Trent Bridge, with Nottingham in the background
|Name origin: Trisantona|
|Country within the UK||England|
|Counties||Staffordshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire, Yorkshire|
|Cities||Stoke-on-Trent, Derby, Nottingham|
|Towns||Stone, Burton upon Trent, Newark-on-Trent, Gainsborough|
|- left||Blithe, Swarbourn, Dove, Derwent, Erewash, Leen, Greet, Idle, Torne|
|- right||Sow, Tame, Mease, Soar, Devon, Eau|
|- location||Biddulph Moor, Staffordshire, England|
|- elevation||275 m (902 ft)|
|- location||Trent Falls, Humber Estuary, Lincolnshire & Yorkshire, England|
|- elevation||0 m (0 ft)|
|Length||298 km (185 mi)|
|Basin||10,435 km2 (4,029 sq mi) [a]|
|- average||84 m3/s (2,966 cu ft/s) |
|- max||1,018 m3/s (35,950 cu ft/s) [b]|
|- min||15 m3/s (530 cu ft/s) [c]|
|Discharge elsewhere (average)|
|- North Muskham||88 m3/s (3,108 cu ft/s)|
The drainage basin of the River Trent
|Wikimedia Commons: River Trent|
|Progression : River Trent — Humber — North Sea|
The River Trent is one of the major rivers of England. Its source is in Staffordshire on the southern edge of Biddulph Moor. It flows through the Midlands (forming a once significant boundary between the north and south of England) until it joins the River Ouse at Trent Falls to form the Humber Estuary, which empties into the North Sea between Hull and Immingham.
The Trent is unusual amongst English rivers in that it flows north (for the second half of its route), and in exhibiting a tidal bore, the "Trent Aegir". The area drained by the river includes most of the northern Midlands.
- 1 Name
- 2 Prehistory
- 3 Migration of course in historic times
- 4 Course
- 5 Catchment
- 6 Geology
- 7 History of navigation
- 8 Navigation today
- 9 Trent Aegir
- 10 The literal North/South divide
- 11 Pollution
- 12 Places along the Trent
- 13 Crossing the Trent
- 14 Power stations
- 15 Recreation on the Trent
- 16 Tributaries
- 17 See also
- 18 Bibliography
- 19 Notes
- 20 External links
The name "Trent" comes from a Celtic word possibly meaning "strongly flooding". More specifically, the name may be a contraction of two Celtic words, tros ("over") and hynt ("way"). This may indeed indicate a river that is prone to flooding. However, a more likely explanation may be that it was considered to be a river that could be crossed principally by means of fords, i.e. the river flowed over major road routes. This may explain the presence of the Celtic element rid (c.f. Welsh rhyd, "ford") in various place names along the Trent, such as Hill Ridware, as well as the Old English‐derived ford. Another translation is given as "the trespasser", referring to the waters flooding over the land. According to Koch at the University of Wales, the name Trent derives from the Romano-British Trisantona, a Romano-British reflex of the combined Proto-Celtic elements *tri-sent(o)-on-ā- (through-path-AUG-F-) ‘great feminine thoroughfare’.
In the Pleistocene epoch (1.7 million years ago) the River Trent rose in the Welsh hills and flowed almost east from Nottingham through the present Vale of Belvoir to cut a gap through the limestone ridge at Ancaster and thence to the North Sea At the end of the Wolstonian Stage (c. 130,000 years ago) a mass of stagnant ice left in the Vale of Belvoir caused the river to divert north along the old Lincoln river, through the Lincoln gap. In a following glaciation (Devensian, 70,000 BC) the ice held back vast areas of water – called Glacial Lake Humber – in the current lower Trent basin. When this retreated, the Trent adopted its current course into the Humber.
Migration of course in historic times
Unusually for an English river, the channel altered significantly in historic times, and has been described as being similar to the Mississippi in this respect, especially in its middle reaches, where there are a numerous old meanders and cut-off loops.:192 An abandoned channel at Repton is described on an old map as 'Old Trent Water', records show that this was once the main navigable route, with the river having switched to a more northerly course in the 18th century.:200 Further downstream at Hemington, archaeologists have found the remains of a medieval bridge across another abandoned channel. Researchers using aerial photographs and historical maps have identified many of these palaeochannel features, one well documented example, being the cut-off meander at Sawley. The river's propensity to change course is referred to in Shakespeare's play Henry IV, Part 1:
- Methinks my moiety, north from Burton here,
- In quantity equals not one of yours:
- See how this river comes me cranking in,
- And cuts me from the best of all my land
- A huge half-moon, a monstrous cantle out.
- I'll have the current in this place damm'd up;
- And here the smug and silver Trent shall run
- In a new channel, fair and evenly;
- It shall not wind with such a deep indent,
- To rob me of so rich a bottom here.
Henry Hotspur's speech complaining about the river has been linked to the meanders near West Burton, however, given the wider context of the play with its fictional tripartite division of England following a possible revolt, it is thought that Hotspur’s intentions are of a grander design, diverting the river east, back to its ancestral course towards the Wash such that he would benefit from a much larger share of the divided Kingdom. Downstream of the Burton upon Trent, the river increasingly trends northwards, cutting off a portion of Nottinghamshire and nearly all of Lincolnshire from his share, north of the Trent. The idea for this scene, may have been based on the disagreement regarding a mill weir near Shelford Manor, between local landowners the Earl of Shrewsbury and Sir Thomas Stanhope which culminated with a long diversion channel being dug to bypass the mill. This took place in 1593 so would have been a contemporary topic in the Shakespearian period.
The Trent rises on the Staffordshire moorlands near the village of Biddulph Moor, from a number of sources including the Trent Head Well. It is then joined by other small streams to form the Head of Trent, which flows south, to the only reservoir along its course at Knypersley. Downstream of the reservoir it passes through Stoke-on-Trent and merges with the Lyme, Fowlea and other brooks that drain the 'six towns' of the Staffordshire Potteries to become the River Trent. On the southern fringes of Stoke, it passes through the landscaped parkland of Trentham Gardens.
The river then continues south through the market town of Stone, and after passing the village of Salt, it reaches Great Haywood, where it is spanned by the Elizabethan Essex Bridge near Shugborough Hall, at this point the River Sow joins it. The Trent now flows south-east past the town of Rugeley until it reaches Kings Bromley where it meets the Blithe. Following the confluence with the Swarbourn, it passes Alrewas and reaches Wychnor, where it is crossed by the A38 dual carriageway, which follows the route of the Roman Ryknild Street. The river turns north-east where it is joined by its largest tributary; the Tame, and immediately afterwards by the Mease; creating a larger river that now flows through a broad floodplain. The river continues north-east passing the village of Walton-on-Trent until it reaches the large town of Burton upon Trent. The river in Burton is crossed by a number of bridges including the ornate Victorian Ferry Bridge that links Stapenhill to the town. To the north-east of Burton the river is joined by the River Dove at Newton Solney and enters Derbyshire, before passing between the villages of Willington and Repton where it turns directly east to reach Swarkestone Bridge, King's Mill, Weston and Aston-on-Trent.
At Shardlow, where the Trent and Mersey Canal begins, the river also meets the Derwent at Derwent Mouth. Following this confluence, the river turns north-east and is joined by the Soar before reaching the outskirts of Nottingham, where it is joined by the River Erewash near the Attenborough nature reserve. As it enters the city, it passes the suburbs of Beeston, Clifton and Wilford; where it is joined by the Leen. On reaching West Bridgford it flows beneath Trent Bridge near the cricket ground of the same name, and beside Nottingham Forest football ground until it reaches Holme Sluices.
Downstream of Nottingham it passes Radcliffe on Trent, Stoke Bardolph and Burton Joyce before reaching Gunthorpe with its bridge, lock and weir. The river now flows north-east below the Toot and Trent Hills before reaching Hazelford Ferry, Fiskerton and Farndon. To the north of Farndon, beside the Staythorpe Power Station the river splits, with one arm passing Averham and Kelham, and the other arm, which is navigable, being joined by the Devon before passing through the market town of Newark-on-Trent and beneath the town's castle walls. The two arms recombine at Crankley Point beyond the town, where the river turns due north to pass North Muskham and Holme to reach Cromwell Weir, below which the Trent becomes tidal.
The now tidal river, meanders across a wide floodplain, at the edge of which are located riverside villages such as Carlton and Sutton on Trent, Besthorpe and Girton. After passing the site of High Marnham power station, it reaches the only toll bridge along its course at Dunham on Trent. Downstream of Dunham the river passes Church Laneham and reaches Torksey, where it meets the Foss Dyke navigation which connects the Trent to Lincoln and the River Witham. Further north at Littleborough is the site of the Roman town of Segelocum, where a Roman road once crossed the river.
It then reaches the town of Gainsborough with its own Trent Bridge. The river frontage in the town is lined with warehouses, that were once used when the town was an inland port, many of which have been renovated for modern use. Downstream of the town the villages are often named in pairs, reflecting the fact that they were once linked by a river ferry between the two settlements. These villages include West and East Stockwith, Owston and East Ferry and West and East Butterwick. At West Stockwith the Trent is joined by the River Idle. The last bridge over the river is at Keadby where it is joined both by the Stainforth and Keadby Canal, and also by the River Torne.
Downstream of Keadby the river progressively widens, passing Amcotts and Flixborough to reach Burton upon Stather and finally Trent Falls. At this point, between Alkborough and Faxfleet the river joins the Ouse to form the Humber which flows into the North Sea.
The Trent basin covers a large part of the Midlands, and includes the majority of the counties of Staffordshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and the West Midlands; but also includes parts of Lincolnshire, South Yorkshire, Warwickshire and Rutland. The catchment is located between the drainage basins of the Severn and the Warwickshire Avon to the south and west, the Weaver to the north-west, the tributaries of the Yorkshire Ouse to the North and the East Anglian river basins of the Welland, Witham and Ancholme to the East.
A distinctive feature of the catchment is the marked variation in the topography and character of the landscape, which varies from the upland moorland headwaters of the Dark Peak, where the highest point of the catchment is the Kinder Scout plateau at 634 metres (2,080 ft); through to the intensively farmed and drained flat fenland areas that exist alongside the lower tidal reaches, where ground levels can equal sea level. These lower reaches are protected from tidal flooding by a series of floodbanks and defences.
Elsewhere there is a distinct contrast between the open limestone areas of the White Peak in the Dove catchment, and the large woodland areas, including Sherwood Forest in the Dukeries area of the Idle catchment, the upland Charnwood Forest, and the National Forest in the Soar and Mease drainage basins respectively.
Land use is predominantly rural, with some three-quarters of the Trent catchment given over to agriculture. This ranges from moorland grazing of sheep in the upland areas, through to improved pasture and mixed farms in the middle reaches, where dairy farming is important. Intensive arable farming of cereals and root vegetables, chiefly potatoes and sugar beet occurs in the lowland areas, such as the Vale of Belvoir and the lower reaches of the Trent, Torne and Idle. Water level management is important in these lowland areas, and the local watercourses are usually maintained by Internal Drainage Boards and their successors, with improved drainage being assisted by the use of pumping stations to lift water into embanked carrier rivers, which subsequently discharge into the Trent.:29 
The less populated rural areas are offset, by a number of large urbanised conurbations, including Stoke-on-Trent, Birmingham and the surrounding Black Country; there are also a number of separate cities in the basin including Leicester, Derby and Nottingham, together these contain the majority of the 6 million people who live in the catchment.
What is notable is that the majority of these urban areas are in the upper reaches of either the Trent itself, as is the case with Stoke, or the tributaries. For example, Birmingham lies at the upper end of the Tame, and Leicester is located towards the head of the Soar. Whilst this is not unique for an English river, it does mean that there is an ongoing legacy of issues relating to urban runoff, pollution incidents, and effluent dilution from sewage treatment, industry and coal mining. Historically, these issues resulted in a considerable deterioration in the water quality of both the Trent, and its tributaries, especially the Tame.
Underlying the upper reaches of the Trent, are formations of Millstone Grit and Carboniferous Coal Measures which include layers of sandstones, marls and coal seams. The river crosses a band of Triassic Sherwood sandstone at Sandon, and it meets the same sandstone again as it flows beside Cannock Chase, between Great Haywood and Armitage, there is also another outcrop between Weston-on-Trent and King's Mill.
Downstream of Armitage the solid geology is primarily Mercia Mudstones, the course of the river following the arc of these mudstones as they pass through the Midlands all the way to the Humber. The mudstones are not exposed by the bed of the river, as there is a layer of gravels and then alluvium above the bedrock. In places, however the mudstones do form river cliffs, most notably at Gunthorpe and Stoke Lock near Radcliffe on Trent, the village being named after the distinctive red coloured strata.
The low range of hills, which have been formed into a steep set of cliffs overlooking the Trent between Scunthorpe and Alkborough are also made up of mudstones, but are of the younger Rhaetic Penarth Group.
In the wider catchment the geology is more varied, ranging from the Precambrian rocks of the Charnwood Forest, through to the Jurassic limestone that forms the Lincolnshire Edge and the eastern watershed of the Trent. The most important in terms of the river are the extensive sandstone and limestone aquifers that underlie many of the tributary catchments. These include the Sherwood sandstones that occur beneath much of eastern Nottinghamshire, the Permian Lower Magnesian limestone and the carboniferous limestone in Derbyshire. Not only do these provide baseflows to the major tributaries, the groundwater is an important source for public water supply.
|Gravel Terraces of the River Trent|
|Eagle Moor||> 400||Anglian|
Sand, gravels and alluvium deposits that overlie the mudstone bedrock occur almost along the entire length of the river, and are an important feature of the middle and lower reaches, with the alluvial river silt producing fertile soils that are used for intensive agriculture in the Trent valley. Beneath the alluvium are widespread deposits of sand and gravel, which also occur as gravel terraces considerably above the height of the current river level. There is thought to be a complex succession of at least six separate gravel terrace systems along the river, deposited when a much larger Trent flowed through the existing valley, and along its ancestral routes through the water gaps at Lincoln and Ancaster.
This ‘staircase’ of flat topped terraces was created as a result of successive periods of deposition and subsequent down cutting by the river, a product of the meltwater and glacially eroded material produced from ice sheets at the end of glacial periods through the Pleistocene epoch between 450,000 and 12,000 years BP. Contained within these terraces is evidence of the mega fauna that once lived along the river, the bones and teeth of animals such as the woolly mammoth, bison and wolves that existed during colder periods have all been identified. Another notable find in a related terrace system near Derby from a warmer interglacial period, was the Allenton hippopotamus.
The lower sequences of these terraces have been widely quarried for sand and gravel, and the extraction of these minerals continues to be an important industry in the Trent Valley, with some three million tonnes of aggregates being produced each year. Once worked out, the remaining gravel pits which are usually flooded by the relatively high water table have been reused for a wide variety of purposes. These include recreational water activities, and once rehabilitated, as nature reserves and wetlands.
During the end of the last Devensian glacial period the formation of Lake Humber in the lowest reaches of the river, meant that substantial lake bed clays and silts were laid down to create the flat landscape of the Humberhead Levels. These levels extend across the Trent valley, and include the lower reaches of the Eau, Torne and Idle. In some areas, successive layers of peat were built up above the lacustrine deposits during the Holocene period, which created lowland mires such as the Thorne and Hatfield Moors.
Nottingham seems to have been the ancient head of navigation until the Restoration, due partly to the difficult navigation of the Trent Bridge. Navigation was then extended to Wilden Ferry, near to the more recent Cavendish Bridge, as a result of the efforts of the Fosbrooke family of Shardlow.
Later, in 1699, Lord Paget, who owned coal mines and land in the area, obtained an Act of Parliament to extend navigation up to Fleetstones Bridge, Burton, despite opposition from the people of Nottingham. Lord Paget seems to have funded the work privately, building locks at King's Mill and Burton Mills and several cuts and basins. The Act gave him absolute control over the building of any wharfs and warehouses above Nottingham Bridge. Lord Paget leased the navigation and the wharf at Burton to George Hayne, while the wharf and warehouses at Wilden were leased by Leonard Fosbrooke, who held the ferry rights and was a business partner of Hayne. The two men refused to allow any cargo to be landed which was not carried in their own boats, and so created a monopoly.
In 1748, the merchants from Nottingham attempted to break this monopoly by landing goods on the banks and into carts, but Fosbrooke used his ferry rope to block the river, and then created a bridge by mooring boats across the channel, and employing men to defend them. Hayne subsequently scuppered a barge in King's Lock, and for the next eight years goods had to be transhipped around it. Despite a Chancery injunction against them, the two men continued with their action. Hayne's lease ran out in 1762, and Lord Paget's son, the Earl of Uxbridge, gave the new lease to the Burton Boat Company.
The Trent and Mersey Canal was authorised by Act of Parliament in 1766, and construction from Shardlow to Preston Brook, where it joined the Bridgewater Canal, was completed by 1777. The canal ran parallel to the upper river to Burton on Trent, where new wharfs and warehouses at Horninglow served the town, and the Burton Boat Company were unable to repair the damaged reputation of the river created by their predecessors. Eventually in 1805, they reached an agreement with Henshall & Co., the leading canal carriers, for the closure of the river above Wilden Ferry. Though the river is no doubt legally still navigable above Shardlow, it is probable that the agreement marks the end of the use of that stretch of the river as a commercial navigation.
The lower river
The first improvement of the lower river was at Newark, where the channel splits into two. The residents of the town wanted to increase the use of the branch nearest to them, and so an Act of Parliament was obtained in 1772 to authorise the work. Newark Navigation Commissioners were created, with powers to borrow money to fund the construction of two locks, and to charge tolls for boats using them. The work was completed by October 1773, and the separate tolls remained in force until 1783, when they were replaced by a 1 shilling (5p) toll whichever channel the boats used.
Users of the Trent and Mersey Canal, the Loughborough Canal and the Erewash Canal next demanded major improvements to the river down to Gainsborough, including new cuts, locks, dredging and a towing path suitable for horses. The Dadfords, who were engineers on the Trent and Mersey Canal, estimated the cost at £20,000, but the proposal was opposed by landowners and merchants on the river, while the Navigator, published in 1788, estimated that around 500 men who were employed to bow-haul boats would have lost their jobs. Agreement could not be reached, and so William Jessop was asked to re-assess the situation. He suggested that dredging, deepening, and restricting the width of the channel could make significant improvements to the navigable depth, although cuts would be required at Wilford, Nottingham bridge and Holme. This proposal formed the basis for an Act of Parliament obtained in 1783, which also allowed a horse towing path to be built. The work was completed by September 1787, and dividends of 5 per cent were paid on the capital in 1786 and 1787, rising to 7 per cent, the maximum allowed by the Act, after that. Jessop carried out a survey for a side cut and lock at Sawley in 1789, and it was built by 1793.
At the beginning of the 1790s, the Navigation faced calls for a bypass of the river at Nottingham, where the passage past Trent Bridge was dangerous, and the threat of a canal running parallel to the river, which was proposed by the Erewash and the Trent and Mersey Canal companies. In order to retain control of the whole river, they supported the inclusion of the Beeston Cut in the bill for the Nottingham Canal, which prevented the Erewash Canal company from getting permission to build it, and then had the proposal removed from the Nottingham Canal company's bill in return for their support of the main bill. The parallel canal was thwarted in May 1793, when they negotiated the withdrawal of the canal bill by proposing a thorough survey of the river which would lead to their own legislation being put before parliament. William Jessop carried out the survey, assisted by Robert Whitworth, and they published their report on 8 July 1793. The major proposals included a cut and lock at Cranfleet, where the River Soar joins the Trent, a cut, locks and weirs at Beeston, which would connect with the Nottingham Canal at Lenton, and a cut and lock at Holme Pierrepont. An Act of Parliament was obtained in 1794, and the existing proprietors subscribed the whole of the authorised capital of £13,000 (£1,260,000 as of 2013), themselves.
The aim of the improvements was to increase the minimum depth from 2 feet (0.6 m) to 3 feet (0.9 m). By early 1796, the Beeston cut was operational, with the Cranfleet cut following in 1797, and the Holme cut in 1800, with the whole works being finished by 1 September 1801. The cost exceeded the authorised capital by a large margin, with the extra being borrowed, but the company continued to pay a 7 per cent dividend on the original shares and on those created to finance the new work. In 1823 and again in 1831, the Newark Navigation Commissioners proposed improvements to the river, so that larger vessels could be accommodated, but the Trent Navigation Company were making a healthy profit, and did not see the need for such work.
The arrival of the railways resulted in significant change for the Company. Tolls were reduced to retain the traffic, wages were increased to retain the workforce, and they sought amalgamation with a railway company. The Nottingham and Gainsborough Railway offered £100 per share in 1845, but this was rejected. Tolls fell from £11,344 (£850,000 as of 2013), in 1839 to £3,111 (£250,000 as of 2013), in 1855. Many of the connecting waterways were bought by railway companies, and gradually fell into disrepair. In an attempt to improve the situation, the Company toyed with the idea of cable-hauled steam tugs, but instead purchased a conventional steam dredger and some steam tugs. The cost of improvements was too great for the old company, and so an Act of Parliament was obtained in 1884 to restructure the company and raise additional capital. Failure to raise much of the capital resulted in another Act being obtained in 1887, with similar aims and similar results. A third Act of 1892 reverted the name to the Trent Navigation Company, and this time, some improvements were carried out.
With traffic still between 350,00 and 400,000 tonnes per year, Frank Rayner became the engineer in 1896, and the company were persuaded that major work was necessary if the navigation was to survive. The engineer for the Manchester Ship Canal, Sir Edward Leader Williams, was commissioned to survey the river, while negotiations with the North Staffordshire Railway, who owned the Trent and Mersey Canal and had maintained its viability, ensured that some of the clauses from previous Acts of Parliament did not prevent progress. A plan to build six locks between Cromwell and Holme, and to dredge this section to ensure it was 60 feet (18 m) wide and 5 feet (1.5 m) deep was authorised by an Act of Parliament obtained in 1906. Raising finance was difficult, but some was subscribed by the chairman and vice-chairman, and construction of Cromwell Lock began in 1908. The Newark Navigation Commissioners financed improvements to Newark Town lock at the same time, and dredging of the channel was largely funded by selling the 400,000 tonnes of gravel removed from the river bed. At 188 by 30 feet (57 by 9.1 m), Cromwell lock could hold a tug and three barges, and was opened on 22 May 1911. The transport of petroleum provided a welcome increase to trade on the river, but little more work was carried out before the onset of the First World War.
Increased running costs after the First World War could not be met by increasing the tolls, as the company had no statutory powers to do so, and so suggested that the Ministry of Transport should take over the navigation, which they did from 24 September 1920. Tolls were raised, and a committee recommended improvements to the river. Nottingham Corporation invested some £450,000 on building the locks authorised by the 1906 Act, starting with Holme lock on 28 September 1921, and finishing with Hazelford lock, which was formally opened by Neville Chamberlain on 25 June 1926. A loan from Nottingham Corporation and a grant from the Unemployment Grants Committee enabled the Company to rebuild Newark Nether lock, which was opened on 12 April 1926.
In the early 1930s, the Company considered enlarging the navigation above Nottingham, in conjunction with improvements to the River Soar Navigation, between Trent Lock and Leicester. There were also negotiations with the London and North Eastern Railway, who were responsible for the Nottingham Canal between Trent Lock and Lenton. Plans for new larger locks at Beeston and Wilford were dropped when the Trent Catchment Board opposed them. The Grand Union declined to improve the Soar Navigation, because the Trent Navigation Company could not guarantee 135,000 tons of additional traffic. The Company also considered a plan to reopen the river to Burton, which would have involved the rebuilding of Kings Mills lock, and the construction of four new locks. An extra set of gates were added to Cromwell lock in 1935, effectively creating a second lock, while the Lenton to Trent Lock section was leased from the LNER in 1936, and ultimately purchased in 1946.
Frank Rayner, who had been with the Company since 1887, and had served as its engineer and later general manager since 1896, died in December 1945. Sir Ernest Jardine, who as vice-chairman had partly funded the first lock at Cromwell in 1908, died in 1947, and the company ceased to exist in 1948, when the waterways were nationalised. The last act of the directors was to pay a 7.5 per cent dividend on the shares in 1950. Having taken over responsibility for the waterway, the Transport Commission enlarged Newark Town lock in 1952, and the flood lock at Holme was removed to reduce the risk of flooding in Nottingham. More improvements followed between 1957 and 1960. The two locks at Cromwell became one, capable of holding eight Trent barges, dredging equipment was updated, and several of the locks were mechanised. Traffic rose from 620,000 tonnes in 1951 to 1,017,356 tonnes in 1964, but all of this was below Nottingham. Commercial carrying above Nottingham ceased during the 1950s, to be replaced by pleasure cruising.
Although commercial use of the river has declined, the lower river between Cromwell and Nottingham can still take large motor barges up to around 150 feet (46 m) in length with a capacity of approx 300 tonnes. Barges still transport gravel from pits at Girton and Besthorpe to Goole and Hull.
The river is legally navigable for some 117 miles (188 km) below Burton upon Trent. However for practical purposes, navigation above the southern terminus of the Trent and Mersey Canal (at Shardlow) is conducted on the canal, rather than on the river itself. The canal connects the Trent to the Potteries and on to Runcorn and the Bridgewater Canal.
Down river of Shardlow, the non-tidal river is navigable as far as the Cromwell Lock near Newark, except in Nottingham (Beeston Cut & Nottingham Canal) and just west of Nottingham, where there are two lengths of canal, Sawley and Cranfleet cuts. Below Cromwell lock, the Trent is tidal, and therefore only navigable by experienced, well-equipped boaters. Navigation lights and a proper anchor and cable are compulsory. Associated British Ports, the navigation authority for the river from Gainsborough to Trent Falls, insist that anyone in charge of a boat must be experienced at navigating in tidal waters.
Between Trent Falls and Keadby, coastal vessels that have navigated through the Humber still deliver cargoes to the wharves of Grove Port, Neap House, Keadby, Gunness and Flixborough. Restrictions on size mean that the largest vessels that can be accommodated are 100m long and 4,500 tonnes. The use of a maritime pilot on the Trent is not compulsory for commercial craft, but is suggested for those without any experience of the river. Navigation can be difficult, and there have been a number of incidents with ships running aground and in one case, striking Keadby Bridge. The most recent occurrence involved the Celtic Endeavour being aground near Gunness for ten days, finally being lifted off by a high tide.
At certain times of the year, the lower tidal reaches of the Trent experience a moderately large tidal bore (up to five feet (1.5m) high), commonly known as the Trent Aegir (named for the Norse sea god). The Aegir occurs when a high spring tide meets the downstream flow of the river. The funnel shape of the river mouth exaggerates this effect, causing a large wave to travel upstream as far as Gainsborough, Lincolnshire, and sometimes beyond. The Aegir cannot travel much beyond Gainsborough as the shape of the river reduces the Aegir to little more than a ripple, and weirs north of Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire stop its path completely.
The literal North/South divide
The Trent historically marked the boundary between Northern England and Southern England. For example the administration of Royal Forests was subject to a different Justice in Eyre north and south of the river, and the jurisdiction of the medieval Council of the North started at the Trent. Some traces of the former division remain: the Trent marks the boundary between the provinces of two English Kings of Arms, Norroy and Clarenceux. This divide was also described in Michael Drayton's epic topographical poem, Poly-Olbion, The Sixe and Twentieth Song, 1622:
And of the British floods, though but the third I be,
Yet Thames and Severne both in this come short of me,
For that I am the mere of England, that divides
The north part from the south, on my so either sides,
that reckoning how these tracts in compasse be extent,
Men bound them on the north, or on the south of Trent 
On 7 October 2009 the government announced that the Trent had suffered a serious pollution incident when cyanide and ammonia from partially treated sewage found its way into the river, killing thousands of fish.
Places along the Trent
Cities and towns on or close to the river include:
- Burton upon Trent
- Castle Donington
- Long Eaton
- Dunham Bridge – A57 Toll bridge
Crossing the Trent
Prior to the mid 18th century there were few permanent crossings of the river with only four bridges downstream of the Tame confluence at Burton, Swarkestone, Nottingham and Newark. There were, however, over thirty ferries that operated along its course, and numerous fords, where passage was possible, their locations indicated by the suffix ‘ford’ in many riverside place-names such as Hanford, Bridgford, and Wilford.
Glover noted in 1823 that all three types of crossing were still in use on the Derbyshire section of the Trent, but that the fords were derelict and dangerous. These fording points only allowed passage across the river when water levels were low, when the river was in flood a long detour could be required. One of the earliest known fords was the crossing at Littleborough, constructed by the Romans it was paved with flagstones, and supported by substantial timber pilings. The importance of these fords was demonstrated by their inclusion in the 1783 navigation Act, which limited any dredging at these sites so that they remained less than 0.61 metres (2 ft) deep.
Ferries often replaced these earlier fording points, and were essential where the water was too deep, such as the tidal section of the lower river. As they were a source of income, they were recorded in the Domesday Book (Latin - passage aquae) at a number of locations including Weston on Trent and Fiskerton, both of which were still in operation in the middle of the 20th century. The ferry boats used along the Trent ranged in size from small rowing boats, to flat decked craft that could carry livestock, horses, and in some case their associated carts or wagons.
Wilden ferry, near Shardlow was first recorded in 1310, and was unusual in that it replaced a bridge, rather than visa-versa. A series of earlier medieval bridges had all been lost due to floods, in what was historically an unstable, meandering reach of the river. The ferry itself was replaced by Cavendish Bridge in 1760, which was also damaged beyond repair by a flood in March 1947, requiring a temporary bailey bridge to be used until a new concrete span was constructed in 1957.
The delays caused when crossing by ferry often prompted the need for a replacement bridge, such was the case at Willington, Gunthorpe and Gainsborough where the ferry was replaced by a toll bridge.
At Stapenhill near Burton, there were similar calls for a new bridge, a tally of usage showed that the foot ferry was being used 700 times per day. The new Ferry Bridge was opened in 1889, although it needed the financial support of the brewer and philanthropist Michael Bass to pay for the construction, and later in 1898 to purchase the existing ferry rights so that it became free of tolls.
The toll bridges were mostly bought out by the county councils in the 19th century following government reforms, one of the earliest being Willington in 1898, the first toll free crossing was marked by a procession across the bridge and a day of celebration. The only toll bridge that remains across the Trent is at Dunham, although it is free to cross on Christmas and Boxing Day.
The tall chimneys and concave shaped cooling towers of the many power stations are a dominant and familiar presence within the open landscape of the Trent valley, which has been widely used for power generation since the 1940s.
The primary reason for locating so many generating stations beside the Trent was the availability of sufficient amounts of cooling water from the river. This combined with the nearby supplies of fuel in the form of coal from the Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire coalfields, and the existing railway infrastructure meant that a string of twelve large power stations were originally constructed along its banks. At one time these sites provided a quarter of the electricity needs of the UK, giving rise to the epithet 'Megawatt Valley'.
Once these early stations reached the end of their functional life, they were usually demolished, although in some cases the sites have been retained and redeveloped as gas fired power stations.
In downstream order, the power stations that continue to use, or have used the river as their source of cooling water are: Meaford, Rugeley, Drakelow, Willington, Castle Donington, Ratcliffe-on-Soar, Wilford, Staythorpe, High Marnham, Cottam, West Burton and Keadby.
The three largest remaining coal-fired stations at Ratcliffe, Cottam and West Burton still use domestic coal supplies, although this is now being replaced by imported coal brought by ship from abroad.
Recreation on the Trent
Along with other major rivers in the Midlands, the Trent is widely used for recreational activities, both on the water and along its riverbanks. The National Watersports Centre at Holme Pierrepont, near Nottingham combines facilities for many of these sports, including rowing, sailing and whitewater canoeing.
The Trent Valley Way created in 1998 as a long distance footpath, enables walkers to enjoy the combined attractions of ‘the river’s rich natural heritage and its history as an inland navigation’. Extended in 2012, the route now runs from Trent Lock in the south through to Alkborough where the river meets the Humber. It combines riverside and towpath sections, with other paths to villages and places of interest in the wider valley.
Historically swimming in the river was popular, in 1770 at Nottingham there were two bathing areas on opposite banks at Trent Bridge which were improved in 1857 with changing sheds and an assistant. Similar facilities were present in 1870 on the water meadows at Burton-on-Trent, which also had its own swimming club. Open water swimming still takes place at locations including Colwick Park Lake adjacent to the river, with its own voluntary lifeguards.
Rowing clubs have existed at Burton, Newark and Nottingham since the mid-1800s, with various regattas taking place between them, both on the river and on the rowing course at the national watersports centre.
Both whitewater and flat water canoeing is possible on the Trent, with published guides and touring routes being listed for the river. There is a canoe slalom course at Stone, a purpose built 700m artificial course at Holme Pierrepont, and various weirs including those at Newark and Sawley are all used for whitewater paddling. Various canoe and kayak clubs paddle on the river including those at Stone, Burton, and Nottingham.   
Established in 1886 the Trent valley sailing club is one of two clubs that use the river for dingy sailing, regattas, and events. There are also a number of clubs that sail on the open water that has been created as a result of flooded gravel workings which include Hoveringham, Girton, and Attenborough.
Organised trips on cruise boats have long been a feature of the Trent, at one time steam launches took passengers from Trent Bridge to Colwick Park, similar trips run today but in reverse, starting from Colwick and passing through Nottingham they use boats known as the Trent Princess and Trent Lady. Others trips run from Newark castle, and two converted barges; the Newark Crusader and Nottingham Crusader, provide river cruises for disabled people via the St John Ambulance Waterwing scheme. 
Although Spenser endowed the 'The beauteous Trent' with 'thirty different streams'[d] the river is joined by more than twice that number of different tributaries, of which the largest in terms of flow is the Tame which drains most of the West Midlands, including Birmingham and the Black Country. The second and third largest are the Derwent and the Dove respectively; together these two rivers drain the majority of Derbyshire and Staffordshire, including the upland areas of the Peak District.
The Soar which drains the majority of the county of Leicestershire, could also be considered as the second largest tributary, as it has a larger catchment area than the Dove or Derwent, but its discharge is significantly less than the Derwent, and lower than the Dove.
In terms of rainfall the Derwent receives the highest annual average rainfall, whereas the Devon, which has the lowest average rainfall is the driest catchment of those tabulated.
|Statistics of the Trent’s largest tributaries|
|Name||County [e]||Length||Catchment Area||Discharge||Rainfall [f]||Max. Altitude||Refs|
List of tributaries
|Tributaries of the Trent|
Alphabetical listing of tributaries, extracted from the Water Framework Directive list of water bodies for the River Trent:
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- Cumberlidge, Jane (1998). Inland Waterways of Great Britain (7th Ed.). Imray Laurie Norie and Wilson. ISBN 0-85288-355-2.
- Hadfield, Charles (1970). The Canals of the East Midlands. David and Charles. ISBN 0-7153-4871-X.
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- Koch, J.T. (15 Mar 2006). Celtic Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 978-1-85109-440-0.
- Lord, Peter (1972). Portrait of the River Trent (2nd ed.). London: Robert Hale.
- May, Jeffrey (1977). Prehistoric Lincolnshire (History of Lincolnshire). Lincoln: History of Lincolnshire Committee. ISBN 978-0-902668-00-3.
- Nicholson (2006). Nicholson Guides Vol 6: Nottingham York and the North East. Harper Collins. ISBN 978-0-00-721114-2.
- Owen, C.C. (1978). Burton on Trent: the development of industry. Chichester: Phillimore. ISBN 978-0-85033-218-6.
- Stone, Richard (2005). The River Trent. Phillimore. ISBN 1-86077-356-7.
- Also listed as 10,452 km2.
- Recorded at 1230hrs on 8 November 2000 – highest discharge since 1 September 1958.
- Recorded 23–24 August 1976.
- In the epic poem The Faerie Queene
- Indicative county shown
- Rainfall is Annual Average 1961–90 for the catchment to the Gauging Station
- Blithe measured at Hamstall Ridware
- Devon measured at Cotham – Altitude from Ordnance Survey Map
- Blithe measured at Church Wilne
- Dove measured at Marston on Dove
- Erewash measured at Sandiacre
- Greet measured at Southwell
- Idle measured at Mattersey
- Leen measured at Triumph Road, Lenton
- Soar measured at Kegworth
- Sow measured at Milford
- Tame measured at Hopwas
- Torne measured at Auckley
- Tributary names from Ordnance Survey maps added where list amalgamated river reaches
- River Order – 1 being closest to Trent Falls
- Trent River Authority. Official Handbook of the Trent River Authority. Cheltenham and London:Ed. J. Burrow and Co. Ltd, 1972.
- "Midlands Catchment Flood Management Plans". Environment Agency. Retrieved 11 April 2013.
- "28009 – Trent at Colwick". The National River Flow Archive. Centre for Ecology & Hydrology. Retrieved 24 March 2013.
- "Hi Flows UK". Environment-agency.gov.uk. Retrieved 4 March 2013.
- University of Wales Online Dictionary
- Barber 1993, p. 101.
- Koch 2006
- Posnansky, M. The Pleistocene Succession in the Middle Trent Basin. Proc. Geologists' Assoc 71 (1960), pp.285–311
- May 1977.
- "Historical channel-floodplain dynamics along the River Trent". Hislibrary.com. Retrieved 24 March 2013.
- "Medieval Timber Bridge Unearthed". The Independent. Retrieved 24 March 2013.
- Ripper, S. and Cooper L.P., 2009, The Hemington Bridges: "The Excavation of Three Medieval Bridges at Hemington Quarry, Near Castle Donington, Leicestershire", Leicester Archaeology Monograph
- "The Trent Valley: palaeochannel mapping from aerial photographs". Trent Valley GeoArchaeology. Retrieved 28 March 2013.
- William Shakespeare, Henry IV, Pt.I., Act III, Sc. I
- Complete Works of William Shakespeare, William Shakespeare, p433, 2007, ISBN 1-84022-557-2, accessed May 2009
- Everard Leaver Guilford (1912). "Memorials of old Nottinghamshire" (Memorials of old Nottinghamshire. ed.). London: G. Allen. Retrieved 11 May 2013.
- Shakespeare, William (2002). Castan, David Scott, ed. King Henry IV Part 1: Third Series, Part 1. Cengage Learning EMEA. p. 246. ISBN 9781904271345.
- Stone 2005, p. 68.
- "Stanhope, Sir Thomas 1540-96 of Shelford". history of parliament. Retrieved 10 August 2013.
- "Get-a-map online". Ordnance Survey. Retrieved 26 March 2013.
- "Littleborough". Trentvale.co.uk. Retrieved 7 April 2013.
- "Owston Ferry". isleofaxholme.net. Retrieved 7 April 2013.
- "West Butterwick". The Isle of Axholme Family History Society. Retrieved 7 April 2013.
- "East Stockwith". Lincolnshire.gov. Retrieved 7 April 2013.
- "River Trent Catchment Flood Management Plan Chapter 2". Environment Agency. Retrieved 11 April 2013.
- "Environment Agency What's in your Backyard". Environment-agency.gov.uk. Retrieved 11 May 2013.
- "Highs and Lows of the East Midlands". BBC. Retrieved 11 May 2013.
- "28009 - Trent at Colwick Spatial Data". The National River Flow Archive. Centre for Ecology & Hydrology. Retrieved 24 March 2013.
- "River Trent Catchment Flood Management Plan Chapter 3". Environment Agency. Retrieved 11 April 2013.
- Rivers of Europe by Klement Tockner, Urs Uehlinger, Christopher T. Robinson (2009), Academic Press, London.
- "Trent Valley IDB - General". naidb.co.uk. Retrieved 24 May 2013.
- British Geological Survey. "Geology of Britain map". British Geological Survey. Retrieved 25 August 2013. - Zoomable map - click to obtain the bedrock and superficial geologies.
- "Geological Evolution of Central England with reference to the Trent Basin and its Landscapes". nora.nerc.ac.uk. Retrieved 19 June 2013.
- "The BGS Lexicon of Named Rock Units — Gunthorpe member". bgs.ac.uk. Retrieved 11 July 2013.
- Mills, Alexander (2003). Dictionary of British Place names. Oxford University Press. p. 570. ISBN 9780191578472.
- "The Lower and Middle Palaeolithic Occupation of the Middle and Lower Trent Catchment and Adjacent Areas, as Recorded in the River Gravels used as Aggregate Resources". tvg.bham.ac.uk. 2004. pp. 16–20. Retrieved 10 June 2013.
- "River Trent: Archaeology and Landscape of the Ice Age". Archaeology Data Service. pp. 14–15,27. Retrieved 19 June 2013.
- "The BGS Lexicon of Named Rock Units - Trent Valley Formation". bgs.ac.uk. Retrieved 11 July 2013.
- Lister, Adrian; Brandon, Allan (1991). "A pre-Ipswichian cold stage mammalian fauna from the Balderton Sand and Gravel, Lincolnshire". Journal of Quaternary Science. wiley.com. Retrieved 11 July 2013.
- "Trent Vale Landscape Character". trentvale.co.uk. p. 11. Retrieved 10 September 2013.
- "The Humberhead Levels Natural Area". naturalengland.org.uk. Retrieved 19 June 2013.
- Hadfield 1985, pp. 15–17
- Cumberlidge 1998, p. 230
- Hadfield 1970, pp. 42–46
- Owen 1978, pp. 13–20.
- UK CPI inflation numbers based on data available from Gregory Clark (2013), "What Were the British Earnings and Prices Then? (New Series)" MeasuringWorth.
- Hadfield 1970, pp. 74–78
- Hadfield 1970, pp. 198–207
- British Waterways, River Trent Water Freight Feasibility Study, p11, accessed 9 January 2010
- Nicholson 2006, p. 128.
- NGIA (2006). Prostar Sailing Directions 2006 North Sea Enroute. ProStar Publications. p. 53. ISBN 9781577857549.
- "Ports and wharves of North Lincolnshire". northlincs.gov.uk. Retrieved 11 July 2013.
- "MAIB Search Results Mithril". maib.gov.uk. Retrieved 11 July 2013.
- "MAIB Search Results Maria". maib.gov.uk. Retrieved 11 July 2013.
- "Freighter-Celtic-Endeavor-aground-and-refloated". news.odin.tc. Retrieved 11 July 2013.
- Stone 2005, p. 9, 124.
- "Justices in Eyre 1509–1840". Institute of Historical Research. Retrieved 29 March 2013.
- "'Norroy King of Arms', Survey of London Monograph 16: College of Arms, Queen Victoria Street (1963), pp. 101–118.". British History Online. Retrieved 29 March 2013.
- "'Clarenceux King of Arms', Survey of London Monograph 16: College of Arms, Queen Victoria Street (1963), pp. 74–101.". British History Online. Retrieved 29 March 2013.
- The Travellers' Dictionary of Quotations: Who Said What, about Where?, Peter Yapp, p372, 1983, ISBN 9780710009920, accessed 1 April 2013
- "Cyanide sparks River Trent pollution probe" independent.co.uk, accessed 8 October 2009
- Stone 2005, p. 14, 15
- "Transport on the River Trent". humberpacketboats.co.uk. Retrieved 10 May 2013.
- Glover, Stephen (1829). The History of the County of Derby. Mozley. p. 259.
- The Statutes at Large: Volume 14. 1786. pp. 339–340.
- Campbell, Bruce (2006). England on the Eve of the Black Death. Manchester University Press. p. 300. ISBN 9780719037689.
- Brown, A (2001). "Late Holocene channel changes of the Middle Trent: channel response to a thousand-year flood record". sciencedirect.com. Retrieved 10 May 2013.
- "Cavendish Bridge Conservation Area Appraisal and Study". North West Leicestershire council. Retrieved 10 August 2013.
- Barber, J (1834). History of the County of Lincoln: From the Earliest Period to the Present Time, Volume 2.
- Nigel J. Tringham (Editor) (2003). "Burton-upon-Trent: Communications". A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 9: Burton-upon-Trent. Institute of Historical Research. Retrieved 7 June 2013.
- "Burton-upon-Trent Local History". Ferry Bridge the Ferry. burton-on-trent.org.uk. Retrieved 1 July 2013.
- Stone 2005, p. 69
- "Willington Bridge". Willington Local History Group. Retrieved 10 October 2013.
- "Dunham Bridge – Homepage". Dunham Bridge Company. Retrieved 10 May 2013.
- Stone 2005, p. 121,122
- Carr, Michael (1997). New Patterns: Process and Change in Human Geography. Nelson Thornes. pp. 389–390. ISBN 9780174386810.
- "Coal-Fired Power Plants in East England & the Midlands". Power Plants around the World. industcard.com. Retrieved 28 October 2013.
- "Location to Power Stations". Modern Mining. UK Coal. Retrieved 28 October 2013.
- "Our Customers". Modern Mining. UK Coal. Retrieved 28 October 2013.
- "Our Operations". infinis.com. Retrieved 28 October 2013.
- "River Trent". canalrivertrust.org.uk. Retrieved 10 July 2013.
- "Strategic Priorities for Water Related Recreation in the Midlands". brighton.ac.uk. Retrieved 10 June 2013.
- "Trent Valley Way". ldwa.org.uk. Retrieved 10 May 2013.
- "Trent Valley Way". On Trent. Retrieved 10 May 2013.
- "TVW Feasibility Report". On Trent. Retrieved 10 May 2013.
- "Trent Valley Way new route confirmed". trentvale.co.uk. Retrieved 10 May 2013.
- Nigel J. Tringham (Editor) (2003). "Burton-upon-Trent: Social and cultural activities". A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 9: Burton-upon-Trent. Institute of Historical Research. Retrieved 10 July 2013.
- "An itinerary of Nottingham: Trent Bridge". Transactions of the Thoroton Society, 29 (1925). nottshistory.org.uk. Retrieved 10 June 2013.
- "Colwick Park Lifeguards – About Us". thelifeguards.org.uk. Retrieved 10 June 2013.
- "Burton Leander Rowing". burtonleander.co.uk. Retrieved 10 July 2013.
- "Newark Rowing Club". newarkrowingclub.co.uk. Retrieved 10 July 2013.
- "Nottingham Union Rowing Club". nurc.co.uk. Retrieved 10 July 2013.
- "National Water Sports Centre – About Us". nwscnotts.com. Retrieved 10 June 2013.
- British Canoe Union (2003). English White Water: The British Canoe Union Guidebook. Pesda. ISBN 9780953195671.
- "Canoe Trails - Midlands". canoe-england.org.uk. Retrieved 10 May 2013.
- "Burton Canoe Club". burtoncanoeclub.co.uk. Retrieved 10 May 2013.
- "Stafford and Stone Canoe Club". satffordandstonecc.co.uk. Retrieved 10 July 2013.
- "Holme Pierrepont Canoe Club". hppcc.co.uk. Retrieved 10 July 2013.
- "Nottinghamshire Sailing & Yacht Clubs". Go-sail.co.uk. Retrieved 10 May 2013.
- "Report on the investigation of Nottingham Princess striking Trent Bridge Nottingham". maib.gov.uk. 2003. Retrieved 1 June 2013.
- "St John Ambulance Waterwing". sja.org.uk. Retrieved 10 July 2013.
- "Faerie Queene. Book IV. Canto XI.". spenserians.cath.vt.edu. Retrieved 21 April 2013.
- "Water Framework Directive Surface Water Classification Status and Objectives 2012 csv file". Environment Agency.gov.uk. 26 November 2012. Retrieved 10 March 2013.
- "National River Flow Archive". Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. Retrieved 7 May 2013.
- Photographs along the Trent in Nottingham from Nottingham21
- Catchment Tributaries of the River Trent English Heritage and University of Birmingham research project.
- Predictive Modelling of Multi-Period Geoarchaeological Resources at a River Confluence English Heritage, University of Birmingham and University of Exeter research project.
- Trent Valley GeoArchaeology
- River Trent through Nottingham. Pictures & slide show.