30th April 2018
Weather: Cloudy and cold. Sunshine broke through late afternoon & evening, warming a little.
An early, cold, start. Route mainly across farm fields, tracks and roads. A few looked like ancient trackways of trees, sometimes lined with bluebells & hedges. Some fields had been ploughed right up to the limits.
A long day, but no significant gradients once out of the Gorge area. Some of the tracks were rough with stones or (get this) solidified mud tracks of tractor tracks or livestock hoof-holes. Quite slow to navigate sometimes.
Writing this tired, so may ramble a bit.
The forecast was a relief: good weather ahead, at least this far North. The SE of England in for a downpour. I guess the newspaper headline last week forecasting “The beauty from the East” and sizzling temperatures must have assumed the big depression stayed NW as usual. Also explains the shift in forecasts here.
First panic this morning was looking for my hat. Very cold outside, had to go back into hostel to search. Lying on the floor of the dining room, I said “found you my beauty”. Needed it today: 4 layers at one stage, but down to 1 at end of day.
The first obstacle was the golf course which lacked any guidance of the footpath route, so I relied on map & gps signal. I met no one to challenge me (way too early in the morning). Elsewhere, across farmland it was clear that the “definitive route” on my maps had been superseded by diversions on the ground. The route was marked with “Monarch’s Way”, and later “Staffordshire Way” roundels – the latter quite poorly so (big gaps and changes of direction unmarked). Ploughed fields, but worse was the huge poly tunnels simply placed in the way of the footpath.
The failure of the Post Restante mailing to Broseley means I had most of the day without paper maps, so I fear loss of the phone even more.
What I have learned so far: The UK has lots of mud, sheep, cattle and a few horses; I know where the wealthy people hide their duck houses; Churches are often built on or near old castles; don’t trust “definitive” footpath markings on maps.
Cheeky sign given there were no footpath markings
I had quite a heavy escort from one field
Travelling towards the skyline
There were short wooded sections
Sandstone rock outcrop (soil red coloured this area)
Acres of netting over what looked like celery
All rippling in the wind
Sometimes after open fields, contained lanes
I wondered what language this was until I worked it out
First deadnettle flower spotted
At a pub at Tong Norton, after crossing M54, a cheapskate’s dilemma
There was only one solution
The barman asked me which one I wanted to tackle first. BTW I don’t now recommend a big lunch followed by a long walk.
So that’s why it’s called The Monarch’s Way
Stoney Lane, and just when I thought the mud was not today’s thing
That explains the odd looks at lunchtime
That would have been interesting to watch (but probably noisy)
The Shropshire Union Canal
Now what do you think these are, hanging like fairy lights near the fruit tree polytunnels?
Time flies like an arrow and fruit flies like a banana
all on a built-up earthworks. Ploughed up by dobbin, a hard walk
This is where your “Staffordshire strawberries” are grown. I wonder where all that plastic ends up?
West Coast main line, Penkridge
Route recorded, unintentionally in two sections: