Friday, 28 August 2009

River Trent

The River Trent is one of the major rivers of England. Its source is in Staffordshire between Biddulph and Biddulph Moor.

River Trent at Trent Bridge

It flows through the Midlands (forming a once-significant boundary between the North and South of England) until it joins the River Ouse at Trent Falls to form the Humber Estuary, which empties into the North Sea below Hull and Immingham.

River Ouse

Humber Bridge

The Trent is unusual amongst English rivers in that it flows north (for the second half of its route), and is also unusual in exhibiting a tidal bore, the "Trent Aegir".

The area drained by the river includes most of the northern Midlands.

Map of the River Trent Drainage

The name "Trent" comes from a Celtic word possibly meaning "strongly flooding". More specifically, the name may be a contraction of two Celtic words, tros ("over") and hynt ("way"). This may indeed indicate a river that is prone to flooding. However, a more likely explanation may be that it was considered to be a river that could be crossed principally by means of fords, i.e. the river flowed over major road routes. This may explain the presence of the Celtic element rid (c.f. Welsh rhyd, "ford") in various placenames along the Trent, such as Hill Ridware, as well as the Saxon‐derived ford. Another translation is given as "the trespasser", referring to the waters flooding over the land . According to Koch at the University of Wales, the name Trent derives from the Romano-British Trisantona, a Romano-British reflex of the combined Proto-Celtic elements *tri-sent(o)-on-ā- (through-path-AUG-F-) ‘great feminine thoroughfare’ .

In the Pliocene epoch (1.7 m years ago) the River Trent rose in the Welsh hills and flowed almost east from Nottingham through the present Vale of Belvoir to cut a gap through the limestone ridge at Ancaster and thence to the North Sea. At the end of the Wolstonian Stage (c. 130,000 years ago) a mass of stagnant ice left in the Vale of Belvoir caused the river to divert north along the old Lincoln river, through the Lincoln gap. In a following glaciation (Devensian, 70,000BCE) the ice held back vast areas of water - called Lake Humber - in the current lower Trent basin and when this retreated the Trent adopted its current course into the Humber.

Migration of course in historic times
Packet House on the River Trent

Unusually for an English river, the river channel has occasionally altered significantly in historic times. An abandoned channel at Repton is described on an old map as 'Old Trent Water'. Further downstream, archaeologists have found the remains of a Medieval bridge across another abandoned channel. The course of the river was altered in the area of Ingleby in Derbyshire when 300 acres (1.2 km2) was "moved" from one side of the river to another. This is recorded in Shakespeare's play Henry IV - Part 1:
"Methinks my moiety, north from Burton here,
In quantity equals not one of yours:
See how this river comes me cranking in,
And cuts me from the best of all my land
A huge half-moon, a monstrous cantle out.
I'll have the current in this place damm'd up;
And here the smug and silver Trent shall run
In a new channel, fair and evenly;
It shall not wind with such a deep indent,
To rob me of so rich a bottom here."

History of navigation
Nottingham seems to have been the ancient head of navigation until the Restoration, due partly to the difficult navigation of the Trent Bridge.

River Trent at Nottingham

Navigation was then extended to Wilden Ferry, as a result of the efforts of the Fosbrooke family of Shardlow.
Later, in 1699, Lord Paget obtained an Act of Parliament to extend navigation up to Burton, but nothing was immediately done.
In 1711, Lord Paget leased his rights to George Hayne, who carried out improvements, quickly opening the river to Burton. He monopolised freight, causing discontent among merchants and encouraging interloping. His business was continued as the 'Burton Boat Company', but after the opening of the Trent and Mersey Canal, the Boat Company were unable to compete. Eventually in 1805, they reached an agreement with Henshall & Co. the leading canal carriers for the closure of the river above Wilden Ferry.

River Trent at Shardlow

Though the river is no doubt legally still navigable above Shardlow, it is probable that the agreement marks the end of the use of that stretch of the river as a commercial navigation.
The first improvement of the lower river was the Newark cut which, by means of two locks, brought the navigation into the town centre in 1772-3 and by-passed Averham weir, without closing it for navigation.

Beeston Weir

At the beginning of the 1790s, William Jessop was employed to make proposals for navigation between Shardlow and Gainsborough and made his second report in 1793. This proposed a cut and lock at Cranfleet near Long Eaton opposite the mouth of the Soar, a cut and lock at Beeston to join the Nottingham Canal, being built at the same time, and another at Holme Pierrepoint with the aim of increasing the minimum depth from 2 ft (0.61 m) to 3 ft (0.91 m).

Nottingham Canal

This was authorized by Act of Parliament in 1794 and the work finished by 1801. Between 1911 and 1927, and again in the 1960s the Trent was further enlarged between Cromwell and Nottingham and today can take large motor barges up to around 150ft in length with a capacity of approx 300 tonnes.

Navigation today

Trent and Mersey canal

The river is legally navigable for some 117 miles (188 km) below Burton upon Trent. However for practical purposes, navigation above the southern terminus of the Trent and Mersey Canal (at Shardlow) is conducted on the canal, rather than on the river itself.
The T&M canal connects the Trent to the Potteries and on to Runcorn and the Bridgewater Canal.
Down river of Shardlow, the non-tidal river is navigable as far as the Cromwell Lock near Newark, except just west of Nottingham where there are two lengths of canal, the Cranfleet and Nottingham. Below Cromwell lock, the Trent is tidal, and therefore only navigable by experienced, well-equipped boaters. Navigation lights and a proper anchor and cable are compulsory, and Associated British Ports, the navigation authority for the river from Trent Falls to Gainsborough, insist that anyone in charge of a boat must be experienced at navigating in tidal waters. Experience is especially necessary at Trent Falls, a lonely spot where the Trent joins the Yorkshire Ouse, to form the Humber estuary. The timetables of flows and tides of the two rivers and the estuary are very complex here, and vary through the lunar cycle. Boats coming down the Trent on an ebbing tide often have to beach themselves (sometimes in the dark) at Trent Falls to wait for the next incoming tide to carry them up the Ouse.

Trent Aegir

The Trent Aegir seen from West Stockwith, Nottinghamshire 20 Sept 2005

At certain times of the year, the lower tidal reaches of the Trent experience a moderately large tidal bore (up to five feet (1.5m) high), commonly known as the Trent Aegir. The Aegir occurs when a high spring tide meets the downstream flow of the river, the funnel shape of the river mouth exaggerates this effect, causing a large wave to travel upstream as far as Gainsborough, Lincolnshire, and sometimes beyond. The aegir cannot travel much beyond Gainsborough as the shape of the river reduces the aegir to little more than a ripple, and weirs north of Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire stop its path completely.

Barton Ferry

The literal North/South divide
The Trent historically marked the boundary between Northern England and Southern England. For example the administration of Royal Forests was subject to a different Justice in Eyre north and south of the river, and the jurisdiction of the medieval Council of the North started at the Trent. Although the rise of the identity of the "Midlands" has moved the boundary slightly (the modern idea of the "North" now usually starts at the boundary of Yorkshire) some slight traces of the old division do remain : the Trent marks the boundary between the provinces of two English Kings of Arms, Norroy and Clarenceux. Although little heard these days, the phrase "born North of the Trent" is one means of expressing that someone hails from the North of England

Places along the Trent

Cities and towns on or close to the river include:

River Trent at Gainsborough

Stone Rugeley
Burton upon Trent
Castle Donington
Dunham Bridge - A57 Swing Toll bridge

Holme Pierrepont National Watersports Centre in Nottingham on the River Trent

Among its tributaries are:
River Devon
River Greet
River Derwent, Derby
River Dove
River Erewash
River Idle, Nottinghamshire - meets the Trent at West Stockwith
River Leen
River Mease
River Soar, Leicester - meets the Trent at Trentlock
River Sow
River Tame, Birmingham

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