On Saturday we cycled over to Attenborough Nature Reserve, which is a 145 hectare area of flooded gravel pits bordering the River Trent. The gravel pits are divided up by a series of islands and paths, which form a circular route round the nature reserve.
The first part of the loop goes along a section of the River Trent that is lined with barges and houses made from what look like cobbled together pieces of flotsam and jetsam, as though they have been washed away so many times the owners have given up maintaining any semblance of a “normal” house. Or perhaps the owners are water people who only come on to dry land to sleep.
As you cycle further along the path there are two structures that stand out on the horizon: the spire of the church in the village of Attenborough and the cooling towers of the coal fired power station at Ratcliffe-on-Soar. The path meanders so that the two seem to swap places on the horizon as you cycle along. I feel like I ought to find the cooling towers hideous and be angry about everything they represent, but actually I think they’re oddly beautiful. Especially on a day like Saturday when the winter sun shines through the foggy haze created by the clouds of steam and smoke pouring up from the towers.
We stopped briefly at the visitor centre, which sits out on the water across a metal bridge. The centre seems to bustle constantly with cars and people, and ducks and geese jostle for bread from the visitors. We sat on a bench enjoying the view when a train went by on the other side of the water. Again I found myself thinking that something that should look ugly and blot the natural beauty of the place actually looked quite charming. Then again, the reserve itself is hardly natural – it is made up of the flooded gravel pits of a former industry.
As well as the more common ducks like Mallards and Canada Geese, the area is a good spot for seeing wintering water fowl, but we didn’t stop to do any birding. In fact, the most unusual wildlife sighting I had was the rat that ran across the path a few feet from us – I don’t see many rats!
As we looped back round we passed through the village of Attenborough. It is what can fairly be described as quaint. It is quaint to the point of seeming as made up and jumbled together as the houses on the shore of the Trent. As though someone said one day, let’s construct an idyll of English village life. Village church, check; village green, check; water pump on the green, check; cricket pitch, check.
After the village it was a short cycle back to the start of the loop and the most terrifying part of the journey home – having to push our bikes across the railway tracks. Just as we were about to cross a train came barrelling past; suddenly they didn’t seem so charming any more.