|Thursday 23rd of February 2017|
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Life in the village of Kegworth is inextricably linked to the River Soar, which meanders through the low-lying flood plains and round the eastern and southern edge of the village. Many villagers, as well as people from much further afield, enjoy walking, bird watching, fishing, and picnicking along the banks; and boating has always been popular bringing in visitors from a wide area.
Settlements were always sited near water and an essential requirement would be a crossing point, in the case of Kegworth, a bridge. Records show that the wooden bridge in place in 1315 was in need of repair. The Lord of the Manor of Kegworth, Henry de Sutton , provided £10 and 12 oaks to effect repairs. A later stone bridge lasted until 1785 when the present structure was built, using stone from the old Bunny Hall and it was said at the time that the motto of the Parkyn family could still be seen on the arches. In 1824 a canal was built, adding an extra arch to the bridge, to prevent boats being swamped when negotiating the arches.
Flooding has always been a problem to the villages in the Soar Valley, but flood defence work in the 1980's has cut the flooding down somewhat. For many years flood planks in place along Station Road, leading to Sutton Bonington, provided a way through during periods of heavy flooding, but these have been removed in the last few years. Ironically just after their removal the region experienced some of the worst floods this century. The Easter of 1998 saw the roads impassable and the flood waters crept closer and closer to the village of Kegworth. Sandbags appeared on Station Road at the top of Bridgefields and it was a worrying time for people at the river end of Station Road. However, luckily the flood waters subsided before the river got close to the houses. At one time the floods did come Kegworth way and there used to be flood planks on the Kegworth side of Station Road, near to where JCS is now. This area, though, was lucky.
In other parts of the country the floods were appalling and caused countless damage. It was reported in the February 1999 Issue of KegWORD that there was further flooding over Christmas, 1998 and again in January, 1999. At that time there was a boat submerged in the Soar for weeks on end. It had been left high and dry on the bank ever since the floods of Easter and finally came to grief at Christmas.
The family of swans on the Kegworth stretch of the river are a source of pleasure for many people. They annually produce a family of cygnets. One year there were eight of them—seven of them survived into fully grown swans. They normally, however, have a family of two or three cygnets. During the floods at Christmas 1998 the swans loved the unusually fast-moving river and were diving and rolling in the water, flapping their wings and having wonderful time!
Herons can be spotted along the banks, and the occasional, shy, darting kingfisher. There are a variety of ducks and they are always on the look out for bread. It is a favourite pastime for children, and adults alike to feed them.
Many folk tales have built up over the years about the river. One strange tale involved a Lucy Johnson who in 1879, when the winter was severe and the river frozen over, lost her wages of 13s Id whilst out for a walk near Bridge Farm Yard. She didn't discover her loss until later that day when she was at the Wesleyan Church and reached for her money to put some on the collection plate. Heavy snow that night made it impossible to find the purse. It was not until fifty three years later when Lucy Johnson, now Mrs. Wakefield and living in Australia Yard (off High Street) received a registered letter with a Leicester postmark. It contained £1 and a note— 'Fifty three years ago, you lost 13s. This is repaid with interest. When you were Lucy Johnson.' No explanation for this repayment, from someone with a guilty conscience, was ever found. This story was later confirmed by a Mr. Harrison of Packington Hill, Kegworth who said his Aunt Lucy often told the story.
Another story from the 1700s involved Jonathan Old Buck, known as Jonty, who travelled to Kegworth one stormy night in December.
The bridge at the time was in a state of disrepair and a wooden plank had been put over to link the fissure caused by a collapsing arch, until the bridge could be rebuilt. The pub beside the bridge at that time was called The Old Wool pack and the Landlord had the job of lighting the lantern to guide brave souls across the plank at night.
On the night in question, the Landlord decided not to light the lantern as he was sure no one would venture out on such an inclement evening. Later that night horses hooves were heard clattering over the pub yard cobbles. Jonathan Old Buck had arrived on his annual trip from Nottingham. 'Which way did you come?' asked the Landlord in some surprise, he replied: 'Through Wilford over the bridge'. The Landlord in disbelief dismissed this as strong Kegworth ale talking. However, in the morning it was confirmed that someone had actually crossed the bridge and the Landlord told Jonty that he had crossed over the river by a narrow plank in a storm, and in the pitch dark. Jonty suffered a stupefying seizure when he realised what he had done, which resulted in him taking to his bed for some weeks! Thereafter, even with the new bridge in place, Jonty and his mare Madge travelled from Nottingham to Kegworth via Sawley.
Some people however, did come to grief at the site of the bridge. It was rumoured for some years to be haunted by a water kelpie or evil spirit after a series of fatalities occurred. Some were accidents and some were intentional suicides. In one short period 18 deaths were recorded at the spot. The bridge seemed to attract people, sometimes from considerable distances, as an ideal place to end it all, but then again it could have been that precarious plank!
Angling is a very popular pastime along the banks these days and many clubs enjoy competitions. In 1930 the East Midlands Championship attracted nearly a thousand fishermen! And later that year the all England had 600 competitors, the winner landed 120 fish and the total caught on the day was nearly 1,0001bs.
At holiday times the river is busy with boating enthusiasts from all around the area. The addition of picnic tables, on the bank off Kingston Lane, provides a pleasant spot for barbecues and picnics, and brings a lot of visitors to the village.
All in all, Kegworth is lucky to have the River Soar on its doorstep and the linking bridge erected by the leisure loving Victorians, opened up the meadows for future generations to enjoy the banks of the river; and be able to walk right along to Redhill Marina.
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