An ILKESTON CAM Special Feature:


This project has been simmering on the back burner for a long time and has been planned for even longer. It all started when I picked up a leaflet, as I am wont to do, probably in our local library. At least I think that's where I obtained it but it is so long ago that I cannot be sure. It was titled "The Stones of the Monks Way in Strelley, Cossall and Ilkeston" and was published by the Broxtowe Borough Council Technical and Leisure Services Department.
Broxtowe lies to the east of the River Erewash and the leaflet opened up to display the route of a walk from Strelley Village westwards across the river to Ilkeston and the Borough of Erewash. I was immediately intrigued as the route, except for a visit to the Erewash Museum in the centre of town, finished less than fifty yards from my home. This was worth investigating I thought and so my mission to explore the route armed with camera started.
Little did I know at that time where it would lead and how long it would take to reach this point in time where I can start to share some of the images - and the legends and history of the Monks Way. I have had the majority of the images for some time but I was daunted by the thought of putting them into some sensible sequence and how best to present the project. For far too long I have been trying to visualise the end product whereas we all know that the only way to climb a mountain is one step at a time. So at long last, I have taken it off the back burner and made a start in putting something together.
It will be apparent from what I have written here that the photos were taken over quite a considerable period in all weathers and in all seasons too. When I upload the pages to the internet on a monthly basis, the images will not necessarily be in tune with the actual season but this is the plan. Referring to the map towards the top of this page you will see two distinct routes. First there is a roughly north-south route between Newstead Abbey and Lenton Priory (shown dotted red) and then an east-west route from Strelley to Ilkeston (yellow) which continues as a red dotted line to Dale Abbey. The first sections of the project will look at Lenton, Beauvale and Felley before returning to Strelley to follow in greater detail the route to Ilkeston. The final part of the project will then move to Dale. I have decided not to include Newstead Abbey in the scope of the project save for the inclusion of the images on this page taken by, and reproduced here with the permission of a good friend Martyn Button (Calverton Cam). Other web sites already cover Newstead in some detail.
Before we start our journey, it is worth relating a little of the history and origin of the Monks Way although much is shrouded and lost in the mists of time. What is known as fact is that Lenton Priory was founded shortly after the Norman Conquest, being one of 150 religious houses erected during the reign of Henry I. It belonged to the Cluniac Order of Monks and with endowments from towns and villages in Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Yorkshire and Leicestershire it became the wealthiest Priory in the Midlands and the tenth richest in England. It is also known that between twenty and thirty monks were normally in residence at any one time and during its 430 years of existence close on one thousand men passed through its cloisters. Several reigning Monarchs visited and were entertained at the Priory including Henry II in 1230, Edward I in 1302 and 1303, Edward II in 1307 and 1323 and Edward III in 1336 and several times thereafter. So it can be seen that Lenton Priory was an establishment of some importance.
Monks from Lenton and other monasteries and religious house in the area including Newstead Abbey had land and mining interests as early as the fourteenth century and it is not unreasonable to assume that paths connected these holdings to facilitate trade and communication. Packhorses and mules were common methods of transport and the paths often linked to rivers. Later development of canals, railways and roads often obliterated these ancient paths and causeways but remnants of one such route can still be determined between Strelley and Ilkeston on what I am now referring to as the "Monks Way". Other terms used to describe the causeway are Monks Path, Monks Steps and Pilgrims Path but whatever you choose to call it, the stones of the path are visible in several places and images of them will appear in later parts as this project progresses. But that's enough of the history for now so let's make a start and begin our journey and exploration in what is now a suburb of Nottingham but what was once the village of Lenton near the site of the great mediaeval Priory.
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