Walking from John O'Groats to Land's End in the winter of 07/08.

Saturday, 5 January 2008

Uttoxeter to Penkridge

The main crop of Staffordshire is mud, with acres and acres of fields producing the stuff. The Staffordshire Way takes in as much of the sludge farming as possible, while making sharp turns every few hundred metres to obliterate any sense of direction, giving the impression of being lost in a sea of oozing muck. Stiles and a handful of waymarks make it reasonably easy to follow, apart from the odd occasion where I reached a blank corner in a field before realising I was supposed to pop through a tiny gap in the hedgerow half way along.

Some respite from all this was found in a section of open parkland surrounded by forest, as well as when passing through the pleasant town of Abbots Bromley and the linear village of Colton. Blithfield Reservoir initially looked like it might add some interest to the landscape, but the wide expanse of water soon disappeared as I passed beneath the long low dam. My general frustration was not improved by the wide loop required in order to avoid a small section of track that is forbidden to walkers because it passes a boat house.

After what seemed like a hundred more fields, I joined the towing path of the Trent and Mersey Canal. The smell of wood smoke from the stoves of the canal boats took me back to the bothies of the north, and I felt envious of their tranquil lifestyle. A long bridge took me away from shallow waters to the heather and bracken covered lumps of Channock Chase. Following the wide paths that criss cross this beauty spot I looked completely out of place with my heavy pack and sticks, being surrounded by families on afternoon strolls, although I was possibly more prepared for the hail showers that spoilt an otherwise peaceful day.

The Staffordshire Way returned to farmland and led to the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal. Initially overhung by trees and passing under old stone bridges, this turns from quaint to industrial when it is forced under the M5 in a wide low concrete tunnel. On these final miles, the usual aches and pains were a bit more vocal than usual and I began to hobble. It may have been a mistake to attempt these long days straight after the Christmas break and I'll admit to feeling nervous about tomorrow's mileage.

No comments: