Saturday 18th April was absolutely gorgeous… clear blue skies and sunny- it seemed almost criminal not to go on a little adventure.

I had had an idea floating around for an unusual little challenge for some time, and as I have a dodgy knee at the moment I decided that walking would be much better for me than trying to run. So I fired up Google maps and scribbled out a route…

My little adventure was quite simple and possibly quite nuts. You may have heard of people challenging themselves by following the route of the London Tube lines through the capital’s streets… well I found this quite inspiring, but given that it is quite time consuming, not to mention costly, to get to London I decided to see if there was a similar challenge I could do right here in Nottingham instead. Sadly Nottingham lacks an Underground, but it does have one other interesting transport system.

Trams!

Despite scrapping the existing tram system in the 1930s, the decision was made to bring them back to Nottingham’s streets, and a completely new tram system was opened in 2004- running from Station Street in the city centre to Hucknall in north Notts. So my mission was to follow the tram… starting at Station Street, I would follow the tram line as closely as possible to its end at Hucknall, and I would stand on the platform of each stop.

Why? Well, why not?!

I walked from home to the Station Street stop, which is actually on an overpass and accessed by metal steps with an impressive view over the city. A tram pulled out as I retreated back down the steps to follow the line along the pavement beneath. As is usual for me, I managed to get lost pretty quickly, ending up in Broadmarsh shopping centre and having to do a nifty back track to pick up the pavement next to the tram line.

And so it begins... Station Street stop

And so it begins… Station Street stop

Following the tram was easy from this point on, as the line passes through Nottingham’s streets and swoops around the Market Square. Tram stops are built onto the pavement and so it was easy enough to walk over them. The tram line passes the lovely Arboretum and Forest Recreation Grounds (where I walked Easter Monday) before taking a sharp right turn into Hyson Green.

Follow that tram!

Follow that tram!

Market Square with St Georges Day flag

Market Square with St Georges Day flag

This is where is gets interesting, as the tram loop splits in two here, with one branch following Noel street and the other ascending Radford Road towards Wilkinson Street. Ever the purist I walked up Noel Street and its rows of terrace houses to the end of the loop then turned and retraced my steps to Radford Road, calling in for a plate of chips and a latte from Asda.

Hyson Green is a colourful mix of cultures, with restaurants serving interesting and delicious dishes from all over the world and fishmongers selling fish I have never even heard of. A yellowing sheet of paper stuck to the window of a long closed shop informed me that until the 19th century the area was ‘forest and wasteland’, a far cry from the rows and rows of houses which make up the area today.

Lovely marshland...

Lovely marshland…

After Hyson Green the tram leaves the streets and runs parallel with the Midland Railway line. I though I would have to leave the tram line and find a route through the streets, but found a lovely path running next to the line, passing through marshland using a long board walk bridge. At the end of the path I was forced to follow the streets to a delightful path through parkland following the River Leen.

... and parkland

… and parkland

At the Highbury Vale stop the tram line splits again, with a branch going off to Phoenix Park near the M1. I climbed up to stand on the platform and, reaching into my bum bag for my hand scribbled route description, I was horrified to realise I had obviously dropped them somewhere.

Highbury Vale station

Highbury Vale station- and scene of internal debate

There was no way I would be able to carry on without them… my knee had also started to niggle and so I stood there for a few minutes having an internal debate over carrying on or cutting my losses and taking the tram back to town. But no- I was determined to see this challenge through, so I retrace my steps for half a mile, where I found my notes right where I had dropped them, whilst exploring the ruined foundations of an old mill house.

Looking for a different way back I discovered that instead of walking through the streets away from the tram line I could have followed another little path right beside it- and retraced my steps to the last tram stop so I could do just that!

The section to Phoenix Park isn’t too far- along a road behind the line with the woosh of the trams serenading me every few minutes. They run quite frequently and each tram is also given a name- I saw Mavis Worthington a few times, Robin Hood and also Torvill and Dean.

Not so pretty!

Not quite so pretty!

It was really warm now so I ordered a blackcurrant and soda from a handily placed pub and sat outside for a few minutes before retracing my steps to the Hucknall branch. This was one of the nicest stretches, following a well-maintained path by the river to a play park at Bulwell Bogs, which was full of people out enjoying the sun and eating fish and chips which smelt divine.

Bulwell is another built up area that used to be forest and has now been swallowed up by the urban sprawl of Greater Nottingham. A lovely stone bridge has managed to survive this onslaught of progress;

Lovely stone bridge!

Lovely stone bridge!

I got a little lost trying to find the next station- Bulwell Forest (no trees in sight- just lots and lots of concrete) but stumbled on a little path running behind Tesco which led me right to it.

There was a welcome sense of approaching the countryside as I climbed Bestwood Road above the tram line, and I was tempted to carry on and explore Bestwood Park. But although my knee was not getting any worse, I was very aware of it with every step and the legs were starting to demand some attention too, so I decided to be sensible and follow the A611 into Hucknall. This was also closer to the tram line and I found a lovely little nature reserve- a green oasis surrounded by busy roads- to sit in and eat my snickers. Apparently this was the sight of the original Bull Well spring which gave Bulwell its unusual name.

A lovely little oasis

A lovely path leading to Bestwood Park- for another day

Ironically the last stretch was the only bit where it was more difficult to stay close to the tram line. Another unexpected green path took me next to the line a little further before I had to leave it for some pavement walking through a new housing estate. I had to detour to stand on the last but one tram stop and by this time my legs had really had enough and were screaming at me to finish.

Nearly there- Butler's Hill, the last but one stop

Nearly there- Butler’s Hill, the last but one stop

For the final stretch I had to turn away from the tram line again and follow the road past Aldi and a huge Tesco superstore (my legs just kind of mutinied and marched me in there for a coffee and a much-needed sit down!)

The end is in sight!

The end is in sight!

I could see the end of my challenge from the café window, and it was so good to finally reach the tram terminus. Instead of just clambering onto the platform and walking away (which had certainly got me some odd looks during the day) I was actually going to ride this tram. This was my first time as a passenger, so I decided to get my money’s worth and ride it all the way back to Station Street. It felt great to sit down and watch the paths I’d walked rush past the window.

Travelling back in style!

Travelling back in style!

It was a longer walk than I thought- with all the back tracking and walking to the stations and back I probably covered around 19 miles, probably not the greatest idea with a dodgy knee…

But it was a good adventure- and, as two more tram lines are opening this year, I haven’t finished yet!

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