Purple ribbons for Owen Jenkins

13 Nov

The Trent at Beeston, three miles upstream of Nottingham, is tranquil today …

… the serenity enhanced by the meres – flooded gravel pits to be accurate – of Attenborough Nature Reserve, rich in wild life with some of the southeast facing waters a bare ten metres from a river whose east bank gives way to miles of rambling countryside I’ve yet to explore.

There are hides at Attenborough, fences with spy holes where you stand, back to the Trent, to zoom elbows and optics in on reedy meres inaccessible by foot, so attractive to migrant birds.

But here, ten minutes upriver from Beeston Marina, is something more elaborate, secured by digilock. I’m guessing it belongs to a society you must join to get the code. I’ll look into this. I can just see myself there at crack of d. in the fine but frosty, wrapped in my sleeping bag with thermos flask, binoculars and proper camera gear.

This interplay of river, lakes and a canal I’ll get to soon reminds me of the Norfolk Broads, where Jackie and I spent an idyllic five days this summer.

Here one of the biggest lakes outflows into the Trent.

Half a mile downstream, at Beeston Marina, the river shows a less tranquil face.

There’s more to say on this spot, but for now the thing to note is that the Trent is unnavigable from here down to Nottingham. Hence the five or six miles of Beeston Canal, taking boat traffic northeast to the city centre before swinging due east to rejoin the river.

The confluence makes Beeston Marina a popular spot. You can see why folk of a certain type and temperament snap up these dwellings, viewed here across the lock connecting river and canal …

… and why Boathouse cafe, overlooked by Captain Hook in the crow’s nest and run by Everyone Knows Tony, of whom there’s also a little more to say, is a hit with the Beeston cognoscenti.

Twas here on this bright morning that a senior staff writer at Steel City Scribblings – its CEO in fact – could be observed in glumly meditative state. Uppermost in his thoughts were Yemen and the bare faced hypocrisy of Remembrance Sunday, climate change, and the conundrum of in just which banana box, during Phases Two and Three of the ongoing relocation of Steel City House from Sheffield to Beeston, his razor blades had hidden themselves.

But let’s take a stroll up the canal. Past these lovely trees – whitebeams? – outside houses lining the bankside.

Here the mysteriously named Canal Side bus stop will allow me, with senior bus pass, to take a short ride on numero eighteen with deflated canoe on trolley, and so cunningly avoid the steep stepped footbridge that traverses the railway line between Steel City House II and Beeston Marina.

Away from the canal, Volvo House guards the eastern front of an estate on the outskirts of Beeston, purple ribbons gracing its front doors and parked cars.

It’s a trail that leads us back to Beeston Marina and that formidable river.

From this concrete apron, on July 10 2017, two girls, at least one a non swimmer, fell in and were dragged down by the swirling current directly below the weir. Twelve year old Owen Jenkins leapt in to pull the pair into slacker water, where they were lifted to safety, but was himself swept under. It was four hours before his body was retrieved, almost exactly – the vortex having dragged him round and round the same few cubic metres of thrashed water – where he’d gone so bravely in.

The funeral was huge. Two hundred Hell’s Angels, a cult that holds courage in high regard, turned up – some from as far afield as Scotland and Wales – to salute Owen Jenkins.

How do I know? Tony told me. But that was on Sunday and he wasn’t laughing. This is today as, having introduced me to the clientele as a Wednesdayite, he takes my order for poached egg on toast and a cuppa.

And this? This is Owen’s Place.



4 Replies to “Purple ribbons for Owen Jenkins

  1. The Owen story is very sad- It brought back a memory of seeing two girls swept out to sea and later hearing they had drowned. It was a horrible experience.
    Your photographs are fantastic as usual, Obviously, more places of interest for you to explore.

    • Thanks Ceejay. Owen’s Place and its story moved me to a degree I’d not anticipated. Tears were in my eyes as I wrote that bit. But it seems to happen so often that people who leap into the deep and dangerous to save others – dogs even – lose their lives in the process.

  2. Very beautiful and moving account. We were there together at the weekend and your narrative captures the beauty and power of the river and its surroundings. Thank you.

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