|Day 28 – May 4||Penkridge to Abbots Bromley|
|Weather: Sun then Cloud||B&B: Marsh Farm (£25)|
|Departed: 8:30 Arrived: 15:00||Walked: 5h 20m Rested: 1 hr 0m|
|Distance Today: 17.0 mi / 27.36 km||Total Distance: 447 mi / 719.38 km|
|% Complete: ~ 39.42%||Pint of the Day: Rugby Brewery’s Spring Daze|
|GPS Track for: Day 28|
Another day spent heading north-east through Staffordshire and towards Derbyshire. It was exactly one month ago today that I began my walk at Land’s End and when I think back to some of the villages I visited on the SWCP it seems so long ago. Its funny how time slows down on such a long journey.
At breakfast this morning I ran into Peter and Chris, the fellow LEJOGers I met near Wooton-under-Edge just over a week ago. They are also headed to Abbots Bromley today and they were on their way while I was still polishing off my eggs, bacon and tomato. I was on my way by 8:30am and have to say my opinion of The Bridge House is one of indifference, similar to owner’s attitude towards me. I can put up with the wonky wifi and paper thin walls but the luke-warm reception and a stone-cold radiator in my room means it won’t get a recommendation from me.
I left The Bridge House behind and weaved myself through Penkridge under bright sunny skies. It was a bit cool but within an hour my jacket was off. The walk started with a short and very serene section of the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal. Many narrowboat owners were enjoying their first cup of tea and preparing their boats for the day’s cruising. The Staffordshire Way then veered overland through fields, gently climbing as it inched ever closer to Cannock Chase. I passed through the village of Bednall and then along several lanes before heading up a bridleway and into Cannock Chase.
Cannock Chase is a large area of countryside that has been designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It’s riddled with footpaths and bridleways and to be honest my OS map was only of marginal help. Fortunately it is reasonably well signposted and once I found the first signpost I relied on them to guide me through the park. It was a pleasant walk and I encountered a handful of other walkers, cyclists, bird-watchers and even a few on horseback.
On leaving Cannock Chase I had to follow a short section of A-road before turning onto a lane that bisected the Shugborough Hall Estate. This National Trust site is the only working manorial estate in England and covers a very large area. There was a museum at one end, a large Georgian granary in the middle and then the very impressive (and very large) Shugborough Hall at the other end. It cost £12 to have full access to the estate but I was able to traverse it via the Staffordshire Way for free.
After crossing a canal and under a railway track I entered the village of Great Haywood. Originally I was going to bypass the village and follow the Staffordshire Way down the canal but I modified my route last night and decided Great Haywood would be a great place to take a break. As fate would have it, after having visited several dozen pubs, I finally found one with my name on it, the Clifford Arms. I was so excited by the discovery that I actually found a way into the pub before it opened, much to the surprise of the two ladies working behind the bar. I waited patiently until the clock struck 12:00 and then ordered a pint of Rugby Brewery’s Spring Daze ale. I asked the landlady the meaning behind “Clifford Arms” and she indicated it was because the Clifford family once owned the estate next door.
Having spent all this time doing family history research I was a bit flabbergasted that I had somehow managed to miss this whopping great estate. I know there is a Lord Clifford who owns an estate but I didn’t think it was in Staffordshire. I was puzzled so after I finished my pint I headed back to a gatehouse I passed just before entering the village and asked the attendant if there was a shop that might have some more information on the estate and the family who owned it. She said there was a shop but that it was in the grounds and that it cost £3 to enter. She did however have a book showing the family tree, unfortunately the family were the Aston’s and not the Clifford’s. She mentioned that the people running the pub hadn’t owned it for long and so perhaps they didn’t have their facts straight. At this point I’m not sure what the answer so I will have to conduct more research.
I headed out of Great Haywood and followed a series of roads and bridleways designed to get me to the Blithfield Reservoir. The scenery was pretty bog standard but I encountered my first nasty dog of the walk. I’ve met a lot of barking hounds along the way but most are all bark and no bite, and many turned out to be quite friendly. In this instance there were two dogs, a brown spaniel-like creature and a nasty black and white one that tried on several occasions to sink its teeth into my calf. I tried the friendly walker approach (“hello there”, “nice doggy”, etc.) but this mutt was possessed and it’s salivating gob had tetnus shot written all over it. I could see the gate at the other side of the farm yard but it was a long way away. At one point the mutt bit into my pant leg (“trouser” leg) and so the gloves were off. I swatted my map case at it a few times (good ol’ multipurpose map case!) and was about emboss Fido’s forehead with a large “ECCO” logo when the owner came running out apologizing profusely and summoning her hounds back to the underworld. I was in no mood to chat but I did give her my best Clint Eastwood glinting eye, grimacing mouth look and then exited stage right.
I eventually reached the Blithfield reservoir by way of a busy B-road and crossed it via the causeway. What should have been a nice amble across a large lake turned out to be a quick march through clouds of bugs. By the midway point my arms and clothes were full of the tiny critters, most of whom were caught up in the hair on my arms. Once on the other side it was only a mile or two to Marsh Farm, my B&B for the night.
Marsh Farm is located about a mile outside of Abbots Bromley and because I picked up groceries in Great Haywood I won’t actually visit Abbots Bromley at all. Marsh Farm is everything The Bridge House wasn’t: friendly, warm and inexpensive.