Ilkeston to Stanley Brook, by Mark Halliwell [Next page]
The Centenary Way starts on West End Road in the south-west of Ilkeston, at its crossroads with Oakwell Drive (B6007). I’d reached Ilkeston on a blue-sky day by walking out eastwards parallel to The Way on its southern side, through Stanley village and shadowing the old Great Northern Railway line (initially avoiding the Centenary Way as much as possible!). I’d made it to the start – now for the exciting part! As I began walking westwards on The Way proper from West End Road, on the left was Ilkeston’s Rutland Recreation Ground, which used to host Derbyshire for County Cricket matches, annually until 1994.
The west end of West End Road gives way to the edge of Pewit Golf Course, and The Way passed some allotments and a yaffle that gave away a Green Woodpecker, then into the attractive Straws Bridge Nature Reserve (the site of a former open-cast mine) with its three lakes and many species of waterfowl. The Way heads right, briefly coinciding with the Nutbrook Trail, a 10-mile route from Long Eaton to Shipley Country Park, Heanor, following the River Erewash and the historic route of the Nutbrook Canal (built in 1796 and finally closed in 1949).
Heading north, The Way crosses the route of the Great Northern Railway western branch line (opened in 1878 and joining Derby and Burton upon Trent to the main London-to-York line, but closed finally in 1968 courtesy of Dr. Beeching) and enters Pewit Carr Nature Reserve. There are some great reed beds around the first pool on the left, next to the old railway embankment, and here I spotted dragonflies, a heron, reed buntings and reed warblers. Having started out early to walk to Ilkeston, I took lunch at the sun-drenched Manor Floods Lake on the right, just at the point where the Centenary Way turns off east, or left, from the Nutbrook Trail, watching the swans and grebes, and sharing a jetty with some gorgeous damselflies. Both reserves were thoroughly interesting and teeming with wildlife – think I’ll be heading back soon.
But onwards and westwards. After Pewit Carr, The Way crosses fields either side of the A609. Some beautiful butterflies were out on this hot afternoon, but then suddenly I startled a Little Owl – though it’s debatable which of us was the more startled – that flew up on my right and headed with urgency for some big-tree cover: a wonderful sight. Crossing a stream and heading up a pretty lane into West Hallam, there were treecreepers on my right, song thrushes around the farm on the left and buzzards overhead. I joined the main road through West Hallam and turned left, following the route past St Wilfred’s Church, the War Memorial and the Punchbowl Pub (sadly closed this time!). The Centenary Way keeps the walker to the old village of West Hallam, with its historic cottages and school.
Leaving the village, as the road heads left for Stanley, the path strikes out across fields from the site of the former White Hart Pub. I managed to lose The Way temporarily near Briggswood Farm, north of Stanley, but recovered quickly enough, and crossed Stanley Brook as things started to get a bit hillier. Heading south from Hayes Park Farm past some Mistle Thrushes and Lapwings, the path meets the Midshires Way at Spring Oak Farm, which is at its junction with the unmetalled track out of Stanley. Both long-distance paths head west up the hill from nearby Stanley Brook towards Morley, and it’s here that I took leave of The Way for this stage and headed home with anticipation for the next.