Day 16: Newark to North Muskham

Miles walked: About 7

Weather: Some cloud, sunny spells

We actually only walked as far as Averham yesterday, a couple of miles from Newark, and then Mum and dad had picked us up in the car, so we could get to the castle on time. The river splits just south of there, and we’d walked along the west branch to Averham (pronounced Airam, Ross keeps complaining that places round here aren’t pronounced how they’re spelled, whereas I think that’s normal. His favourite is Belvoir – pronounced Beaver. What’s wrong with that, eh?).

We’d been told that the river splits because they cut an artificial channel, so they could make the river go through Newark. But in fact, Rene, the ranger at Newark Castle Gardens, told us that’s a myth. The river always split in two just south of Newark. However, the family who controlled the West branch had deepened it at some point, reducing the flow through Newark, and leading to all manner of court cases about it.

We decided to follow the east branch today, on our journey to North Muskham, because that meant walking through Newark, and gave superior tea drinking opportunities. Bev dropped us off at Farndon, so we did miss out a bit of river (from the split to there), but as we’d walked an equivalent distance along the other branch, we decided that wasn’t cheating.

As usual, we set off later than planned. We then, when we got into Newark, stopped in the centre for a cup of tea at the Royal Oak. This was a lovely pub. It looked like an old coaching inn and was full of old boys playing dominoes. The jolly landlord called me sweetheart in every sentence and served us two excellent pots of strong tea, with real milk, a choice of white or brown sugar, AND a free biscuit. All for £1 a pot! What more could one ask for?

They even had bar skittles set up, and Ross was duly trounced by a ten year old. The lad proudly announced that he could even beat his Dad and I could well believe it. It seemed like a proper community pub and I loved it. Ross thought I’d complain about being called sweetheart, but I don’t have a problem with that at all, when it’s done out of friendliness.

We set out once more to North Mushkam, realising we needed to get a move on. As usual. We took the west side of the river from near the castle, then had to swap to the east side at the footbridge a couple of miles later – both for footpaths, and for avoiding getting stuck at the confluence, where the two halves of the river re-join. There isn’t a bridge over the bit coming back in. This left us with a problem though, as we needed to be on the west side for North Muskham.

The walk was full of derelict remnants of Newark’s past as a port and transport hub. We also passed more sewage works, train lines and power stations. The audio below captures some of the sounds of this walk, as well as discussing the show at the castle, so I’m repeating it from yesterday.

The only bridge we could use was the one taking the A1 over the river. The A1 used to be called the Great North Road, which is far more heroic sounding. The numbering system for roads may be efficient, but it lacks poetry.

We had to scramble up a bank, through scrub, spiky trees and nettles. Then clamber over the barrier and walk across the bridge on a tiny pavement about a foot wide, while huge lorries swooshed past us at 60+ miles an hour. All I could think about was how it would only take one of them to swerve slightly and we’d be crushed against the barrier, or tipped into the Trent below us. That bridge seemed very long.

We then had to scramble down the other side, through more scrub, spiky things and nettles. At the bottom we crawled under another spiky tree, then kind of limboed ourselves over a barbed wire fence, backpacks and all, like some sort of extreme yoga exercise. Only to find ourselves in the midst of another huge path of nettles. These ones were vicious and were even stinging me through my canvas trousers. We are getting very good at finding ways through places we obviously aren’t supposed to go through.

Ross was complaining about how his ukelele kept catching on things, and I just kept swearing at the nettles. But eventually we fought our way to the footpath down the riverbank, and marched off towards the Muskham Ferry Inn, rubbing dock leaves on our posteriors as discreetly as we could. Having overcome all obstacles we were in high spirits and singing as we strode along. I sometimes worry we scare contemplative fishermen as we pass.

The Muskham Ferry was a lovely pub. I asked for the landlady, and the barman said, ‘Who shall I say… *glances at maps, boots and general dishevelled appearance* Oh, are you the walkers?’ Top marks Sherlock.

We got a good audience, in the pool room. Jim from the local history group had come out, and he acted as our barker, rounding people up. He’s a larger than life character, a folky and a bit of a performer, so he was perfect for the role. If only we’d had a Jim at every venue!

We got about 20 folk and they seemed to really enjoy it. They laughed and clapped in the right places, anyway. And they had things to say about the Trent in the discussion bit. There was a guy there whose Grandparents had had a farm on Biddulph Moor (near the source of the Trent), and another who used to live by the Trent in Nottingham, in the Meadows. It’s funny how many people we meet have moved from one bit of the Trent to another.

We then had a great roast dinner, provided by the landlady, bless her. And went off in Bev’s car to look at Cromwell lock. We buttonholed the lockkeeper and learnt a load of fascinating things from him, but that will need to wait for another blogpost I’m afraid. We then all went back to Bev’s and had another lovely evening and more thought-provoking conversation with Bev. Pretty perfect as a Tales from the River day goes!

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