Walk Day 40 – Cannock Chase to Rugeley Trent Station

Saturday 19th May 2018

3.95 miles today. 429.25 total.

With only ‘just over 3 miles’ to walk today I could afford to take time.

Shortly after leaving the camp site I saw three horses forcing their way through the greenery ahead and onto the road.

There was a combination of ineffectual, helpful and unhelpful interventions by an increasing number of people before they were safely herded into a nearby field. Horse wrangling is not in my gift so I stood back to let those who knew what they were doing get on with it.

The rest of the journey was less eventful but still picturesque.

Here is the transition from woodland to the industrial landscape.

The cooling towers became a constant feature.

There were also hidden gems. Two women in the Co-op were selling cake to raise money for First Responders and we had a chat about why they were such passionate supporters, and I enjoyed the coffee cake. The landscape had some gems too.

I’m not sure why the last mile always seems so long, but finally I arrived at Rugeley Trent Station for my journey home at the end of Phase 3 of this adventure.

It has been a journey of delights. I knew I would see different aspects and views in the landscape, but the unexpected and the surprises and joys have been found in the many conversations, the different people, the kindnesses along the way. Those can’t be planned in advance but they add such pleasure and I’m very grateful.

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Walk Day 39 – Whitegate Farm to Cannock Chase

Friday 18th May 2018

13.49 miles today. 425.30 total.

The sun shone, and Jan and I made the most of the opportunity to chinwag while our tents dried and aired.

Then we went on our different ways; she was heading for Stone and I was aiming for Cannock. Back onto the A5.

The bridge recognises Thomas Telford and refers to the Birmingham and Liverpool canal. On my map this is marked as the Shropshire Union canal, and suggests some merging of industrial interests back in time. It was my planned stop yesterday and was my first landmark today. I hadn’t realised the canal bridged the road, so climbed up to see the view and to eat breakfast. It was quite busy with boats and dog walkers.

As always, back on the road there were delights to see for those moving slowly enough.

The A5 was gifted with some lengths of pavement every so often, which was very welcome. Most of the grass verge is so cut up with tractor tyres and the like that it’s unsafe to walk on. Imagine my delight when, for around a mile, there was even a mown, flat footpath.

Crossing the M6 on a hot Friday afternoon made me glad I was on foot.

Lots of vehicles passed me, without incident I might add, but I was puzzled by a distinctive double-toot that I heard a couple of times, once in each direction. The mystery was finally solved in Cannock when I heard it again and spotted a young male driver grinning and waving. I have no idea who it was but I’m glad to have enlivened his day.

At a junction called Four Crosses I left the A5, passing a funeral at the church that included two plumed black horses pulling a black coach hearse.

Up the country lane and in through the suburbs of Cannock to the town centre and out through Cannock Chase

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This is the point where GPS froze, so I had to revert to compass and paper maps.

to the very pleasant campsite. It’s a Camping and Caravan Club ‘Club Site’ which means the facilities are of a recognised standard, and the welcome as always was friendly. Together with my membership of CCC I qualify for an age concession so the cost was around the same as at many less well-appointed sites. I’d go back there again.

All mobile and GPS communications vanished in the middle of Cannock Chase and I had to navigate using my original paper map and compass. Thankfully I hadn’t forgotten how to do that.

Unusually I chose to pitch camp in the shade of the trees. On a hot day it made the tent more comfortable, and there was less condensation in the morning.

Lack of signals meant I couldn’t confirm my safe arrival, but no-one panicked and all was well.

Walk Day 38 – Telford to Whitegate Farm

Thursday 17th May 2018

10.8 miles today. 411.81 total.

Day 38 Telford to Whitegate small

Turbulence driven dust clouds and road noise were themes of today as I made my way out of Telford and due east on the A5, Watling Street.

Although the road is busy there are lovely views over the hedges that drivers never see.

Attention to oncoming traffic is necessary for survival but I was pleasantly surprised by the majority of drivers who went out of their way to miss me, and the waves and nods of thanks from HGV and van drivers as I tried to make it easy for them by moving out of the way when possible.

Of course there is always one, an older man with a car and ego both wider than his ability to control them. I made sure he missed me, but his angry horn playing was, I hope, directed at his own inattention, not at my inability to levitate 6 feet off the ground at will.

Progress was good and at around lunchtime I spotted a rare sign for a cafe, around half a mile ahead. Serendipity was busy today. It was at a place called Weston Park and after chatting to other diners about LEJOG, and agreeing with one gentleman that Tilley hats are very fine hats indeed, I turned my attention to the couple sitting at the other end of my table. They had diverted to the park to view the International Watercolour Masters exhibition. Free. Upstairs.

So I went to have a look and was astonished by the skill on display. As a novice painter myself I’m an expert at turning light into sludge, but this was virtuosity with colour and technique beyond my imagining. Another unexpected joyful interlude. Other people were taking photographs of the works but I prefer not to test copyright law.  Instead I’ll encourage you to use Google images to see why I was so impressed. Or start here International Watercolour Masters.

Back to the walking, with the benefit of pavement for a few miles, and then I started to look for somewhere to stop overnight.

My plan had been to walk to the canal and possibly wild camp, because I didn’t know of any sites in this area. But then, just a mile or so short of my destination, I found the campsite where I’m now pitched, just yards and one hedge from the non-stop traffic noise of the A5. Noisy but safe.

And then, “Are you Helen?” Janet, whose LEJOG blog I enjoyed, introduced herself. She’s on a different route, but has been following this blog and wondered when our paths would cross. Lejogjan@wordpress.com

I’m delighted to meet yet another stranger from the internet and pick up another useful tip, this time about ferrules. 🙂

Here we are.

Walk Day 37 – Much Wenlock to Telford

Wednesday 16th May 2018

12.05 miles today. 401.01 total.

37 Much Wenlock to Telford small

A nice lie-in this morning meant a later start.

Within just a few minutes of leaving the church I met some dog walkers who made a donation to PCRF. Thank you Steve and Sally Williams.

The day was spent on footpaths. First the Shropshire Way took me to Ironbridge through more woodland. At one point I startled a Fallow Deer which ran away breaking twigs as it went.

There were several dog walkers and again the paths were well used and maintained.

The Iron Bridge has been wrapped while being repaired,

rather like it’s smaller, older and less well-known neighbour, Cound Arbour Bridge which is also being repaired as I write.

‘One of very few surviving 18th century iron bridges. Believed to be the oldest iron bridge still in regular use by vehicular traffic. Despite these attributes, and in common with many of its ilk, its significance is not marked by any signs or display boards, and there is no public access for viewing the bridge from the riverside’ . Cound Arbour Bridge

A simple misreading of my route (I misread ‘done’ and ‘to go’) left me with greater distance to walk after lunch than before, and the ascent on the other side of the gorge is very steep. When I paused to catch my breath I noticed that my route was marked IBW Iron Bridge Way.

That soon gave way to the Silkin Way through Telford,

which took me through the town on a route that looked as if it was once a railway line serving the lime kilns.

There was a lot of cool greenery to shelter me from the sunshine and views to catch my attention.

Today it was a bench providing ‘Rest after work’,

and these orange and yellow poppies.

I’m now in the University, drying my washing on a radiator before a few nights of camping. At least I’ll start tomorrow with dry socks. Luxury for a hobo. 🙂

 

Walk Day 36 – Rushbury to Much Wenlock

Tuesday 15th May 2018

9.31 miles today. 388.96 total.

This is a ‘dark skies’ area and last night’s display of stars was awesome. All it took was to look up. Amazing.

The young people doing their Duke of Edinburgh training were up early and packed up. Their leaders went through the route for their hike and I was impressed with the care and detail in the plans to let the young people have an adventure but still keep them safe.

There was quite a heavy dew so I decided to wait for a while to let some of the damp evaporate.

An hour later I was on my way.

Up the hill from Coats Farm into the woods and then following the Shropshire Way, also called the Jack Mytton Way in parts.

Along Wenlock Edge and beautiful heat haze views across the ‘blue remembered hills’.

The day was warm, and waking in the damp dappled shade was a pleasure with plenty of bluebells and wild garlic to enjoy. The tracks were used by horse riders as well and seemed to be well used and well maintained. These two horses live on the farm where I had been camping.

It wasn’t long before I caught up with one group of young people cooking their lunch in the middle of the trail, and later they caught me as I stopped for my breakfast.

Our paths diverged when I dropped down to the road to continue into Much Wenlock, where I stopped at The Talbot for my now-standard pint of orange juice and lemonade on a warm day.

I was early for my meeting so looked around the church and then sat in the warm sun for a while. I found this door that looks like a puzzle. The step suggests it has been well used, but I wonder what the chevron cuts are about? Is it as simple as the base being replaced or the door being shortened, or is there a more mysterious explanation?

My lift arrived on time; a red open top Rolls Royce. It must have looked very odd to the people of Much Wenlock to see this hobo sitting in the back with such a glamorous couple. This was another example of generous hospitality being offered by apparent strangers. In this case we share DNA and an interest in family history. I had a most enjoyable evening in the company of cousins I hadn’t met before, and stayed in luxury overnight in their very special home.

These are the three cousins. We’re almost the same height.

Thank you Sue and Richard for your kind hospitality, and I also enjoyed meeting Mavis and Geoff.

To echo Richard, “we find joy in the unexpected”.

Walk Day 35 – Culmington to Rushbury

Monday 14th May 2018

8.3 miles today. 379.65 total.

A beautiful day. Sunny but not too hot, mostly easy walking this morning then hilly in the afternoon.

My route meandered a bit across footpaths. Is this a badger set?

Having planned to walk through some of the villages whose names appear in census returns for my family tree, I was lucky enough to find churches open and footpaths accessible.

Partway through my journey Google sent me a message to advise that I was in the Shropshire Hills, an area of outstanding natural beauty. Spot on.

I’ve camped at Coats Farm which is another CCC Certificated site, and wins my award for best shower to date. Hot water and lots of it.

Thank you Tim and Sarah for waiving the fee; I’ll make a matching donation to PCRF. And thank you too for the food and hot drinks.

I’m sharing the site with around 30 young teenagers on a DofE bronze trip. They have matching tents and laminated maps; all very organised. I hope they are enjoying the dry weather. Their leaders appear to be sleeping in the vans.

Walk Day 34 – North Farm, Whitcliffe to Culmington Church

Sunday 13th May 2018

7.91 miles today. 371.35 total.

This was a really easy day. It started cool and dry and warmed up without ever getting too hot.

After walking down from Whitcliffe I stopped for a coffee at Dinham Mill and wondered whether people still swim in the River Teme there as they did before the now-replaced swimming pool that I remember.

There were lots of stunning views looking back as well as forwarď as I left Ludlow.

I chose to use footpaths through Burway, past Ludlow race course, which was being prepared for a racing event,

diverting to Stanton Lacey to see the church.

Sadly it was locked so I sat on a bench to eat lunch.

After that it was road walking to Culmington and a smile at the first house. It had a bird feeder with narrow bars, and a sign that said, ‘Sparrow Cafe’. Underneath was another sign stating, ‘Closed on Sundays.’ I asked the householder about it. He said, “Can’t get the staff.” I was laughing as I walked on to find the church.

The church looks as if it has been modified many times, and as if it once had a spire that has been removed and replaced with… an aluminium structure that looks like a 1960s atomic birdcage. Very distinctive.

I met a couple in the churchyard who were exploring local footpaths. They made a donation to PCRF. Thank you David Rutherford.

I had a bit of time to spare before my lift arrived so spent it sitting in the churchyard in the sunshine. It was very relaxing, and I watched a buzzard soaring high up in the blue.

To round off the day I’m back with Lynn and Robert, whose generous hospitality has been matched by an offer to come to my rescue anywhere within a large geographical range. It’s good to know there is a backup position. Thank you both.

I’ll be walking on more of my family history trails tomorrow.

Rest Day in Ludlow

Saturday 12th May 2018

When I set up this trip I was unaware that this weekend is the Ludlow Spring Festival.

A tourist town that is always busy is even more so.

My rest involved some walking from the North Farm campsite with its wonderful views, down the footpaths to the River, and then up the other side.

I took lots of touristy photographs.

This iconic view of Dinham Bridge is also the subject of a watercolour painting much loved by my late mother. As a child she used to swim in the river at Dinham.

This is the Ludlow Brewery Beer Run. The people running the Brewery probably don’t know that we are cousins.

Somewhere in the centre of this photograph is the house I lived in as a child. It was once next door to the shunting yard and a place where racing pigeons were released, animals were transferred from rail to lorry, and steam trains refuelled with coal and water, now a warehouse store.

I wandered around the market then went into The Feathers for a pot of tea and to recharge my phone, spoke to lots of people, and collected donations to PCRF from Richard, Marya, Mark, Owen (former Mayor of Ludlow),David and Griff. Thank you all.

One of the market stalls sells items for PCRF including fabric-covered books

and hand-knitted dishcloths. One of the traders said that when the market is quiet several traders sit and knit the dishcloths. It gave me a grin that lasted quite a while. By the way, did you notice the wooden box says, ‘Ludlow Market est. The Dark Ages’?

I then walked back down and up again to the camp site and have been listening to the music playing in the castle grounds. Different bands have been playing all day. I think the festival is worth a separate visit in future.

This is my last rest day of this phase. Hopefully the remaining walking days are a sensible length.

Walk Day 33 – Luston to North Farm, Whitcliffe

Friday 11th May 2018

9.9 miles today. 363.44 miles total.

This morning Lynn drove me back to The Balance Inn at Luston and I took the road route straight through towards Ludlow. The wind was blowing a confetti storm from the trees.

I only stopped once to rest but was spotted sitting at the side of the road by Fred as he drove past.

When I got to Richards Castle Fred came out of his house and offered me a mug of tea. I drank it in a tranquil garden outside his lovely home with wisteria on the walls, in the company of his dog Nancy.

There was also cake, which confirmed before he said it that Fred is a cyclist. Thank you.

He told me of a lovely footpath up through Mortimer Forest and I’d like to come back here to explore further.

Although I did venture into the woods a little bit, for today, getting to the destination took priority.

I’m camped at the only campsite Ludlow has to offer, and it’s the weekend of the Ludlow Beer Festival and the site is busy. It’s up above Whitcliffe so exposed and very windy, and the pitch is sloping. I’m here for two nights and hope to trek down to the town tomorrow.

The good news is that returning to a ‘standard’ day of around 10 miles has been fine. No brain freeze and no pessimism or wanting to quit. ‘Work with the body you have.’

Walk Day 32 – Upper Hill to Luston

Thursday 10th May 2018

10.9 miles today. 353.54 total.

Lost. One red metal water bottle.

Lost. One brain.

Setting out ‘due north’ with the sun on my left (can you see the problem?) I marched for around a mile and a half before I met Graham, with his young dog, Carrot.

Thank you for the donation to PCRF, and for pointing out that Bush Bank is South of Upper Hill and not on the way to Leominster.

After a U turn and another mile and a half of walking I was back where I had started with ‘three miles on the clock’, aware that my fuzzy brain was matched by legs that said they needed a rest day. Tiredness is cumulative.

This is meant to be an enjoyable trip, and I have to walk again tomorrow so I made the decision to cut the meanders out of today’s route and walk straight to Leominster on the road, find somewhere to sit down, and replan.

As always the walk yielded attractive views.

At The Talbot in Leominster I rested for a long time, rehydrated and then forced down some food. (There was nothing thing wrong with it but my appetite had vanished.)

Eventually I set out with a new destination and walked to Luston, via an excellent farm shop, found a pub called The Balance, and, with yet another pint of non-alcoholic drink, sat to await my lift.

During this time I chatted with a man who spoke with the accent I had as a small child. In the course of conversation he mentioned a name and my reply, “He was my great-uncle” reminded me how small our world really is.

I’m not camping tonight. One of my colleagues from Dunstable Deanery moved out this way and is kindly providing me with accommodation. Thank you Lynn and Robert.

Today is Ascension Day and the three of us went to St Laurence Church in Ludlow for an evening Solemn Choral Eucharist, where we sat in the nave on the much-photographed seats. It was good to be there, in the town where I was born, as a worshipper not a tourist.

I hope to get to Ludlow tomorrow on a shorter route than originally planned, and then take another rest day.