Walk of the month: A hike along the river Trent is less a walk, more a meander

This waterway winds through some of England's industrial heartlands. But in parts it has a bucolic air. Mark Rowe plots a trail taking in cliffs, pastures and woodland

The River Trent is the third-longest in England, stretching for around 160 miles from its source in North Staffordshire to join the Humber Estuary at Trent Falls, south of Hull. Though a tiddler by international standards, the Trent's journey passes through some of England's industrial heartlands. Despite this, it has a bucolic air for much of its passage.

This walk begins in Shelford, just 15 minutes on foot from the river, at the 11th-century St Peter and St Paul's Church. During the Civil War, a group of soldiers loyal to the King were ejected from the church tower when the Parliamentarians set it alight.

With your back to the church, turn left along Church Road, past the village hall and straight over a crossroads. Follow the public footpath signpost by Waterlane Cottage. After 100 yards you reach a fork, where you turn sharp right over a stile to follow a narrow, fenced path with a barn to the left. Climb the stile into an arable field and walk with the hedge to your right. After 50 yards take the stile on your right it's slightly masked by overhanging trees. Continue through the small horse-paddock, with the hedge on your left. Cross another stile and then turn right on to Julian Lane to join Main Street.

Turn left along the pavement and at the war memorial turn sharp left into Pinfold Lane. At the end of the lane climb the stile into a horse-paddock and continue in the same direction to another stile and gate and an arable field.

The Midlands may be densely populated but the setting is intensely rural: with stretches of arable farmland, dotted with trees, on whose exposed branches large numbers of rooks gather to lend a Hitchcockian edge.

Carry on across the field and turn right by the yellow waymark post on to a clear track to the road. Turn right back towards Shelford for 400 yards and when the road bends to the right, turn left on the track by Ashdown Cottage. Follow this track to its end, ignoring two sharp right-hand turns, before passing through an arable field where you follow a clear but narrow track.

Eventually, this track meets the Trent Valley Way footpath and you turn left to start climbing Gibbet Hill. The paths quickly divide take the right-hand one, waymarked for the Trent Valley Way. The path climbs, with impressive views of the River Trent far down to your right. A weir comes into view, its modest drop giving the Trent an impressive momentum.

The path continues with the Trent on your right, through woodland. Just after you pass some steps down to your right, turn right along the paved path that arcs around above the shale cliffs.

After about 600 yards, take a gate on your left, pretty much opposite some steps to your right. The gate takes you into the rose garden of Rockley Memorial Park. The park was gifted to Radcliffe-on-Trent by Lisle Rockley in memory of his son, who fell at Ypres, and other local men who died in the First World War.

Follow the outer edge of the park and leave it via Park Road at the public toilets. When you reach Shelford Road, turn right and walk downhill into Radcliffe-on-Trent. Walk over the railway to the roundabout with the Co-op store on the corner.

Turn right, following the signpost for Nottingham, to reach St Mary's Church. The church dates from the 13th century and noteworthy features include a chantry chapel. Opposite the church, turn right down Wharf Lane. Then, just after this lane passes under the railway bridge, take the steps up to the right to re-enter the grounds of Rockley Memorial Park. After 600 yards you come to the set of steps opposite the gate you passed through earlier. This time, take the steps down to the water's edge and follow the clear track around the outer perimeter of the islets. The hedgerows here make a haven for small birds.

The trail eventually swings around to the weir before climbing up the side of the cliffs and rejoining the path, where you turn left to head back towards Gibbet Hill. Retrace your steps over the hill but at the bottom take the left-hand, waymarked path over the stile and along the grassy floodbank to follow the Trent downstream.

After half a mile the path picks up Stoke Ferry Lane, where you turn left. The Trent is an impressive sight, ploughing through the gorge-like cliffs of Gibbet Hill. Keep walking along the lane and in just under a mile you arrive back at the church in Shelford.

DISTANCE 7 miles

OS MAP OS Explorer Active Map 260 Nottingham, Vale of Belvoir

TIME Three hours

FURTHER INFORMATION Mark Rowe stayed at Woodside Farm (01476 870336; woodsidebandb.co.uk), near Redmile, which offers doubles for 60 per night. CrossCountry (crosscountrytrains.co.uk) runs frequent rail services to Nottingham. Trent Barton Buses (barton buses.co.uk) operates hourly services from Nottingham to Shelford, journey time 30 minutes.

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