victorian public park. The parks were both quite busy, although people were mostly socially-distanced.
The month of September began with a trip to one of the awkward stations on the list, Peartree in Derby. The station gets very few services, one of which is an early Saturday morning train. The plan involved a trip to Derby, from where I would catch the train down to Peartree, exit the station, walk back to Derby and get the train back to Burton. It all seemed so simple, but I had trouble exiting Peartree station, as it wasn’t clear how the gate worked. After a few attempts, I made it out of the station and had an early morning stroll through Derby, back to the railway station.
Almost a year to the day since my last trip to Cromford in Derbyshire, I went again on Thursday 10th September. I had a lot to pack in on my visit, and I started off visiting Masson Mill, just south of Matlock Bath. It is a former working mill which is now a retail outlet, although it was closed when I visited. Not that there was time for shopping, as I was headed for the Cromford Canal, from where I would walk up the High Peak Trail. While I was there, I saw a wrecked wagon from the 1950s, almost burst my lungs walking up a seemingly endless hill, and then saw some spectacular views of Derbyshire.
Almost a week after Cromford, I was out again. This time, I was back in Nottinghamshire to visit Burton Joyce and Lowdham. I caught the train to Burton Joyce from Burton on Trent, and spent a bit of time there before walking to Lowdham. I saw a couple of fine looking churches in Burton Joyce, as well as the Millennium Sundial, a sundial installed to mark the turn of the millennium in 2000. Lowdham wasn’t without its charms either. I noticed that the village has a gold post box, painted in 2012 in honour of local Paralympian gold medallist Richard Whitehead. It also has a beautiful church tucked away in a quiet part of the village. The crowning glory of Lowdham, though, is the railway station. Burton Joyce’s was very sparse and functional, Lowdham’s was quite the opposite.
Just a day after the trip to Burton Joyce and Lowdham, I took advantage of the late summer sunshine and had a walk up the Trent & Mersey canal from Burton to Willington in Derbyshire. On the way, I saw the Monk’s Bridge, an old bridge between the A38 road and the canal. When I got to Willington, I had a pleasant lunch (which I bought from the Co-op) in the garden in front of the railway station, and got some great photos of Willington station while I waited in the sunshine for my train home.
Part three of this Martyn’s Blog 2020 retrospective will be out next Wednesday (16th December), so look out for it then. In the meantime, thanks for reading.