The Trent is one of the longest rivers in England, meandering 268 kilometres from its source in North Staffordshire to join the Humber Estuary at Trent Falls south of Hull. Its journey takes it through the counties of Staffordshire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire and Lincolnshire.
The Trent is one of only two tidal or bore rivers in England, the other being the River Severn.
The river and surrounding area have been used and populated by humans for thousands of years. From farming to industry, invasions to angling, all have influenced and shaped the area and in some cases had a direct impact on the river itself.
Archaeological remains and villages dating back to Saxon times give us a flavour of the rich and varied history of the River Trent. Nowadays the river is navigable for 151km from Shardlow near Derby to Trent Falls, where it meets the Humber. Evidence suggests that sections of the river may have been navigated as far back as the Bronze Age, while the Danes and Anglo-Saxons sailed up the Trent to invade England.
Legend has it that the place where the Danish King Canute tried to hold back the tide is on the Trent at Gainsborough Riverside.
The Romans referred to the Trent as Trisantona, the river marked the limit of the first phase of their advance: reaching it within four years of landing in force in 43AD, they halted and did what we would now call 'digging-in'. All their settlements were to the south, with a line of fortresses along the river itself, served by their great new roads; the Fosse Way and Ermine Street. The Trent remained the outermost frontier of the Roman Empire until 79AD.
The river and its tributaries flow through some of the most industrialised parts of the Midlands, and during the 18th and 19th centuries the Trent played a major role in the industrial development of the area. With populations now reaching over one million in the cities along the Trent, together with the influences of industrial and agricultural development, including mineral extraction, drainage and built development, the river’s wildlife has suffered a major decline during the last century.
Fortunately, the tide has started to turn for the river’s wildlife. With a decline in industry and improvements in water quality, wildlife has had a chance to recover. Increases in fish numbers, including species such as salmon, together with sympathetic management have spelled good news for creatures such as the otter, which is experiencing a welcome and widespread return along the river. Working with landowners, community groups and all those who use and enjoy the Trent, the OnTrent project hopes to be reporting on more success stories like this as the work progresses.