Attenborough Nature Reserve – August 2022

Back in May 2021, I visited Attenborough railway station on a cold Saturday morning, in order to tick it off the East Midlands Ranger Area list. I vowed to return on a warm and sunny summer’s evening for another walk around Attenborough Nature Reserve, and I did just that on Thursday August 25th, 2022.

Attenborough station has an infrequent service compared to other stations on the line between Burton on Trent and Nottingham, and so I had to catch a train up to Beeston, and then another train back down the line to Attenborough. I left the station and headed for the nature reserve. I remembered the way there from the last time I visited.

Attenborough Nature reserve was created from former gravel pits, with the first part opening in 1966. David Attenborough opened it that year, and he returned almost 50 years later in 2005 to open the nature centre building in the heart of the reserve. The site has expanded over the years, with sections restored as wetland when gravel extraction works are completed.

I had a good long walk around the footpaths. It was quite busy, with many cyclists, joggers and families out for an afternoon stroll. There were also a couple of people harvesting some of the wild fruit which was growing around the area.

I followed the path anti-clockwise close to the River Trent. The path continues onwards towards the point where the river meets the Nottingham Canal at Beeston, but I turned left and followed the path towards the railway line. There is a foot crossing over the tracks, but there was no way on this earth I was going to attempt to use it. I does have an alarm to warn people that a train is approaching, but it’s not for me.

I arrived back at Attenborough station with plenty of time to spare. One common theme of all the trips I have been on in the last few years is that I always underestimate how long it takes to walk around somewhere (although I occasionally overestimate and end up missing a train, like I did in Ilkeston).

Attenborough railway station

I had a six-minute wait scheduled at East Midlands Parkway, plenty of time to saunter over the footbridge, or maybe even amble over it, to catch the train back to Derby. As I sat on a bench in the glorious evening sunshine at Attenborough, I checked the National Rail app on my phone to see that everything was running to plan.

It wasn’t.

There was a four minute delay, meaning that my wait was cut to just two minutes. The train eventually appeared over the horizon, and I willed it to hurry up and get to the station. I boarded and stayed next to the door, ready to fly out of the train as soon as it pulled up at East Midlands Parkway. Sweat began to form on my brow as the train left Attenborough and headed down to EMP.

As soon as it pulled into EMP, I waited impatiently for the door open light to illuminate. As soon as it did, I pressed it and didn’t even wait for the door to fully open. Fortunately, I was right next to the footbridge, and so I leapt out of the train and darted up the stairs, trailing in the wake of some other passengers who were in the same situation.

I had to run to keep up with the pack of around four or five people, chasing down the 1859 East Midlands Railway service towards Sheffield as if they were greyhounds chasing a mechanical hare. I glanced out of the footbridge’s window to see the train already there, its engine already running, primed and ready to depart. I started heading down the stairs, only to find it was a spiral staircase. “How many stairs are there?” I wondered aloud. The train despatcher sounded their whistle. Was I going to make it? The train door was still open as some of my fellow passengers jumped onto the train. Was there room for me, and would I make it before the doors closed?

Yes. I made it. With about thirty seconds to spare. I think that they would have held the train for a minute or two if they had seen people running for it anyway, but I didn’t want to take that chance. I found a seat, and sat down in order to catch my breath. if I hadn’t made the train, then I would have had to get the next one from EMP back up to Nottingham, then a train from there back to Burton, which would have made me forty minutes late. Also, my phone’s battery was at 16%, and my train ticket was on there, so I would have been up the creek without a paddle if it had run out.

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