2nd April – Abbots Bromley to Thorpe

20190402 Dove Valley
Today’s destination – Dovedale

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.

20190402 Stile near Ellishall Farm
At least this stile was interesting…

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.

20190402 Arkwright's Mill
Arkwright’s Mill at Rocester

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.

20190402 Rochester church
Rocester church

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.

20190402 Path near Ordley brook
Quagmire and fallen trees on the “good” path

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.

20190402 River Dove at Ellastone Bridge
The River Dove at Ellastone bridge

A few minutes later my sister-in-law Susan arrived with husband Michael and treated me to a delicious dinner.  I slept well.

1st April – Penkridge to Abbots Bromley

20190401 Staffordshire and Worcester Canal
The Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal

I was able to get an early breakfast and left Penkridge at 8.00.  I had a pleasant easy start strolling along the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal before turning east and climbing up to Cannock Chase Forest.

20190401 Marina

Navigation through the forest was a little problematic due to the plethora of paths and lack of signage.  In the end I just took any trail heading east and soon found the Sherbrook Valley.

20190401 Cannock Chase approaching the Sherbrook Valley
Cannock Chase approaching the Sherbrook Valley

The route crossed the stepping stones before climbing over the ridge and dropping down to join the Trent and Mersey Canal.

20190401 Trent and Mersey Canal near Bishton
Trent & Mersey Canal near Bishton

The canal runs parallel to the River Trent down to Rugeley where the Power Station is a landmark.

20190401 Rugeley Power Station
Rugeley Power Station

Having spent about an hour walking south-east when I really wanted to go north-east, the Staffordshire Way finally turned in the required direction. The pubs at Colton were all closed and there are no shops, so I carried on to Stockwell Heath, where I stopped for lunch by a delightful duck pond.

20190401 Lunch stop at Stockwell Heath
Lunch stop at Stockwell Heath

From there the way crossed another ridge and descended to Blithfield Reservoir.  The Staffordshire Way takes a circuitous route avoiding crossing the dam.

20190401 Crossing Blithfield Reservoir
Crossing Blithfield Reservoir

I think I must be becoming a serial law-breaker, but as I could see lots of cars and people on the dam, I nipped across as well, and reached Abbots Bromley at 2.45.

20190401 Butter Cross Abbots Bromley
Butter Cross at Abbots Bromley
20190401 Anyone need fuel
Petrol, anyone?

As I was too early to go to my B&B at Marsh Farm, I took the opportunity to shop for tomorrow’s lunch and check out the route I wanted to take from the farm.

Unfortunately, as the route was not a right of way, my landlady told me that I would probably be stopped and turned back.  She then offered to return me to Abbots Bromley in the morning.  As I have well over 20 miles to walk to get to Dovedale and the weather is breaking up, plus I do not enjoy walking along busy roads with no pavement, I was happy to accept.


31st March – Shifnal to Penkridge

20190331 Lunch by Shropshire Union Canal
Lunch stop by the Shropshire Union Canal

After a good nights sleep and a wholesome breakfast Karen and I returned to Shifnal to resume my walk at 9.30.  It was good to have some company as unfortunately today’s walk consisted of lots of road walking interspersed with field paths.

20190331 Typical field path near Longnor
Typical field path near Longnor

The trail mainly followed the Monarch’s Way, the route taken by Charles 2nd when fleeing from the Battle of Worcester.  We were hoping to get coffees at the Royal Oak at Bishop’s Wood but they seemed to be closed – perhaps the only pub in the UK closed at lunchtime on Mothering Sunday!

We continued on our way via Black Ladies’ Priory, and stopped at the Shropshire Union Canal for lunch. From there we split up, Karen returning to Shifnal whilst I continued to Mitton and Penkridge arriving around 4.20.

20190331 Penkridge church
Penkridge church

My room at the Littleton Arms is small but comfortable and I managed to get a table in the restaurant, where I sat surrounded by families celebrating Mothering Sunday.

On a practical note I am pleased that I brought OS maps with me and am not totally dependent on my guidebook.  Inevitably things have changed since the guide was written and it is true to say that in places a good deal of interpretation is required.