send-off from Oxford: my colleagues from Grant Thornton showed up to give me some
moral support and walk a few miles of the way to John O'Groats. It was good to
have company over the familiar fields to Cumnor and down the Thames to Farmoor.
Then it was solo again to the B&B at Ramsden.
day took me through the Wychwood, into the Cotswolds and to Stow on the Wold youth
hostel for the night. On Day 29 I joined the Heart of England
Way, and as far as Chipping Campden I had many other walkers for company. I left
the Cotswolds at Lower Quinton, where the public footpath passed through the sand
pit of the long jump at the village school! I stopped for the night at Long Marston.
30 was a long one, but easy going through the rolling Warwickshire countryside
to Alcester and Henley in Arden. I was surprised how remote the country seemed,
despite the closeness of the West Midlands conurbation. Next
day was more of the same, with the bonus of the amazing medieval parish church
the B&B near Meriden,
I made my way north across the M6 by a farm track and on to Kingsbury. Then another
accommodation crisis: I had hoped to reach Lichfield, but it was the Lichfield
Festival and Lichfield was fully booked. I settled for a B&B at Middleton,
a little off my route and off my map. So Day 33 started with
a routefinding problem, and some road walking as I worked my way back to the Heart
of England Way. Then it was a fine walk, the distant spires of Lichfield Cathedral
coming ever closer. A quick walk through the shopping centre of Lichfield was
followed by more fine countryside to Cannock Chase. From
Castle Ring, I could make out the distant Peak District: the North was in
I stayed that night in Brereton, just down the road from Rugeley
power station. Next morning, the towpath of the Trent
and Mersey Canal made a pleasant route out of town. I joined the Staffordshire
Way, which was well signed except on the land of the South Staffordshire Water
Company around Blithfield Reservoir. There the water bailiff stopped me using
a perfectly safe and well used route across the dam, and sent me through a field
with a Jersey bull in it, which eyed me menacingly. At Abbot's Bromley I met Susan
for lunch, then headed for the B&B at Uttoxeter.
35 was a day of transition from the hedgerows of middle England to
the uplands and drystone walls of the North. From Rocester, the hills got higher,
and from the southern fringe of the Peak
District I could look back over two days walking to Cannock Chase. Then I
headed for the B&B at Thorpe.
I had seen four other
walkers since the Cotswolds, but next day through Dovedale I saw four walkers
every 10 minutes. At Monyash I joined the Limestone Way to Miller's Dale and the
youth hostel at Ravenstor. Day 37 saw more good walking to
the end of the Limestone Way at Castleton, then over Hollins Cross to the youth
hostel at Edale.