Penkridge to Abbots Bromley
I had an unexpected late, but extremely pleasant, night last night. Ann, who I’d given a pack of maps to before leaving, drove up to meet me in Penkridge so that we could swap the maps I had with the ones for the coming couple of weeks. She’d been away in Germany for the week with the Birmingham Sinfonia so this was the first chance we’d had to meet.
She didn’t get to Penkridge until almost 11pm after only having gotten back that evening, and not wanting to waste an opportunity we sat at the hotel bar for a couple of hours having a good natter about her time away and how the walk had been going over the last week. It was a lovely surprise after being on my own since Bath.
I think it was around 1am when Ann left and I hoped that I’d drop off quickly but due to the noisy people going to their rooms after a party that was being held at the hotel I didn’t actually get to sleep until 2am…to promptly wake up at 6am! Not good, not good at all! I was a little concerned about the day ahead but only time would tell if I’d made a mistake staying up so late.
Knowing that I had a longer day’s walk I had a quick breakfast, grabbed my stuff and checked out, hitting the road at 8:50am for the short walk through the village to pick up the canal towpath for the first couple of miles.
The canal was a great start to the day’s walk, nice and quiet with a few swans and ducks to keep me company along the way. I say nice and quiet but as I made my way to the M6 I think I annoyed quite a few chaps out sat on on the towpath fishing. They all had ridiculously long fishing poles that protruded over the path, obviously having to move them to let me get through. I guess they don’t normally get that many people walking down there on a Sunday morning?
I left the canal just past Wood Bank and picked up the Staffordshire Way, the beginning of which was over some farmer’s fields with long wet grass. I was wearing shorts this morning but the wet grass was actually quite nice as, even though the weather was supposed to be cooler, the day was beginning to heat up already.
After the fields I had to go through a small wood, but half way through the path started to get a bit wet and then I was confronted with a muddy bog which someone had laid a few planks and logs to be used as a means of crossing the bog. Normally this wouldn’t have been too much of a problem but I must admit that I was a little worried about the weight of my pack toppling me over. I’m pleased to say that I made it across without a problem, although I did take it slowly to make sure I didn’t have an unfortunate accident.
Obstacle passed it wasn’t long before I was making my way through Bednall, along more overgrown paths and styles and finally up Sycamores Hill to Cannock Chase. The view from the top of Cannock Chase was amazing. I really enjoyed walking through the heather and along the bottom of Sherbrook Valley. There were a lot of people out on their bikes and walking which was lovely to see. I’m sure there are places like that that go completely unused around the country.
Feeling a little warn out by this point I found a fallen tree just past Harts Hill so I dropped my pack, took my boots of and had a sit for a bit. As I was sitting there lots of people walked past and said hello, but one lady, out with her two children, asked me whether I was hurt and if I was all right. She was actually genuinely concerned bless her. I guess it was the site of all the knee and ankle straps that concerned her? I told her I was fine and that I was just taking a rest seeing as I’d been walking for three hours already, to which she replied “My two have only been walking for three minutes and they’re already bored!”. Classic.
Rested I cracked on Shugborough Park. There was a big stately house there and farm there and there were a lot of people there. I made my way along the public path and picked up the Millennium Way along the towpath to the Staffordshire and Worcestershire canal. There were a lot of barges moored up and going along the canal and I said plenty of hellos and afternoons to everyone I came across.
By now the heat of the day was beginning to get extremely tiring and a lot of the shade I’d been fortunate to have was fast disappearing and I was seriously starting to overheat. I trudged on regardless, determined to get to Abbots Bromley in a good time.
While making my way along the towpath a dog came towards and past me, shortly followed by a guy out running. As he was running past me the dog had turned round and started to bark. He replied “I know, I’m coming. I can’t run as fast as you” which made me laugh.
A little further along the path I came across some people sat on chairs by the side of the path, next to their barge, and we struck up a conversation. They were lovely people and when they heard I was raising money for the British Heart Foundation they very generously gave me some money.
Just then, the chap who’d run past with the dog ran past again. I don’t mean he ran back from the other direction, he ran towards us as we chatted the same way he’d run previously. I was confused – I know, easily done – and as he came closer I had to ask how he’d managed to do that as he couldn’t have run the round trip, it just wasn’t possible. He came clean and admitted he had a car and had driven back round which explained how he managed to do it.
He clearly knew the people I was talking to and they mentioned to him that I was raising money, so he went in to his barge and brought a couple of pounds out to give to me. I’ve said it time and time again that it just amazes me how generous some people can be after a short conversation. A big thank you to Blondell, Carol and Keith for being so generous, it really does mean a lot.
Having been stood around chatting for a bit I thanked everyone and continued toward my intended destination for the day. This meant leaving the towpath and heading in to Colton. Hot and sore – my feet really weren’t coping with the heat very well again – I found a bench and took ten minutes to chill out and have a snack to keep me going.
With only four miles to go I was hopeful I’d be in Abbots Bromley soon so I got my kit on and carried on towards Blithfield Reservoir. It was along this stretch of the Staffordshire Way that the path became a little awkward to follow as some of the markers and posts left a little to be desired, especially with their positioning. I made one mistake, taking a lane in to a farm instead of the path that ran along side the lane because of this very reason. I soon realised my mistake, backtracked and got on the right path again.
It was like this all the way past the reservoir and by this time I was so tired I really did start to lose the will to carry on and could quite happily have stopped and just sat there. A very loud pep talk (read here swearing at myself) later and I was on my way again just for it to start to rain. I put my gaiters and coat on and trudged on. The cooling rain was extremely welcome after the day’s heat I can tell you.
It wasn’t long after passing the reservoir that I made my way in to Abbots Bromley but the B & B that Ann had so kindly sorted out for me today while I was walking – thanks again Ann – was just over a mile outside the village. This last mile seemed to go on forever but I made it, getting there shortly after 5pm – a very long day on the trail for sure!
I cleaned myself up and got changed and went to call the girls, only to realise that I didn’t have a signal on my phone in my room. I went outside to see if that helped, which it did – phew – and I called the girls. Unfortunately I lost the signal half way through talking to Alice and it took a little while to get it back again. We carried on talking though and speaking to the girls was a real high point to the day.
For all her help I’d promised Ann dinner tonight so she drove out to meet me and we went to the Coach and Horses pub where we chatted for hours and had some lovely food. all too soon though it was time to go back to the B & B – a short car ride I’m thankful to say.
I’d better leave it there as it’s quite late again and there’s more walking to do tomorrow. It’s a shame that the day started so well but turned a bit sour by the end of the walk. Some of the scenery and paths today were absolutely lovely and I’m trying not to let the last few miles spoil the rest of a great walk. Spending the evening chatting to Ann really helped with the mood, thanks again Ann, you’re a star!