2021 Travels – Attenborough

It was a cold start to May 2021, and my latest trip out on the trains. It was early on a Saturday morning, 1st May, when I ticked off station number 46 of 76 on the East Midlands Ranger Area challenge, Attenborough in Nottingham.

I had passed through Attenborough many times before on trips to all stations in between Derby and Nottingham, but never got around to visiting the place until now. I caught the train from Burton just before 7am to Derby, where I had just six minutes to change for the East Midlands Railway service to Attenborough. I arrived at Derby and walked down the subway under the station and emerged at platform 4. A couple of pigeons tried to slow me down in the subway, but I shooed them away and boarded my train.

The train arrived on time at 7:30am at Attenborough station.

The first Attenborough railway station was opened in 1856 as a small passenger halt called Attenborough Gate. This wasn’t well used by passengers and closed in 1858, just two years later. The present station was built and opened in 1864. There were formerly station buildings and staff at Attenborough, as well as a signal box next to the level crossing. The signal box was closed and demolished in 1982, and the station buildings were knocked down in the early 1990s. Nothing remains of the old station apart from the footbridge towers, one of which has a war memorial installed on the side.

War memorial at Attenborough station.

The station is looked after by local volunteers who maintain floral displays on the platforms as well as a bug hotel on platform 1.

Bug hotel in the shape of the “double arrow” railway sign.

After leaving the station, I took a walk round to St Mary’s Church, a Church of England Grade I-listed parish church. The gate to the graveyard was open, so I ventured in to take a stroll around the graveyard. Among the graves was a plaque for a mass grave in which victims of the Chilwell Ordnance Factory explosion of July 1918 were buried. 134 people were killed, and their found remains were buried in the churchyard. It seems unbelievable nowadays, but the factory reopened and resumed operations on the day after the explosion.

St Mary’s Church, Attenborough.

One of the many entrances to the Attenborough Nature Reserve is near to the church, so I took a walk in. The nature reserve is on the site of a former gravel extraction pit and the first phase of turning it into a nature reserve was completed in 1966. Who else could have opened it officially but the broadcaster and naturalist David Attenborough?

I took a leisurely stroll around the paths of the nature reserve. Even at 8 o’clock on a Saturday morning, the place was quite busy with joggers, walkers, photographers, cyclists and bloggers all using the paths, in spite of the cold weather. The reserve covers an area of 360 acres and has two public hides for birdwatchers to watch birds from. There are also plenty of benches to sit on and admire the views. At the heart of Attenborough Nature Reserve is a Nature Centre, built in 2005 and also opened by Sir David Attenborough. It has a shop, café and educational facilities.

As my walk came to an end and I exited the nature reserve, I had a bit of a walk around part of the village. Nearby Chilwell was formerly home to the National Shell Filling Factory, a munitions factory built during the First World War which mainly employed women to make shells. In peacetime, it was converted to a storage depot, and later became an army barracks called Chetwynd Barracks, which is due to close by 2024.

Regular blog readers will know of my dislike of level crossings, but I used the crossing at the station to get to the other side of the tracks. The moment that I had crossed over, the alarm went off and the barriers came down. Needless to say, I used the footbridge to cross back over to catch the train back to Derby. Attenborough has an hourly service towards Derby and Nottingham, but many high-speed services pass through the station without stopping.

At Derby, I had a lengthy 50-minute wait between trains. There is little to do while waiting at a railway station, apart from walking the length of the platform and then walking to the other end.

My train eventually arrived, so I boarded it and rode it back to Burton on Trent. In all, it was a good morning out in Attenborough, and I certainly hope to return to the Nature Reserve on a warmer and sunnier day.

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