My exploration of the Cotgrave to Cropwell section of the canal had been delayed due to major roadwork - the dualisation (if there is such a word) of the single lane A46. The work on this stretch of the Roman Road (also known as the Fosse way) had taken almost 2 years (although many more in the planning) and surprisingly there had been very little traffic disruption in the process. The word Fosse means ditch and after the Roman invasion of Britain this road marked the western frontier of Roman control. It is believed that it was at this time a defensive ditch which was later filled in, by the Romans when they assumed more control of Britain, to become one of their major routes.
It is an amazing road because it runs for 182 miles from Somerset to Lincoln (my home town) and it is unusually straight. The work on the dualling of the carriage way made some really interesting finds along the way including a Roman Well. The well was an amazing archaeological find and after some time the local heritage society managed to campaign for the careful dismantling of the well. It was since been reconstructed in the local cemetery.
They discovered signs of a Mansion House close to the Margidunum site, and at the end close to Newark there was clear evidence of Neolithic settlement dating back to 40,000 BC. This challenges the other local site of Cresswell Crags for the oldest discovered site Britain.
There were real challenges on the route as local pressure groups had campaigned to preserve some ancient woodlands (this was partially saved) and ensure that local wildlife was not harmed. Indeed the route planners have managed to return more land back to the country as they have taken up by building the road. That an amazing achievement. In addition they have enhanced the option for new wild life as they have built new lakes on route, planted over 600,000 new plants including the creation of 33 hectares of woodland to replace the 6 hectares lost to the development.
The constructors have created 15 mammal tunnels under the route to allow local wildlife to cross safely – although I’m not sure that the badgers understand the ground rules as there has been a significant increase of road killed badgers on the route. They have relocated populations of great crested newts and a rare species of toad and have provided bat boxes and a bat house on the route.
All in all this marvellous task of engineering seems to have created some real opportunities for wildlife to prosper. So next time you’re making the journey from Leicester to Newark just consider how this newly built road is beginning to re-fashion the Nottinghamshire countryside. It’s clear that not all new developments are bad for the environment.