Jun 082024

First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
view from Red Flats lane Blue Stocking Lane half absorbed in oats Blue Stocking Lane Hangingside Lane stone-cobbled Hollinhill Lane 2 stone-cobbled Hollinhill Lane shady corner of a cornfield off Hollinhill Lane. Looking back from Hollinhill Lane to the Boat Inn Chesterfield Canal near Hayton

The Nottinghamshire countryside east of Retford lies low and rolling, a mosaic of isolated farmhouses and fields connected by a very extensive network of old green lanes. Wide and rutted between ancient hedgerows full of wildlife, these grassy lanes are a rare survival, a reminder of what all back-country roads were like before the advent of tarmac and the motor car.

We set off from the Boat Inn by the Chesterfield Canal in Hayton under a pale blue midsummer sky hazy with heat. A bit of breeze from the east took the sting out of the sun as we followed Hollinhill Lane’s cobbled course between fields of barley shaded by ash trees and field maple with bright pink seed pods. Bringing my nose close to one of the dog roses in the hedge I caught a scent as sweet as a breath of perfume.

We turned along Hangingside Lane, green with hip-high grasses, its surface bumpy with bricks and shiny shards of vitreous china. An acid-yellow brimstone butterfly kettered energetically among the roses, and the pale brown bristly heads of sun-dried teasels trembled in the breeze.

A footpath led away across a beanfield, making a beeline for the cooling towers at West Burton power station, their slim-waisted shapes as graceful and iconic as a Henry Moore sculpture. Skylarks sang over the young bean plants, each white petal with its sooty ‘eye’ giving the illusion of a forest full of miniature pandas staring out at the intruder.

A quick dash across the busy A620 and we were swallowed up in the greenery of Blue Stocking Lane. No earnest salons of rural intellectuals here; instead, brown cows somnolently munching their cud in the pastures on either side, and a chiffchaff giving out its two-tone manifesto among the leaves of a bird cherry.

West along rutted Red Flats Lane, the meadows on either side coursing with wind ripples through their grasses. Scribbly whitethroat song from the hedges, a delicate funnel of spider web centred on a dark hole in the dirt, and a lane leading down to Clarborough and the Chesterfield Canal.

We followed the towpath north back towards Hayton among yellow flags and under humpbacked bridges. Fish made concentric rings on the water as they snatched unwary midges, and a black cat prowled the reeds on its stealthy evening patrol.

How hard is it? 5¾ miles; easy; green lanes, canal towpath

Start: Boat Inn, Townend Bridge, Hayton DN22 9LF (OS ref SK 728852). Please ask permission to park; please give inn your custom!

Getting there: Bus 97 (Retford–Gainsborough)
Road: Hayton is on B1403, signed in Clarborough from A620 (Retford–Beckingham)

Walk (OS Explorer 271): From Boat Inn cross road; down Burntleys Road; immediately right. In 150m at 3-way junction, take middle lane (‘Hollinhill Lane’) on map. In ½ mile at T-junction, right on Hangingside Lane (738853). In ½ mile pass end of Goit Lane on left; in 150m, left (737845, ‘public footpath’) across fields, aiming for cooling towers. Cross A620 (747847; fast road, please take care!). Down Blue Stocking Lane opposite (‘Public Bridleway’). In ⅓ mile, just after dogleg, ahead at right bend (750842) down green lane. In ½ mile lane widens; right here (753835) along Red Flats Lane. In 1 mile at tarmac road, left (740836) for ½ mile to recross A620 in Clarborough (732834). Along Little Lane; in 400m at T-junction, right (727834) across Parish Pasture. At far right corner pass netball court to road; left over bridge; right along canal (727837) for 1 mile to Townend Bridge (No. 66) and Boat Inn.

Lunch/Accommodation: Boat Inn, Hayton (01777-717534, theboatinnhayton.com)

Info: visit-nottinghamshire.co.uk

 Posted by at 04:06

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