Travel at a Natural Pace; Enjoy the Journey

Thurgarton Priory, Nottinghamshire, England

Pleasant Trip Along the River Trent 

We spent a pleasant day exploring attractive villages along the River Trent that many travellers will never see. The newer straight roads bypass them but the old byways, the winding ways, mostly still exist and make for a pleasant and gentle journey of exploration.

A gentle day’s driving, or cycling, along the old roads takes the traveller through the villages of the Trent Valley close to Nottingham. Although they are now commuter villages serving Nottingham, they retain their charm. Many are very close to the River Trent that provides peaceful opportunities to enjoy the natural world as occasional boats go slowly by.

Stoke Bardolph to Burton Joyce and Bulcote

Our journey started a few miles out of Nottingham at Stoke Bardolph; it is a reasonably sized village close to the river. We were there early on a summer Sunday morning and it was quite except for a couple of motorcyclists further along the riverbank. The Ferry Boat Inn was not yet open but offers inexpensive lunches so the area may get much busier at lunchtime and in to the evening. After a dry spring, the River Trent was well below its usual level and had been for a good while as the unusually exposed banks were green with grass. We moved on to our next destination, Burton Joyce.

Burton Joyce is the largest of the villages along this stretch of the River Trent close to Nottingham. It justifies time to explore separately and an article to itself. For that reason, on this journey we did not give it a lot of time. It was clear from the old main street that there is much to explore. There are old cottages and interesting looking footpaths that are old routes between villages. The church is medieval but much modified over the centuries.

Bulcote to Ivy House, once The Unicorn Coaching InnThe old road crossed the main road to Lowdham and Southwell (A612)and takers the traveller into Bulcote, a little gem of a village. The board in the centre sets out a heritage trail that will only be a short walk along quiet roads. There appears to be no church until one leaves the village and Holy Trinity Church is visible across the main road. It would have been on the outskirts of Bulcote but is now detached from the village. The 19th century church sits raised above the road; lightning destroyed the previous church almost exactly 150 years ago on 20th July 1861 .

Caythorpe and Hoveringham

Caythorpe and Hoveringham are quiet and pleasant enough villages and it was a pleasant diversion as we weaved our way along the old lanes between the villages, pausing with others of like mind to sit by the river and enjoy the peace.


Leaving Hoveringham on the old road it turns sharp right towards Thurgarton; approaching the corner there is a glimpse of an interesting building on the opposite hill top. I had noticed it before but did not know what it was and had never bothered to find out. Now, with more time and the new, more mindful approach to travel that is The Winding Way it became the focus of exploration for the next couple of hours of our trip. From a large scale map, an essential accompaniment for a traveller exploring The Winding Way; it was, apparently, Thurgarton Priory.

Thurgarton VillageWe headed through the village which is divided by the main road and while taking some photographs I was hailed by a gentleman from the upstairs window of his pretty ivy covered cottage. I half-expected him to object to me taking pictures of his house; far from it he could not have been more helpful and wanted to tell me where there were even better photographs to be taken. The Winding Way is about using local knowledge and engaging with the people you meet; without his suggestion we might never have discovered a wonderful view, but more of that later.

We followed the road he suggested which we had planned to take as it led up to the Priory. However on the way up the turning he had described came upon us rather quickly and we missed it so continued up the hill and parked opposite a walled garden. We continued on foot, a short way on we came to the Priory Church of St Peters, and we followed the path through the churchyard. We did not visit the church on this occasion as there was a service underway; there seemed to be a very capable choir which created a very pleasant atmosphere of rural peace. We tiptoed quietly past the open doors of the church and kept our voices down so as not to disturb the worshippers. As we came round the back of the church, the view opened onto an idyllic rural view. The setting for the church and the large Georgian House next to it was wonderful on a pleasant summer’s day.

However, there was no sign of the Priory or the low, arcaded building that we thought we had seen from afar. We retraced our route and parked by the main road; we walked up to the cricket ground as directed. We then saw what our guide meant as the view opened up across the beautifully manicured cricket ground to the church and the house of Thurgarton Priory framed by some magnificent trees. It was quiet and peaceful and shows that even commuter villages close to major cities should not be dismissed. They can have charms that match anything found in the deep countryside. We waited a while and when the sun came out briefly the stone of the church and the red brickwork of the house glowed in the late morning sun. I will definitely return with my camera when the conditions are right, preferably when there is cricket match to complete the traditional idyllic scene.

Thurgarton Main StreetHowever, we had still not found the interesting looking building we thought we had spotted from across the valley. We walked round the corner and took the bridleway up to Castle Hill, a short easy walk, at least when it was as dry as we found it. From the map this should have given us the same view of our missing building but from much closer. And so it did. What we had seen was the top of the tower of the Priory Church of St Peter. Surrounded by trees and from an angle the large arched windows looked like the arches of a colonnade.

By then it was almost time for lunch but the public house, the Coach and Horses was not yet open; it can be difficult getting refreshment out of town before 12 noon in England especially on a Sunday; but that is another story.

We will continue this journey along the old winding ways through the villages of the Trent Valley over the summer and share our experience here. We will intersperse these journeys with exploration of other winding ways.


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Andy Tope (not verified) on 26 March, 2015 - 18:14

Hi Martin, Nice reading your exploratory outing. I miss England (living in Australia), and the images you have conjured up of the green countryside strike a chord with me. I would also have loved to have seen this particular area but never got around to it. Maybe next time.

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