Friday, 4 August 2017

A wander through border country aka Kegworth and Sutton Bonington

Last Saturday (29 July 2017) Susan and I took ourselves off to explore Kegworth and Sutton Bonington villages to check the accuracy of the map of I was working on with Nottingham University's Students' Union.  I posted a second draft of the map yesterday, completely changed from my first draft. I had not got anything wrong, it was just a case of seeing things differently.

We  have known about Kegworth Museum for a long time but never visited before. We were not disappointed. Notice the bus stop right outside, which is normally used by Trent-Barton's Nottingham SkyLink service, which is extended hourly Monday–Saturday daytime from East Midlands Airport to Loughborough, but the stop is temporarily out of use whilst the road bridge across the M1 between the A453 and Kegworth is closed. The good news is that Kegworth Museum is just a five minute walk from the Market Place.

The Museum is a wonderful eclectic mix of the everyday and far more besides. 

It is run by a small group of volunteers who keep the museum looking immaculate. I did not see a spect of dust.

This picture shows the upstairs exhibition area. They have a large collection of photographs which have been linked to reminiscences. We stayed well over an hour and left determined to return.

For a place the size of Kegworth to have a museum makes you wonder why towns like Beeston have never managed to have museums. The Museum is open Easter – September, Saturdays & Bank Holiday Mondays 10–1 and Sundays 1–4. Free admission.

We caught sight of this little bus three times during our visit. It was empty every time. The 865 is a Nottinghamshire County Council subsidised service which runs 4–5 times Monday–Saturday daytime in each direction. The destination blind showed 'Kegworth' on each occasion, which is a little confusing because journeys only call at Kegworth, never terminate. It actually runs between Normanton and the Clifton South tram terminus in Nottingham. It also calls at East Midlands Parkway Station. I am a great supporter of rural bus services and believe the need to be frequent and daily. However, I suspect even this 'little bus' is too large for the 865 and what is need is a more flexible 'bus-taxi' service like I have advocated for Beeston in blog earlier this year.

We went into Oliver's Cafe on the High Street for a light lunch. It looked (and was) clean and comfortable.

Whilst there we got chatting with Irene (who said that was her name, but she liked to be called Rene) who was hoping to see someone who did not arrive. In the course of our chat we found out that we had a few things in common. Last year she had a heart valve replacement operation at Nottingham City Hospital (like me in February this year). Her defect was found by a chance blood test at her GP and when she asked if, at 95, she was too old for the operation, the doctor replied '95 is just a number to us'.

Rene came from Teeside to live with family in Kegworth a few years ago and volunteered that she had been a English teacher until she retired and that she was 'a socialist'. She went on to tell us about her life as a teacher and growing up in Norton on the edge of Stockton-on-Tees. A remarkable woman by any measure who was great company for all too shorter time. Just over two hours in fact. As fellow socialists we hope that we will still be as lively and good company as Rene when we reach 95 (96 next month she told us).

I chose a delicious panini filled with Halloumi cheese, Roasted Red Pepper and Pesto. Susan had a beef sandwich. Oliver and his assistance were having the day off, so we were served by their mums. We will be going back. The cafe was small, but when it came to service and quality it packed a mighty punch.

One of the things I was not expecting in Kegworth was steep hills and we found a couple. This is one of them. Borough Street (I know it doesn't look 'steep' but I promise you my camera is lying).

We went down Borough Street in search of this pub, the Cap & Stocking, recommended by a student. We didn't go in, having not long left Oliver's cafe, but its looks nice enough.

Across from the pub is a council estate made up of houses like these. Good looking, substantial and a reminder of the fact that council houses were built in villages, even hamlets, and small towns as well as cities, often by Conservative councils. I had relatives in Great Chesterford, Essex, who lived a craft-style cottage-like council house, just a row, seemingly on the edge of nowhere until post-war housing went up on the other side of the road. It would be interesting to know the history of this nice looking estate. A question for our next visit to Kegworth Museum.

At the end of Borough Street we crossed Nottingham Road and stood watching a cricket match for ten minutes before moving on.

We climbed another hill towards the church and entered via the back gate, then up some steps, along a path through some trees to be confronted with this view of the church, our eyes drawn to the six tiny gravestones all dating from the 19th century. Best described I think as 'a thoughtful place'.

Round the front of the church and this view from under the Yew. 'Timeless' describes it best as far as I am concerned.

We bade farewell to Kegworth, vowing to return for a longer visit next time, and headed to Sutton Bonington, which is now home to the University of Nottingham's veterinary school as well as its long established agricultural college. Another place we will return to, but the need for tea and cake...

...pulled us onto what I had marked on the map as 'The Gallery & Tearoom'. In fact they when we arrived we quickly found out that they are in the process of a rebranding exercise. Their new name is above.

What we also found out that for the past five years one of the owners, Martin, has been creating an outdoor model railway. As you can see the railway has yet to catch up with the building's signage.

The important thing is that we found what we had come in search of — cake with Earl Grey tea! Everything you need on albeit overcast, barely warm English summer afternoon. We found out the Tearoom was busy with locals and welcomed students. We also learnt a thing or two about Martin and, later, a connection with Lucy in Beeston's 2 Little Magpies craft and gift shop. Both were students at Nottingham-Trent University at the same time, albeit in different years, studying theatre & costume design.

As we ate our delicious Victoria sponge cake Thome the Tank Engine kept calling at Soar Point Station. Maybe such a station once existed on the nearby Midland Mainline Railway which runs through the village, cutting it off from the University campus.

Martin told us students were always welcome and the indoor tearoom was where students came to escape the gaze of others. From now on I will think of this place as the 'Assignations Tearoom'

The art gallery is morphing into Bonington's Gift Shop and Tearooms which I think can be described as 'a destination in itself'. I will be going back for more cake and to take a photograph of a Trent-Barton Nottingham SkyLink bus as it passes by. During our visit we were busy eating or looking the other way when the SkyLinks zoomed by. Buses really are the agents of democracy and need to championed at every opportunity.

A walk down to Queens Road and you can catch a Trent-Barton SkyLink direct to Kegworth and Sutton Bonington once every hour during the daytime Monday–Saturday, or an Indigo from Beeston Interchange to The Green in Long Eaton, where you can change to a Nottingham SkyLink.

Anyone with in easy reach of a Nottingham SkyLink of Indigo bus really does have access to history and village England in a way many elsewhere can only dream of.

We came away from Kegworth Museum with three short walk leaflets determined to return on a Trent-Barton bus, perhaps in the company of others interested in a day out in what can fairly be called 'Border Country'. 

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