|Day 29 – May 5||Abbots Bromley to Ellastone|
|Weather: Cloudy||B&B: Cross Farm B&B (£35)|
|Departed: 8:40 Arrived: 14:45||Walked: 4h 47m Rested: 1 hr 15m|
|Distance Today: 14.7 mi / 23.66 km||Total Distance: 461.7 mi / 743.03 km|
|% Complete: ~ 40.17%||Pint of the Day: Marston’s Bitter|
|GPS Track for: Day 29|
After a good night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast I was off on Day 29 of my walk. It was a cloudy and hazy morning although not as cool as morning’s past. The first couple of miles were along a B-road that ran next to Bagot Wood before I cut east along a quiet lane and linked up with the Staffordshire Way. The walk into Uttoxeter was across farmland and there were lots of stiles to be climbed. The SW cut through the eastern edge of the town near the racecourse and back into open fields. To be honest the area around Uttoxeter wasn’t too inspiring.
I crossed a very busy A-road by going under a bridge constructed to cross the River Dove and in doing so I entered Derbyshire. The River Dove forms the border between Derbyshire and East Staffordshire and although I spent much of the afternoon in the former I would actually spend the night in the latter.
It wasn’t long before the character of the landscape began to change. The gently undulating farmland gave way to shallow valleys with fields laid out in patterns that reminded me of the North, Yorkshire in particular. As I followed a tree-lined ridge the sound of gunfire grew closer. This wasn’t a farmer dealing with a few rabbits, this sounded more like a small-scale war and I was convinced I was going to walk into the middle of some famous battle re-enactment. The shots were now coming from several different directions and my instincts told me I should be crawling on my belly and radioing in for air support. Unfortunately my F-16 is in the shop and so I had no choice but to soldier on. Eventually I came to a track which I had to follow downhill and in doing so I entered the Doveridge Clay Shooting range. The red flag was up warning unarmed walkers to stick to the footpaths and to smoke ‘em if ya got ‘em. It was a very busy place and there were gun enthusiasts holed up all over the place and firing it what appeared to be in several different directions.
Fortunately I found myself on the other side of the red flag before too long and continued my march through yet more pastures. Having just recovered from shell-shock I found myself in a field with a herd of adolescent male cows who had taken great interest in me (and this time there was no electric fence). A few of them were scraping their hooves along the ground to signal their displeasure and so I kept a close eye on them as I continued along the track. It wasn’t long before my solo LEJOG turned into a cattle drive as we made our way, en masse, to the corner gate. Some of them were getting behind me so I was careful to make sure they kept their distance by uttering some key phrases I had picked up from watching re-runs of “Rawhide”. By the time I reached the corner gate the entire herd, now slightly agitated by my Hollywood banter, was milling restlessly about. This was a tricky situation because if one of them got spooked I could end up sandwiched between several tons of beef and a barbed wire fence. One bull was particularly skittish and was running into others. I figured the best thing to do was to get myself out of there ASAP and that’s exactly what I did. Seconds later the relentless mooing was replaced with yapping from yet another possessive farm dog that bounded down the drive to greet me. Fortunately this one was content to voice its disapproval and kept its distance. Having survived the firing range, the belligerent bovines and Man’s best friend I was now confronted by an old farmhouse that announced it too was dangerous.
My first hour in Derbyshire had been quite exciting but it was good to cross back into quiet and less heavily armed Staffordshire, which I did at Rocester. Unfortunately the pub was closed and so I had to make due with a pint of milk and a packet of crisps enjoyed in the safe confines of the local cemetery. After my break I continued my walk, this time along the Limestone Way. It took me over hill and dale and down to the River Dove which I followed all the way to Ellastone and my B&B for the night. I’m pleased with my decision to trade two long days, one half day and one rest day for four 15-mile days. Tomorrow I will walk through Dovedale, an area I’ve been looking forward to visit for quite some time.