Travel at a Natural Pace; Enjoy the Journey

A winding way, Bestwood, Nottinghamshire

Nell Gwyn and Two Country Parks

Bestwood village may receive little thought from visitors as they pass through on the B683. Perhaps they will note that it is former mining village and carry on. But Bestwood should not be ignored; how many villages close to a major city have two country parks and were once owned by Nell Gwyn?

Mill Lakes Bestwood LD14015The village is largely a ribbon running along either side of Moor Road (B683). To the west it is squeezed in between the road and the River Leen and the railway. To the east it butts up to Bestwood Park, in medieval times an important hunting forest which would have extended over the territory now occupied by the village. The park was a gift by Charles II to his mistress, Nell Gwyn, and their son who became the 1st Duke of St Albans.

Through the Park runs the Collier’s Pad, the path along which miners from Arnold and Redhill would use to get to and from their shifts at Bestwood colliery. Now a leisurely amble it would have been a long and tiring walk before and after a long and physical day’s work. What remains of the woodland now forms the Bestwood Country Park which will be covered in a separate article, along with the story of Nell Gwyn, in due course.

Most of the village is of red brick and was only properly created in the second half of the 19th century to support the pit. The first shaft was sunk in 1875 and Bestwood eventually became the first pit in England to extract a million tons of coal in a year. The pit closed in 1971 and Bestwood has since been seeing a steady regeneration, a gentrification, no doubt due to Bestwood’s attractive setting with good access to work and facilities of Nottingham and Mansfield. With the rural setting and the country parks it is an attractive place to live yet has easy access to greater Nottingham.

Mill Lakes Country Park

Cowslips Bestwood LD14012The River Leen feeds the Mill Lakes and the country park sits between the railway and the road. Apart from the distant noise of train or traffic it is a peaceful wildlife haven with mature woodland. When we were there in early spring there were swathes of yellow cowslips on the banks of the lake and the buds on the trees were bursting. Even late-morning it was not a day for standing around as the clear blue skies belied the bite in the breeze. The path winds around the back of the lake in and out of woodland They have been graded so are usable by wheelchairs, child buggies and cyclists; all of which were out on a Saturday morning without the park being unduly busy. It was friendl;y place to; people were unfailing pleasant and passed the time of day or were willing to engage in conversation about the parks and village.

At the south end of the lakes the path climbs up to join the line of the old railway that served the colliery. The path uses the railway bridge over the road and takes the visitor into Bestwood Park by the Winding Gear and the car park. We chose to drop down the road to continue to explore the west side of the village and in particular the older industrial buMill Bestwood LD14025ildings on Mill Lane. There is an old grade II listed mill, now boarded up awaiting viable redevelopment plans. It was originally built in 1863 by the Robinson family and was powered by a waterwheel fed by the River Leen. The large mill pond is just behind the mill; it is now private and maintained by an angling club. In the former industrial complex by the mill the buildings have been converted as domestic dwellings. On the road there is a house with large arched windows which was an 18th century iron foundry. Opposite there is now modern housing development that takes advantage of its setting along the side of the Leen.

The walk through the Mill Lakes Country Park is a gentle couple of miles but there is much to occupy the mindful explorer. There is much birdlife with water fowl on the lake and, other flora and fauna. There is also the historical and historical context to enjoy, it will pose many questions for further research for those who are interested. Or it can just be a place for a pleasant walk or more vigorous exercise.

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