Heart of England

10th February 2007 onwards  (Days 37 to ?)

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Day 37: 10 February 2007

Great Haywood to Wandon

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Essex Bridge, Shugborough Estate

Leaving the car at High Meadows, I squelched through wet snow back down the hill through the village to Essex Bridge. Although it had stopped snowing overnight and the temperature had risen a bit, there was no shortage of the slippery and damp stuff underfoot.


From the Shugborough side


Being a Saturday morning there were plenty of people around: Shugborough Park is understandably a favourite place for joggers (even in snowy conditions) and dog walkers.


Shugborough Park

Although the house itself (the residence of photographer Lord Lichfield) requires a diversion from the E2, the estate is set up as a working Historic Estate and looks well worth a visit. But today I had the route ahead on my mind, particularly the difficult conditions.


Shugborough Farm

Shugborough Farm


I really needed to get some miles under my belt quickly so that I'd reach Lichfield before dark. The park was a good start, but I was slowed when reaching the A51: there was no pavement and I couldn't use the very busy road, so was obliged to hop from snowdrift to slush heap at the side. Not nice. This short road section was soon over, and I headed into the woods at the northern end of Cannock Chase.

Straight away I was slowed by a steep bank: covered in snow it was a trying climb and route-finding was tricky with endless possibilities in the deepening snow.


Leaving the Staffordshire Way on the edge of Cannock Chase


By ten o'clock I reached the end of the Staffordshire Way (or at least, the E2 section of it), and after a little confusion I was established on the Heart Of England Way. Perhaps in more amenable conditions I would have taken the small diversion to Milford in order to take in the official starting point, but today I was happy enough just to be heading south on a new Long Distance Path. I'm not sure how many LDP's I've encountered along the E2: I'll have to count them!


The first HoEW sign

Cannock Chase is quite hilly, with lots of woodland and looked very attractive under the white blanket.


Winter Sports near Brocton

But it was difficult to enjoy the scenery, as I had to watch my feet all the time in the soft, wet snow. Each step involved a slide backwards, even on the flat sections, and I couldn't get much of a pace going at all.

The E2 in winter 2007

If the air had been a few degrees lower it would have been fine, but this was very heavy going.


Cannock Chase


The final Staffordshire Way signpost

Wet snow ahead

The Chase is 26 square miles of woodland and heathland on gravel and sand, which has never been farmed. Until 1550 it was dense oak forest, but this was cleared for charcoal. The first section of the Way follows the trackbed of the old "Tackeroo Railway", built in 1915 to supply Army training camps on the heath.

The air was foggy up here and the snow thicker. I missed the ice age granite boulder even though I must have walked within a hundred yards of it. But after reaching the road near Anson's Bank, I did manage to get a look at the Katyn Memorial, which commemorates 14,000 Poles murdered by the Russians in the Katyn Forest in 1940.


The Katyn Memorial


I can't say I was enjoying the walking very much at this point: the going was tiresome and the miles dragged. As I closed in on the road to Rugeley, I realised that I could cut it short and escape down to civilisation without causing much inconvenience.


Approaching Marquis's Drive

At the entrance to Marquis's drive I was tempted to turn east and opt out for the day. On consulting the map, I reluctantly turned back to the HoEW as it was just too early to chicken out, being only 12.15. I decided to keep going until Wandon, which would leave me with only a short road section to Rugeley centre and a short distance to Lichfield on my next visit.


Marquis's Drive

Marquis's drive was easy and pleasant enough, being downhill and with tyre tracks to follow. After crossing the A460 the going became difficult again and even though the scenery was good, I was not tempted to continue once I reached Wandon at 1.15.


Forest pool near Wandon

I took the road into Brereton on the south side of Rugeley after completing 10 miles of the walk to Lichfield. On reaching the main A51, I was pleased to find that I was lucky and a bus was due in a couple of minutes. This took me to Colwich (pronounced Col-witch) and left only a walk of a mile (on good surfaces!) back to Great Haywood.

The day was not quite a roaring success, but I'd managed another 10 miles and I hoped for better conditions next time. Possibly, the short walk into Lichfield could fit in with a morning drive to the area followed by a stay in the historic city.

High Meadows



Day 38: 5 May 2007

Wandon to Weeford

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Restarting at Wandon






Riders in Beaudesert Old Park






The edge of Castle Ring fort






Reservoir near Gentleshaw






Gentleshaw Church






Gentleshaw Windmill






Pond near Burntwood






Typical countryside approaching Lichfield






First view of Lichfield Cathedral






Lichfield Cathedral












Evening view of the Cathedral






Samuel Johnson






Hawthorn blooms south of Lichfield






The lane past Freeford Manor






Oil Seed Rape fields on Packington Moor










Late Spring scene





Buck's Head Farm and the end of the day's walk




Day 39: 6 May 2007

Weeford to Shustoke

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Heading for Black Brook at the start of the day






Hills south of Black Brook






Great Bangley farm






In Drayton Bassett






Drayton swivel and foot bridges






The Birmingham and Fazeley Canal






Lock at Kingsbury Water Park






In Kingsbury Water Park






Echills Wood Railway






Welcome to the Kingsbury Range






Typical Oil Seed Rape country






Easier walking




Priory Farmhouse, Shustoke






Day 40: 7 May 2007/ 7 September 2007

Shustoke to Preston Bagot

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What type of bird?






The Dumble






Beehives near Shawbury Wood






Near High House Farm






Welcome to Green End




The M6





On the boundary near Kinwalsey





The path along the edge of Birchley Hays Wood





The parish church of St. Lawrence, Meriden






Traditional Meriden housing





Church Of St John The Baptist, Berkswell






Berkswell Hall






The restart at Chadwick End (9th September 2007)







Farmland on the way to Baddesley Clinton





By the HOEW







Baddesley Clinton







At Kingswood Brook








Kingswood Junction








Stratford-upon-Avon Canal






In the coppice near Lowsonford





The meeting place






The Old Rectory, Preston Bagot





Day 41: 8 May 2007

Preston Bagot to Alcester

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In Henley-in-Ardern





The railway station from the HOEW footbridge






Looking unhappy with the weather to the west of Henley





Typical field on the approach to Bannam's Wood






In Bannam's Wood





Round Hill










Day 42: 9 May 2007

Alcester to Chipping Campden

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Oversley Castle






The bridge at Bidford-on-Avon





The Avon and Bidford-on-Avon






Picking lettuce at Barton Farm





Pigs at Dorsington






Dorsington village centre





Peculiar veil at Long Marston





Monarch's Way cycle path





At the B4632 before the wet weather begins






A lightning tree on Baker's Hill





Baker's Hill






Chipping Campden









Badger's Hall









Old Market Hall, Chipping Campden





Day 43: 7 September 2007

Chipping Campden to Bourton-on-the-Hill

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Looking back to Chipping Campden





In Broad Campden






Broad Campden






Broad Campden






The awkward path to Campden Hill Farm










Hangman's Hall Farm






Approaching Blockley








Blockley Church












Gatehouse at Batsford Park












Day 44: 8 September 2007

Bourton-on-the-Hill to Bourton-on-the-Water

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The Dial House Hotel








Parkland approaching Sezincote House
















Longborough Allotments
















Donnington Brewery








The effects of living close to a brewery!







In Upper Swell









Near Lower Swell









Lower Swell church







Lower Swell









Nether-Swell Manor






Sheep at Hyde Mill








River Dikler








Lower Slaughter church

























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