37: Mapperley, Nottingham

Old Market Square
The Old Market Square, in Nottingham city centre.

Date: 3rd August 2021.

Weather conditions: There was some cloud around, but in the end this was another warm, dry, and mainly sunny day, and continued my run of good weather walks (which, including recent Wainwright ones, now extends to nine in a row).

County Top bagged: Mapperley, the summit of the city of Nottingham. This is not a prominent ‘hilltop’ as such, but it is the highest point of a ridge that, according to the relevant Wikipedia page, is “a long narrow spur, the remnant of a plateau eroded by glacial meltwater”.

Summit of Mapperley (nearly)
On Woodborough Road, as near as you are permitted to get to the summit of Mapperley.

There are two spot heights in the vicinity at 127m, but a 427 feet/130m contour line is evident at grid reference SK588431. On the ground this corresponds to the banks of a covered reservoir that is inaccessible to the general public. This makes Mapperley the second County Top in a row that, being strict about it, I have not quite been able to reach. Nevertheless there is a sense that at the gates of this reservoir, a summit of some kind has been attained; all roads that converge on this point visibly go downhill from here (if only slightly).

Nottingham, like several other major cities around the UK, has been administratively independent since an Act of Parliament designated it a county borough in 1889. However, I’m not counting it as a historic CT; it can be a modern one only. By altitude it ranks 140th of the modern tops and 163rd of the full list.

[ << Ebrington Hill, Warwickshire (36) | (38) Glas Maol, Angus >> ]

Radio mast, Colwick Woods
The radio mast at the top of Colwick Woods.

Start and end point of walk: Started at Nottingham railway station. Symbolically, I considered the walk finished at the gates of Nottingham castle, and after visiting the pub (see next) I went on to my nearby hotel, But one can, of course, easily return to the station at the end, and the map below reflects this. Excluding lunch and beer breaks, the walk took me about 2¾ hours.

Pub at end: Outside the gates of the castle is the Crafty Crow, which served a good variety of real ale, but was surprisingly quiet; maybe this is a Great Fear thing but also maybe indicates that it is usually a student pub (it feels like one), and I was doing the walk in August. On the way round I also nicked a pint at the Duke of Cambridge in Mapperley, which felt much the same, and was equally quiet. Both are recommended, however.

Old trip to Jerusalem
The Old — sorry, ‘Ye Olde’ — Trip to Jerusalem pub.

Initially, I forgot about the existence of the Old Trip to Jerusalem, which is a couple of hundred yards from the Crafty Crow, part-burrowed into the rock under the castle. This establishment claims to be the oldest pub in England (founded 1189) though it seems there is no concrete documentation of this. I did visit it later, on my way out in the evening, and regardless of its historical provenance, it’s a nice pub — see pic — and also has good beer.

Distance walked: 7.5 miles approximately.

Feet of ascent: 610 feet/185m approx.

Difficulty: ★. Today proved that Nottingham is definitely not a flat city. But other than there being quite a bit of uphill, this walk is all on roads or well-surfaced footpaths, and there is no need for any hiking gear today.

Ease of access: ★★★★★. No argument about this award. You start and end at the mainline railway station of a city that is in the geographical centre of England. Most of the country could do this on a day trip if they wanted to.

View over St Ann's
View over to the St Ann’s district, from Sneinton Dale.

Scenic qualities: ★. This is my fourth fully urban top, and scenically, it’s lacking a little, compared to each of the others. The walks in Derby and Liverpool had plenty of attractive parkland and riverside sections, and Dundee had a great view from a proper, distinctive summit.

But while nothing seen today is ugly, little about it is that interesting, at least until the city centre at the end. Ultimately, Is one star unfair? Perhaps, but I’m feeling mildly grouchy today, so it’s what it gets.

The area: Nottingham is best known worldwide for fictional characters, Robin Hood and his antagonist, the eponymous Sheriff. My hotel stood on a street called ‘Maid Marian Way’. Whether these people really existed is uncertain, but thanks to Errol Flynn, Kevin Costner et al, it doesn’t really seem to matter any more — everyone knows the story. In the 2500s maybe there’ll be a similar mythology about Boris Johnson and the EU, although I have my doubts.

City centre mural
City centre mural.

The city has been around for a long time, and given plenty of other real things to the world, including Boots the ‘chemists’ — Raleigh bicycles — Albert Finney giving the genteel 1960s a bit of rough in Saturday Night and Sunday Morning — Brian Clough, famous former manager of Nottingham Forest FC, whom he took to an English championship and two European Cups. (Although he was actually from the north-east.)

It’s a decent, and pleasantly multicultural place. There certainly is an energy to it that is not present in every provincial city in the UK.

Map: If purists want to pick up OS Explorer 260: Nottingham they can but even I didn’t feel the need (my collection of Explorers is already extensive, and I’m not even 20% of the way through this project yet). Your phone will get you round just fine.

On this summary map, the station is at the southernmost point, the summit at the northernmost, and I went round the circuit anticlockwise.

Map of walk 37

Route: Be assured before one sets out in my footsteps that this is my most urban walk yet. There are brief woodland interludes in the first third, but that’s all you’ll be seeing of “nature” today. It’s hillier than I expected, but that is the only possible source of over-exertion. There are occasional long views, which convince you that you are up a hill of some prominence, but they are glimpsed rather than seen in fullness. Still, it’s not a bad walk to do as one part of a longer stay in the city.

From the station, come out of the Station Road exit and turn right, heading between the platforms on your right and the Capital One building across the road. At the end of this street, carry straight on — this section was obstructed by building works on the day I did it but they will hopefully have gone should you follow in my footsteps. Keep going straight on, along the street called Sneinton Hermitage, then bear left up Sneinton Boulevard, a grandly named but otherwise rather ordinary street, that gives you a clear view of the hill ahead, your first ascent of the day.

Sneinton Boulevard
Looking up Sneinton Boulevard.

Before reaching the high school, there are two paths in quick succession on the right. As I found out, you need to take the second of these, which hugs the school fence and then climbs, quite steeply, up to the top of Colwick Woods. From here follow the signposts to Greenwood Road. This takes you past the radio mast (at about 90m a.s.l.), and then when the woods thin out, there are views ahead of two more of these structures — these are the ones on top of Mapperley, so you get an impression here of how far you are going to be walking.

Once you come out on Greenwood Road, at the basketball centre, turn left. Keep heading downhill, skip right then immediately left up Ipswich Circus (this is all clearly 1950s public housing) and go up Shelford Rise then follow the public footpath sign through Sneinton Dale. This is the last off-road experience you’ll be having today, so make the most of it.

Old tunnel
The old tunnel entrance in Sneinton Dale.

This path passes a mysterious, boarded up old tunnel (pictured) and then comes out at a road again. Here, turn right, then left to join Porchester Road and stay on this for the next two miles. This highway marks the boundary of the Nottingham city council area. Note how the bins change to being marked as “Gedling Borough Council” in the yards of the houses on the right-hand side of Porchester Road.

The street gradually rises, then once you reach the traffic lights near the “Plumbline” shop, you are at the top of Mapperley, and hence, Nottingham. I didn’t honestly expect that passers-by would be permitted to access the covered reservoirs that are the actual summit, at 130m a.s.l., and nor can we — but you can pay your homage to this Top through the fence.

View from Woodborough Road
View of the city centre, from the descent of Woodborough Road.

Once done with this ritual, head down Woodborough Road. The Duke of Cambridge pub is worth a visit if you want to toast your achievement, and if you toast it too enthusiastically, you can get a bus back to town from here. But then again, it is all downhill from this point. I did consider variations to this route back down but in the end there seemed nothing really worth trying, so just follow Woodborough Road all the way down into the city centre.

Past this point there is no need to follow my route precisely. Nottingham is an interesting place, with plenty to see and do, so explore away. Bear in mind that the Castle is no medieval fortress, and anyone whose impressions of the place have been formed by Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves should think again (the castle in that movie was Carcassonne in southern France); the present squat building is a Victorian construction. But it might be worth a look on your way back to the station.

Shisha Corner
In Sneinton.

Reading Commentary: Is it my summer holiday yet? Not quite. I’m still at work, technically. But there are no trains to Manchester for the next fortnight and my options are, largely, 1) stay at home waiting for the 13th August (when I can finally declare myself, officially, “off work”), or 2) get out and do something. So I got out and did something. The walls of the valley, the walls of the house, they do close in, otherwise.

I’m a ‘Reader’, that’s my job title. Sometimes I can make it my job description as well, and that happened today. If you’re interested (and you’re probably not, although you’re still reading by this point regardless), today’s book that needed Reading was Ted Nelson’s Literary Machines, a 1987 exploration of the possibilities of the hypertext system that he and colleagues had developed, and very prescient in many ways.

Thistles in seed
The thistles in seed — waiting to give someone an allergy.

Without people like Nelson, you wouldn’t be reading this online. Maybe a book would eventually come out (maybe it still will) and probably the editor would suggest cutting out all these crappy ‘commentaries’ at the end, but hey, it at least creates space for a couple more photos. All this self-publication — and self-promotion? — was certainly part of Nelson’s vision of a democratic , active hypertext world; but he also laced the book with warnings, that we can now see manifest in Google, Facebook, Amazon and every other tech giant that we dislike and simultaneously depend upon. Is WordPress evil though? Hmmmm.

Today’s walk was definitively an urban walk, and not ‘hiking’ at all, but that’s the nature of the project I’m embarked upon. A quick perusal of the list suggests there are going to be at least 25-35 of these, depending on one’s definition of ‘urban’. The point of all this is to explore, get some variety, so I didn’t mind. It got coupled up with a football match at Long Eaton United, which is vaguely in Nottingham, so I had a full day, with plenty of walking. It’s all I have for exercise nowadays, so it’s just as well there are still 160 of these to go.

Pakistan Centre
The ‘Pakistan Centre’ on Woodborough Road.

Next up — something in Scotland; maybe something will be bagged on the journey up but the real target is Ben Lawers, the third highest of all the CTs. Fingers crossed for good weather, on the weekend after next.


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