When I first looked for a way of linking the Heart of England Way to the White Peak Way I had little to go on. My HOE guidebook took me as far as the forested Sherborne Valley on Cannock Chase, where the path met the route of the Staffordshire Way. It took me a surprisingly long time to get hold of any kind of map of the latter route, by which time I had already completed the HOE and had got horribly lost among army firing ranges trying to reach the nearby town of Rugeley and its railway station. The HOE had, though I didn't know at the time, already been revised and no longer terminated at Sherborne. I've since revised the last day of the HOE to connect to the Staffordshire Way on Cannock Chase and to follow this around to its closest approach to Rugeley along the canal. The Staffordshire Link, therefore, begins at this point.
I was pleased to find, having discovered the route of the Staffordshire Way at last, that it passed withing ten miles of Ilam. It took very little work with the map to plot a series of local footpaths linking the two, diverging from the Staffordshire Way at the Churnet Valley and running through the grounds of Wootton Lodge (headquarters of the J C Bamford engineering company and adjacent to the Alton Towers leisure park). It has to be said that the link proved awkward - much of the theoretical path network hereabouts has been obliterated by quarrying and much of the rest is complicated by routefinding problems. In 2004 I decided to abandon my original route beyond Rocester and instead adopted the Limestone Way between there and Dovedale.
The route is, like the Heart of England Way, a journey through pastoral, everyday English countryside. It's a warts-and-all route, for not every village or farmyard is a vision of chocolate-box prettiness. This is land that is worked and lived in. There is charm here, though. In particular there is a tangible feeling that the cramped, bustling Midlands are falling behind and the inspiring, wide-open vistas of the North are very close. And not only do the landscapes improve, but attitudes seem to change too. The people behind you are pleasant and civil, but those ahead of you are genuinely warm and welcoming.
|1||Rugeley to Uttoxeter||12.1 miles|
|3||Ellastone to Thorpe||6.8 miles|
|Heart of England Way||Back to main index||White Peak Way|
This page last updated 25th February 2006