Day 41 Saturday 28 September Hartington to Edale

Distance walked: today 20.7 miles cumulative 629.8 miles

Lucy, my daughter, recommended me a book entitled Wanderlust by Rebecca Solnit. This is a book about walking and includes some anthropology as well as the history and philosophy of walking. I have been reading it in the evenings and it is good if a little heavy going. For instance, she suggests that modern day treks are the non-religious equivalent of pilgrimages as the goals are spiritual rather than physical. A thought provoking book.

This was another wet day. I left Hartington at 8:30. I took the most direct route to Edale. I climbed out of the valley with a group doing the 6 dale challenge. This is about 26 miles long and they had already been walking for two hours. The route climbs along a ridge giving a typical view of the Peak District

The other group soon turned off

My route continued to climb towards Pilsbury. I then followed the High Peak Trail, an old railway line, to Pomeroy before returning to field paths and lanes, passing to the east of Chelmorton, (a pretty village with a nice pub, the Church Inn). It was too early in the day to drop in for a pint so I continued on eventually descending into Chee Dale

The rain stopped temporarily and so I had a rest and a sandwich. The rain didn’t stay away long. I descended into Chee Dale and turned east to enter Monks Dale. This was horrible. It was pouring with rain and the dale is mostly a boulder field. The rocks were slippery and there were several fallen trees across the path so progress was slow. I then snapped one of my walking poles between two rocks. (I do not recommend carbon fibre poles). I began to worry I might miss the last afternoon train and have to wait till 20:45 for the next one..

Peter Dale was more grassy but was very boggy and is used to graze cows. Progress was faster but I emerged at the road covered up to the knees in cow poo. I now got my first view of Kinder Scout and the start of the Pennine Way, where I will pick up my trail next year.

The magnificent hill of Mam Tor came into view

This should be a mountain, it looks like one but it is less than 2000 feet tall. The top is an old hill fort. There are excellent day walks to the top from Castleton or Edale. For the less energetic, there is a car park not far from the top. On a windy day it is a good spot to watch hang gliders. But if you have a picnic there beware of the sheep, once, I sat down and before I knew it a ewe had her head in my rucksack looking for food.

I now made a fast descent to Edale and got the train with minutes to spare. I do feel sorry for the people sitting near me, I exuded a rather farmyard smell.

It was good to get home. A quick shower and I was clean enough to enjoy a Third Eye curry. The log is now up to date. I will add a bibliography over the winter (I didnt, although this is still an aim) but now it is time to plan next year’s campaign. My big question at the moment is whether to do the Pennine Way or to branch north West to the Dales Way. The next decision is whether to go west along the West Highland Way or head through the Lairig Ghru and the Cairngorms.

Day 40 Friday 27 September Quixhill to Hartington

Distance walked: today 17.3 miles cumulative 612.1

It is (wrongly) stated the Eskimos have 40 words for snow. Douglas Adams in “So Long and Thanks for all the Fish” creates a lorry driver who has classified 231 types of rain and I must have experienced most of them this week.

It started out dry but dull and I followed the road to Lower Ellastone. The Peak District Hills now looked quite close.

I left the road and joined the Limestone Way. I headed across fields to the top of a ridge. There were some views east towards Ashbourne and I could see the cooling towers of the power station near Nottingham in the distance. However the cloud came in and the rain soon followed. In better weather I think this would have been a really nice walk but today it was a case of getting along as quickly as possible.

By the time I dropped down to Dovedale the rain was really heavy and there was nowhere to shelter. As I was about to enter the dale it was outlined by a rainbow for a few seconds. Dovedale is one of the most famous beauty spots in the Peak District and even in today’s atrocious weather there were several people out. Two were walking across the stepping stones which fortunately were not too slippery.

I set of up the dale. Even in this weather it is beautiful.

Ilam Rock

There are several caves along the dale

At the junction of Dovedale and Milldale there is a small hamlet where I was able to get a coffee.Finally, the rain stopped. After another few miles the valley splits and I continued to follow the river Dove into Wolfscote Dale. The path enters a wood and leaves the river to cross fields towards Hartington. As I emerged from the wood a rainbow appeared

The sun came out for the last couple of miles. Although I was born in London I have spent most if my life (from my mid twenties) in the North-west and when I saw the small fields, sheep and dry stone walls I felt I was home

I arrived in Hartington. This is a pretty but touristy village in the heart of the Peak District. I stayed in the youth hostel here when I was 17. That was my first walking trip in the north of England. The following year I went to the Lakes for the first time and my love affair with upland Britain had begun.

Day 39 Thursday 26 September Abbots Bromley to Quixhill

Distance walked: today 15.8 miles cumulative 594.8 miles

I’ve found the last few days very tiring which is why I have got behind with the blog. I think this is a combination of the increased distances and the worsening weather. It seems a long time since I was stopping in pubs for a cooling pint at lunchtimes.

Last nights’s B & B joined the “best” group. It was a two floor apartment which is sometimes let out as a B and B and sometimes as a self catering apartment. The owners, Bob and Sue, were really nice and there was a DVD collection of some of my favourite shows. I could have stayed and watched Wallender (the original, Swedish version of course, although the Kenneth Branagh remake is also good) rather than gone walking in the rain. There were a few stuffed animal heads and birds in the living room that may put off vegetarians but I assumed these were old.

There has been a village at Abbots Bromley since 952 and it is recorded in the Domesday book. In the centre of the village is the Butter Cross, so named as butter used to be traded under it. It is claimed to originate from the 14th century but the current structure probably dates from the 18th century.

There has been a church here since the origin of the village, although it has been rebuilt a couple of times. Inside the church several sets of reindeer horns are displayed. These have been carbon dated to come from the 11th century. Some say that reindeer were not present in Britain at that time and they must have been imported. Each year they are taken out of the church and are used in the performance of the Horn Dance. The dance is said to have been first performed in 1226. The dancers are six men wearing deer antlers (the deer men), a Fool, a Hobby horse, a Bowman, Maid Marian and a melodian player. They still dance at various places around the village on Wakes Monday in September.

Mary Queen of Scots stayed in Abbots Bromley on her way to Tutbury castle.

The weather was dull with showers and I continued along the Staffordshire Way across farmland to Uttoxeter. The walk was not particularly interesting. As I arrived in Uttoxeter I could see the Peak District on the horizon.

I took the opportunity to send some used maps and clothes back home and to buy some food for the next few lunches. Leaving Uttoxeter proved problematic as a shopping park has been built by the station and I could not find the start of my path. Eventually I found my way back to the route. There were sculptures on some of the roundabouts The path led to the A50 where it crosses the river Dove. I was worried the path under the motorway would be flooded but in fact I passed through with dry feet. The Staffordshire Way followed the line of the Dove valley but now there was a subtle difference in the landscape with sheep and cattle farming replacing arable fields. The fields were smaller and dry stone walls started to appear. I felt I was back in the Peak District. The path passed through a shooting club. There was clay pigeon shoot in progress. Two turkeys crossed the path. I hope they manage to leave the area soon otherwise they will become a target as Christmas approaches.

River Dove south of Rocester

Rocester is the site of an old Roman fort, although little remains today. It’s current claim to fame is that the JCB World Centre is located there.

I took the road out of town past the JCB complex to my B and B in Quixhill. I was planning to eat in a nearby pub but this closed last week. A great pity as it had a reputation for good food. Fortunately I was aware of this and I bought some sandwiches in Uttoxeter.

Day 38 Wed 25th September Penkridge to Abbots Bromley

Distance walked: today 18.6 miles cumulative 579 miles

A dull but dry start to the day. All of today’s walk was along The Staffordshire Way. I left Penkridge by the towpath of the Staffordshire and Worcestershire canal which passes behind the backs of houses. There are some vicious looking birds here fortunately this one couldn’t fly across the fence.

The canal soon entered countryside. I watched one couple negotiate a lock, it looks like hard work! I chatted to a man walking the towpath. We talked about the route I had taken and he is going to try to find the blog and make a donation to CF. Many thanks.

Verbal consent obtained for photograph

The canal passed under the M6 and I crossed the canal by a lock keepers cottage

I continued along the Staffordshire Way across farmland to Cannock Chase. This was well signposted with the logo being the Staffordshire knot

The origin of the symbol is unknown but there are a couple of good legends:

The most grisly concerns an executioner who had three criminals to hang but only one length of rope. By using the knot he made three loops and hanged all three at the same time. Modern management would have approved of his efficiency.

A more romantic tale concerns Ethelfielda, the daughter of Alfred the Great. She was defending Stafford and brought the lords of the three local areas together. She took off her girdle and tied the knot saying “with this girdle I bind us all as one”

This latter story also gives rise to the county motto “the knot unites”, please read the motto carefully, I took great care typing it correctly. It is only a single overhand knot so my surgical friends may prefer “the knot unties” as they would not trust it to ligate a blood vessel (a “surgeons knot” has at least three alternating throws).

After several miles of farmland I passed through the village of Bednall to reach Cannock Chase. This is a beautiful area of mixed scrubland and woodland

Morning dew on cobwebs in the gorse was most attractive

The Way crosses the Chase before turning north in the Sherbrook valley. It then passes between hills to leave the Chase to join the A513. It was a shock to the system to have to walk along a main road but it was only for half a mile and there was a wide verge.

I then entered enter the grounds of Shugborough Hall. This was built by Willian Anson in the 17th Century. There is an interesting display of artefacts that he collected on his travels as well as an account of his brother’s career as a privateer, a bit of a dubious character if you ask me. Privateers were private individuals who had government authority to cature merchant vessels. Some historians believe that this was just legalised piracy!

There is an interesting display of contemporary farming in the Park Farm and a number of monuments in the grounds that I could see from the path. Patrick Litchfield lived here and you can go round his apartments. I left Shugborough by crossing Essex bridge, the longest remaining packhorse bridge in the country.

This led to the Mersey and Trent canal. The two canals I walked along today join just north of here and link the Severn, Mersey and Trent rivers. These were bulit by James Brindley and were extremely important economically before the railways, hence the wealth of some of the towns and cities that I have passed through since Gloucester.

The canal passes alongside the river Trent, just separated by a bank in places.

The last few miles of the walk were through Staffordshire farmland to Abbots Bromley via the village of Colton and alongside the dam of the Blithfield reservoir.

Day 37 Tuesday 24 September Pattingham to Penkridge

Distance walked: today 14.7 miles cumulative 561.4 miles

Lovely pub food last night but as I was taken there I am not sure what the pub was called or where it was (I hasten to add this is because I was not paying attention and not due to excess alcohol).

Kate was working so she was up and ready to leave by the time I awoke. Tim and I settled down to porridge and then I set off for the Staffordshire Way accompanied by Tim and Jarvis.

View back to Pattingham church

We parted company where the Staffordshire way left the Wolverhampton road and the heavens opened. I quickly got into my wet weather gear and set off across the fields to Codsall where I sought refuge from the elements in a coffee shop. This also contained a bakery and there was a lovely smell of baking bread. As I said yesterday, my cagoule is no longer as waterproof as when it was new so I was somewhat soggy and left a puddle of rainwater on the floor.

The rain continued and I pressed on to Brewood and a pub lunch. I am afraid the walk itself was forgettable. Visibility was limited, the rain heavy and I just concentrated on getting there as quickly as possible. I think both Codsall and Brewood may be perfectly nice towns but not in the rain.

I decided to abandon the Staffordshire way in preference for a shorter walk down country lanes. It actually stopped raining for a while but I got another soaking just outside Penkridge. A walk to forget because of the weather, but I count myself lucky as this is only the second day to be a wash out since I started.

Tim drove over and we had a nice evening in the Littleton Arms

There are several option to cross middle England for the Lejoger. Some turn north-west in Somerset to cross the Bristol Channel and head up Offa’s Dyke path. The alternative is to go up the Cotswold Way and choose to go around Birmingham to the east or west. Robin Richards decided on the full Birmingham experience and crossed the conurbation on canal tow paths. The east route takes the Heart of England way after the Cotswold Way and this joins the Staffordshire way at Shugborough (see tomorrow’s blog). Andy Robinson guide follows the bottom third of the Offa’s Dyke path before turning east through the Shropshire Hills to reach Penkridge.

I really enjoyed my route (west) which is very similar to Mark Moxon’s. He continued up the Severn where I turned west to cross the Malvern ridge. This was an unnecessary detour but one of the highlights of the walk for me. The disadvantage was once I had left a recognised “Way” many of the paths were obstructed by undergrowth, crops or broken stiles. The days on the Severn were very enjoyable. I wanted to go over Kinver Edge but couldn’t find suitable accommodation (there is a 5 star hotel). The short detour via Pattingham was to see Tim and Kate.

Of course there is no official route and walkers can follow their own desires.

Day 36 Monday 23 September Alveley to Pattingham

Miles walked today 18.5 miles cumulative 546.7 miles

A beautiful morning again so I decided to have a further few hours following the Severn to Bridgnorth. I followed the west bank of the river this time.

Although the rabbit population is threatened the mallards are thriving, there were literally hundreds on this stretch of the Severn.

I must be getting paranoid, when they quack I think they are laughing at me. In the introductory section of his Cicerone guide to the End to End Trail, Any Robinson comments that Lejogers usually walk alone as no one is daft enough to go with them. Maybe the ducks share this view. They ignore me until I get too close, then they all take off at once. Impressive. Elsewhere along the river there is a large population of swans.

I passed nice riverside parks yesterday near Stourport and Bewdley where there were some interesting sculptures. This fish was situated near the bridge at Highley where I crossed the river this morning

This was another very pleasand, relaxing walk and I was sorry to leave the Severn. One thing Lejog as taught me is how varied the countryside is in the UK and to value the lowlands as well as upland Britain. Reluctantly, I left the river atBridgnorth which is a really pretty town. It lies at one end of the Severn valley railway

The town is split into the higher town and the lower town. There was a castle at the top of the hill but only a few stones remain although there is a nice park. The old town hall is still present on Main Street in High Town.

After cheese on toast for lunch ( two doorsteps and about a pound of cheese, thanks Castle Cafe it was great!) I set off down the Cartway to the river. This was the only road between the high and low town until the mid 18th century. It was a bit of a disreputable area! The houses were either pubs, lodgings for sailors (who were described as ruffians) or “houses of ill repute.” There is only one pub left (the Black Boy, named after Charles I) which I assume is highly respectable, and I failed to spot either a salt of the sea or a lady (or indeed a gentleman) of questionable morals. The road itself is very pretty.

Behind the houses are caves that were lived in until the mid 19th century.

I crossed the Severn for the last time and set off over the fields to Pattingham. I passed through the grounds of Davenport House, now a hotel and wedding venue. Next to the house is the village of Worfield which was rather nice although a bit posh, mums picking kids up in BMWs and Porsches.

It now stated to rain so it was heads down and wet weather gear on and march on quiet lanes to Pattingham. As I approached the town I was met by Tim and Jarvis (he is the cocker spaniel)

It really poured and I discovered that the waterproofing on my Cagoule is not what it once was!

It was a short walk to Tim’s house, a cup of tea and a chance to dry out before a trip to the pub.

Day 35 Sunday 22 September Shrawley to Alveley

Miles walked today 18.6 cumulative 528.1

I’ve had a panic about the distance walked. Walkmeter consistently reads more than I measure on the map with a map wheel. I know GPS tends to over read if there is a poor signal but the maps it draws seem accurate. Maybe I tend to draw straight lines with the wheel where the path curves, especially when following rivers. I will trust the technology and put the discrepancy down to human error.

There was an autumnal crispness to the air as I set off in sunshine, heading up the West Bank of the Severn. There was still some mist over the water giving an atmospheric feel to the morning.

The path passed through a mixture of fields and farmland. The Severn flows sedately here and I thought that if Paul Robeson had lived in Worcestershire he would have written Ol Man River about the Severn because it seems to just go rolling along. Every so often the calmness of the river was interspersed by short stretches where the current gets faster, as if the old river was having one last go at being powerful. Of course, it doesn’t realise the shock it will get below Gloucester when it collides with a bore.

The leaves on the north facing branches of the trees are just starting to change colour

Having read Moxon’s book, I was prepared for an increasing number of caravans and chalets as I headed upstream, but as I approached Stourport there was a park of densely packed static caravans as far as the eye could see. I crossed the river at Stourbridge, wandered into town for a coffee and then set off along the Eastern bank. There were several smaller developments of chalets and caravan parks.

It was now raining. After a few miles I arrived in Bewdley. Both Stourport and Bewdley were important ports on the Severn before the railway as goods were carried up the river to a canal linking the Severn to the Mersey. Bridge across the Severn at Bewdley

Much of Bewdley is Georgian reflecting when the town was in its heyday. The row of buildings on the riverbank used to be flooded regularly up to the level of their windowsills until the flood defences were improved. As I edit this in 2021 I am reminded of last years’ storms when this row of shops and houses were completely flooded.

My lunch spot was the riverside cafe, the green building on the left in the above picture. After lunch the sun came out again. Above Bewdley the river and path run adjacent to the Severn valley railway so every so often there was the whistle and puffing of steam engines.

Despite the showers this was a very pleasant and relaxing days walk. I was suprprised about the number of caravan parks as I would not of thought this scenery would have mass appeal. Perhaps people are attracted by the gentle nature of the Severn and the close proximity of the Wyre Forest and Kinver Edge.

I left the river at Highley to head uphill to the pretty village of Alveley. My sleeping arrangement for tonight was in a sleeping pod, essentially a double bed, a small table and a kettle

I would have preferred the hobbit hole

Then disaster! The pub did not do food on a Sunday night. Fortunately my son, Tim and his fiancĂ©e, Kate live nearby (more on tomorrow’s blog) and came to the rescue. They picked me up and we went for an excellent curry in Bridgnorth.

Kate is a vet and I mentioned that I was surprised how few rabbits I had seen on the walk. She told me that a new virus has got into the country and has decimated the rabbit population. On that sad note I returned to the pod.

Day 34 Saturday 21 September Worcester to Shrawley

Distance walked today 9 miles cumulative 509.5

It is good to be back. I had longer off than I originally planned but I needed to time the walk to fit in with Tim’s (my son) off duty so I could walk with him for a few hours and stay with him overnight. It also allowed more time for my knee to recover although it was sore again after 5 miles. Worcester is close enough to home so I could plan an afternoon walk and I only left home this morning. I had a coffee at the station. The muzak included a piano version of “Stairway to Heaven” which, surprosongly, sounded really good. A tribute to a great song is that it sounds good whoever is playing it (with the exception of me singing it)

It was good to see that Worcester was bustling on a Saturday morning. One way to limit car journeys is to use public transport to go to a city centre rather than to drive to an out of town mall.

I grabbed a pasty from a local baker and crossed the Severn. I had a good view of the cathedral.

I turned north along the stretch of the river bank called Henwick Parade. Local legend says that a girl called Sabrina (Latin), Sabern (English) or Hafren (Welsh) drowned in the river here, giving her name to the Severn. The legend tells of Locrinus, King of England who was married to Gwendolen to forge a political alliance. In a battle, Locrinus captures and falls in love with a Hun princess with whom he has a beautiful daughter (Sabern). Gwendolen raised an army and gets revenge by killing Locrinus and throwing Sabern and her mother into the river. She ordered the river to be named after Sabern so that all remembered her husbands misdeeds (See the Worcestershire museum web site for a full account).

The Severn way passes between the main road and the river. On the opposite side are the racecourse and boathouses. Rowers were out practising. I suspect there were some new students there as some of the boats were accompanied by trainers shouting instructions.

After a few hundred yards the road diverges and the path passes alongside the river though light woodland and fields. It was sunny and hot. The weathermen have warned that this is going to be the last good day so I made the most of it and just ambled along.

After a while I came to a pub (the Camp House Inn) on the river near a weir. It would have been rude to walk past so I sat on the riverbank and enjoyed a pint in the sunshine.

I really shouldn’t drink at lunchtime. I wandered along following the waymarks not bothering to check the map. Suddenly the path came to an end, the way forward being blocked with brambles and a brook. I retraced my steps. I had missed a turn but this was also too overgrown to allow access. I retreated and looked at the map. Of course, the path I hadn’t taken was clearly demonstrated by the map to be the correct one.

I then got stuck again. I came to a farm where the fields had been divided up into pens so the children could see the animals. There was also a frisbee golf course (honest, a “grown up” was playing it). I worked my way through this but when I came to the farmhouse the adjacent fields were now a camp site with access roads not marked on the map and no path marked on the ground.

Eventually I found the track and came to Holt. This has a church that dates back to the 14th century and a fortified Manor House. The house is still lived in but the tower dates back to the 14th century. It is probable the fortifications are only decorative as the windows on the tower are large ( they would be arrow slits otherwise).

A short walk brought me to the Lenchford Inn and I have a room overlooking the river with a balcony

Nice food and beer too!