The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Armitage to Armitage via Stockwell Heath

It’s all too easy, in the course of our weekend walks, to keep taking the same routes over the local fields, or keep popping to repeat, or do variations on a theme, over on Cannock Chase.

When it comes to getting our weekly exercise on field paths (which, given where we live, is the prevalent option) repetition has its advantages, the main one being that you know where you’re going and don’t have to walk map in hand, trying to work out which way across the next field the RoW goes, with a constant game of ‘spot the stile’ going on in the background.

Every now and then, we find a bit of inspiration to do a field-yomp somewhere different, and today was one of those days.

Despite good intentions, it was marching on towards mid-afternoon by the time we left Armitage so we wasted no time in finding a way to get ourselves onto the Trent & Mersey Canal.

Not fifty yards after we joined, we left the canal, to take the pedestrian tunnel under the newly four-tracked West Coast Mainline


before a few paces later crossing over the River Trent


thanks to the robust pedestrian bridge. P1170003

The imposing presence of Rugeley Power Station was within sight the whole time. The West Coast Mainline, whilst not always within our sight was, for much of the walk, within our earshot.P1170005

“Hello” said a man in a garden as we made to climb a stile on the outskirts of Mavesyn Ridware “It’s not often people use the footpaths around here. You’re the first I’ve seen in six months.”  It didn’t bode well for good, easily navigated paths.

Sure enough, fields had been cropped without the paths being reinstated. One did cause us to take a slight detour around, in all of the others we took the line of the ROW, usually popping out the other side with feet so covered with heavy mud that we looked like we were wearing comedy shoes.

We both commented on the farm below, with five adjoining buildings in different styles, looking like it had started small and been repeatedly extended:P1170008 Farm buildings didn’t distract us for long, though. We soon came to a stile that was impassable with overgrown spiky things

P1170009 Then came the mud. Great vast quantities of deep mud – always in places where it couldn’t be avoided, like in this lane:

P1170010 It was quite a relief to get to Stockwell Heath with its central village pond, at which I’ve a few times taken a snack break as it lies on both my 25 and 28-mile training walk routes.

P1170011It was just as we left the village that I looked at my watch and did a few calculations: 1) It had taken us an hour and a half to reach Stockwell; 2) the route back was slightly longer; 3) Sunset was in about an hour’s time, giving us not more than an hour and a half of usable daylight. I hoped that we didn’t find ourselves going horribly astray on the way back!

Between Stockwell and the village of Colton we were on the Staffordshire Way, along a section that we’ve walked a few times before, so we knew where we were going, but from there on it was back to map-in-hand – which became increasingly difficult as the light got lower and lower.

Passing through one farm we spotted, hiding behind some dead grass/rushes, some early lambs:


By the time we rejoined our outward route, just before the river and the mainline, darkness was overtaking us. The power station was lit up, as were the passing trains (okay, the photo is far from good, but that slight blur of light on the left side is the train!):

P1170015 We got back to the car in full darkness, but having had a moderately strenuous walk (thanks, once again, to the soft ground and mud), covering just over 8.5 miles.

(Note to Mike: As we found ourselves passing your house (which took us rather by surprise, because, funnily enough, on the OS map it doesn’t highlight it as ‘Mike’s House’) we did knock on your door to say hello. You were either out or saw us coming and wisely hid!

Note to Geoff: This was the ‘Handsacre to Blithfield recce’. I’ll email you with my thoughts.)


1 comment:

  1. Can I read your Thoughts?:
    Buy new secateurs...
    Take them on walks...