After an early breakfast, and thanks to a lift from my landlady, I set off at 8.15 on one of the longest sections of my trip.
The route to Uttoxeter follows the Staffordshire Way but is described as being the the low point of the whole trail. “The path follows the edge of huge fields and the walking is monotonous and the scenery featureless.” So it proved; and to add to the pleasures of the day it was cold and raining. Definitely a time just to pound out the miles.
Uttoxeter eventually appeared and was left behind via a path through the racecourse.
Next came my first encounter this trip with my bovine friends. I am not sure why they only appear when I have to cut straight across large fields. This herd included some very fine Old English cattle with huge horns and calves. Luckily they were friendly.
Crossing the A50 I entered Derbyshire for the first time and headed for Rocester. Here I passed Arkwright’s Mill – now the JCB academy – and could see the JCB factory which dominates the town. A handy seat at Rocester Church proved a good place for lunch.
The weather had now improved and the walk alongside the River Dove was enjoyable. Leaving the village of Ellastone I made my way up to The Hutts Farm. Here I made a fatal decision. I was now on the Limestone Way high up on a ridge but the way is not signed. The guide route left the Limestone Way at this point to drop down to the Ordley Brook Valley.
The route description states ” There is an excellent route along the wooded valley bottom, although it is occasionally wet underfoot, the wood is a delight to walk through and mostly very easy walking”. I went that way. There followed about 3km of the worst conditions of the whole trip. The path is a quagmire of mud with fallen trees and clinging brambles. When I finally reach a road the relief was palpable. Even the guidebook’s author admitted that the route proposed from the road was worse so an alternative had to be found. I therefore walked back up to the Limestone Way on the road to find good conditions and much better scenery!!
A little road walking, during which it started to snow, took me to Woodhouses and soon Coldwall Bridge and Dovedale were in sight. I arrived at the Izaak Walton Hotel at 6.00 after 35k and an almost 10-hour day.
A few minutes later my sister-in-law Susan arrived with husband Michael and treated me to a delicious dinner. I slept well.