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]

Monday, 5 April 2010

Day 14 – Tamworth to Rugeley

Monday, 5 April

Distance: 18.25 miles (Tot: 262.25 miles)


“What time is it?” asked Mick as we woke up this morning. I was just checking with the third time-telling device on my bedside table and had to conclude that they weren’t all wrong. “Twenty minutes before we’re due to be on a train” I said.

Top tip: when setting the time on your alarm clock, it’s always wise to also turn it on…

Still, we’d had an extra hour and a half’s sleep and it made absolutely no difference to our day to set out an hour later, and so that’s what we did. By 8.50 we were back at Tamworth train station (sporting just dinky day-packs today), walking through the town, past the castle and to the river which we were to follow for the first couple of miles of the day.

As exits from towns go, it wasn’t bad walking at all. The terrain was firm (not muddy!) and grassy, and beyond the first stile (before which there were runners and dog walkers) it was absolutely deserted. If you ignored the high-rises to our right, and the retail outlets a distance away to our left, you could believe we were already out in the sticks!

IMG_0838 After a couple of miles we were pining for a bit more canal walking, so onto the Birmingham and Fazeley we went. Very pleasant it was too. The tow-path was good walking, and the surroundings were nicely litter-free. Hopwas Woods were looking fine with their bed of snow-drops too (so many woods we’ve passed have looked less than attractive in their winter garb):

IMG_0839The surrounding sights, from houses to nose at, farms packed with dozens of huge poly-tunnels (strawberry growers, was my guess), bridges with funny gated cupboards built in, all kept us diverted as we made our way along, marvelling that all of the weather forecasts had told us that we would get very wet this morning, and yet reality was showing no signs of imminent rain.

IMG_0842 IMG_0841

I had been initially confused as to what canal we were on. I knew that on Saturday we had left the Coventry to walk into Tamworth, and the map seemed to indicate that today we were joining the Birmingham and Fazelely. What was confusing me was that later the same canal, with no junction I could see, was marked as being, once again, the Coventry. All became clearer when we passed an old sign which confirmed that the canal did just suddenly switch name:

IMG_0844 We’d not been back on the Coventry for too long before we left it to head off across fields by Lichfield, which is so close to home that for a while we were walking paths that we’ve previously used in training walks. It made navigation a non-issue such that progress was still made as swiftly as if we were still on a tow-path.

Passing along one of those paths was a bit of a smelly affair:

IMG_0845 but mercifully almost all of the usual mud, which was fully in evidence a month ago, had dried up.

Our cross-country adventure ended when we reached the Trent and Mersey Canal (fifth canal of the trip so far), where in an adjacent field I saw the first rape in flower, heralding the beginning of the season of a patchwork green and yellow countryside.

This section of the Trent and Mersey we have walked any number of times before, but not for a while. Almost everything was as we remembered, and as always the most notable feature of the section is the huge works of Armitage Shanks (so many people are surprised to hear that Armitage Shanks really is based in Armitage), where there is always the sounds of activity, and where the yard is always full of an an unfeasible number of toilets and basins:

IMG_0850IMG_0851Thanks to a slight miscalculation on my part (or rather, I had accidentally misplaced the pub I had earmarked for lunch, which was careless given that we’ve stopped there so many times before), we walked 16 miles (at quite a lick) before lunch. Having indulged in just one short break (for Hot Cross Buns) during the morning, my feet were well and truly ready for a proper sit down.

Unsurprisingly, having walked 16 miles out of 18.25 before lunch, the second half of the day was short indeed. Well within an hour of setting out, we had finished our day and were heading back home for another night of homely luxury.

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