Celebrate a milestone with Craig and Charlie
Day 36 pre-amble
I’m gonna be honest: did you think a man on a long distance walk, with a fondness for pop music, was going to resist this reference?
As of today, I have walked 500 miles.
And by the time I’ve walked 500 more I will be in Scotland, so I daresay you’ll be seeing these guys again.
LEJoG Day 36 (Saturday 13 October 2018)
Uttoxeter to Dovedale (15 miles)
Cumulative: 513 miles
Facts: Time on walk: 4 hours 45 minutes. Average speed: 3.16 mph. Weather: Drizzle at start, overcast; becoming brighter on higher ground; bright and warm on approach to Dovedale.
Practicalities: For the first time, set off from my new house. Had booked one night in Dovedale – travelled to Uttoxeter by train with one change at Derby. I live quite a long way from my home town station, so I drove in and left my car there for the weekend.
Start: Uttoxeter railway station, 10:20am. End: Izaak Walton Hotel, near Ilam in Dovedale, 3:25pm.
Satellite map here. OS Explorer maps used: 259 Derby (West sheet) and OL24 (Peak District: White Peak area). Most of the day follows Day 24 of Andy Robinson’s End to End Trail, including the Staffordshire Way as far as Rocester.
This was one of the days I dreaded most after reading other LEJoG blogs. However it actually turned out to be not just painless, but surprisingly triumphant.
Turning right after the station car park, I’m on my way. Headed along Station Road and picked up a footpath on the right side of a factory. There is a good view of Uttoxeter racecourse on your right here. I’m guessing that’s the first thing that springs to mind if someone mentions ‘Uttoxeter’ to a person not steeped in 80s and 90s comedy. Although the path is not obvious on the satellite map, the direction should be clear enough to anyone with an OS map.
The first landmark is obvious: the A50. As you hit the highway, the waymarks will point you to the right, along an enclosed footpath parallel with the A50. This takes you to a subway under Dove Bridge, marking the border between Staffordshire and my birth county of Derbyshire. The River Dove is now on your left, having been on your right before the road. It won’t be too far away for the rest of the day.
From here the path continues north. There is a thicket of trees to negotiate and then you are in open fields, albeit with woods close by. The path isn’t that clear on the ground. But as long as you have a compass and can find north, you will soon find your way to a wide track. This leads directly to Doveridge Clay Sports Club (marked ‘Shooting Club’ on OS Explorer 259). The air will be quite noisy for the 10-15 minutes it takes to approach, pass and leave behind the club. The club is also 50FootHead’s Craig and Charlie moment – the 500-mile mark on my trek.
Passing some holiday cottages, follow a clear track to Eaton Dovedale Farm. Turn right at the junction and then bend left past the farmhouse. Soon after, the Staffordshire Way branches left off the farm access road and runs west of some wooded areas and past Abbotsholme School. Here you return to the riverside, emerging on to a minor road linking Rocester to the A515. Turn left on the road, cross the bridge (re-entering Staffordshire) and turn right after passing Richard Arkwright’s Tutbury Mill. At this point you leave the Staffordshire Way and join the Limestone Way. The first section takes you past a churchyard and through some residential streets in Rocester. It is very clear in Andy Robinson’s book and on the OS map, and I’m trying not to repeat his detailed directions.
A path through a field brings you to the B5030: cross, turn right and take the first stile on the left. Proceed diagonally through a large field on a slight incline: you will return to the B5030 at Dalesgap. Go straight across the road and into the next field, which slopes downhill to meet the River Dove once again. You should not head directly for the river. Instead bear left of it in order to cross a couple of stiles and gates before descending to the riverbank. Once there, follow the river until it meets the B5033, then turn left and head for the village of Ellastone.
Here I decided not to pick up the Limestone Way at the first opportunity, instead trusting the roads to bring me to the wooded valley preferred by Robinson a mile or so to the north. Took the B5033 into Lower Ellastone, then the B5032 through the centre of the village. There is a sharp right hand bend which requires care even with pavement and verge. Shortly after that I took a narrow but quiet minor road branching off to the left (Ousley Lane) past Northwood Farm. At the sharp left hand bend I entered the wood in order to follow Robinson’s valley route alongside Ordley Brook (marked ‘Ousley Brook’ on the linked satellite map).
This was wet underfoot, and there were numerous fallen trees and logs to negotiate. However it was the first extended woodland walk for many a mile, and I enjoyed the change of scenery. The weather also began to improve as I climbed out of the valley. One word of warning though: it did feel like it went on for longer than indicated by the map. Eventually you come to a minor road: turn right, heading downhill. Then comes a proper climb on the same road, ascending ‘Limestone Hill’. This is a real tester: the contour lines on the map will prove I’m not kidding. It’s not especially long, but with about 12 miles already in your legs it will feel twice the distance. Robinson’s route leaves the road before this climb, incidentally.
I chose to rejoin the Limestone Way at Lordspiece, turning left and proceeding through open fields. One of these was a cow field, but the grazers were easy to avoid this time. As you draw near to the A52, the path isn’t obvious and you come up against a line of trees. However if you keep the faith and maintain your course you will come across a gate leading to the road. Turn right down the hill, cross and take the first left, a minor road heading towards Blore. There is a gate at the bottom of Martens Hill which any motorist would have to open and close in order to continue. As you might infer, this means the road is very quiet, with more walkers than cars or bikes.
After about half a mile, the Limestone Way veers right towards Coldwall Farm, Coldwall Bridge and Thorpe. This is also where Robinson parts company with me. I was now on familiar walking ground for the first time since Sutton Park and had long since decided I preferred the descent into Ilam. For that I needed to carry straight on through Blore and head straight on again at the crossroads. Stopped briefly at the picnic table just after the crossroads – the only stop of the day if checking maps, taking photos and adjusting bags are excluded.
From here you go over a cattle grid, bear right and then descend into Ilam. It is a truly glorious sight: Dovedale, the southern edge of the Peak District and one of the jewels in Derbyshire’s crown. Soppy as it may seem, this was a moment that made my heart fly. All previous agonies and frustrations just melted away in the October sunshine, and I felt genuinely lucky to be alive and able to do this walk. Here are two photos that capture some of the magic of approaching this place on a beautiful, sunny autumnal Saturday afternoon:
View of Bunster Hill from the road above Ilam
Crossing the River Manifold into Ilam – Ilam Village Cross in the centre
At the Village Cross, turned right and picked up a footpath leading directly to the main visitor car park at Dovedale, via my accommodation for the night at the Izaak Walton Hotel. A home from home in more ways than one: right in the centre of probably my most familiar walking hot spot, and named after the man whose quote graces the Pre-Amble to this blog. There really aren’t many days that finished as perfectly as number 36.
After the walk
Reasonably effusive conversation with the hotel receptionist, telling them about my Land’s End to John O’Groats walk. Finished podcast (see below) in my room. Three-course meal including amuse-bouches. A little more “haute cuisine” than I’m used to, but I booked far enough in advance to obtain a very decent discount on the room, so I figured the indulgence was fair enough. Also, the small matter of 19 miles to walk tomorrow made it much easier to treat myself tonight.
Sadly the rain started before I went to bed. More of that tomorrow.
Postscript – My Listening Pleasure
Chart Music #31. Talk about delayed gratification: held back on this one for 18 days so I could listen to it for the first time on this walk. It was worth the wait. Same team as CM#30, and damn near its equal. The obvious highlight was the extended discussion of a certain homo-erotic moment in the Style Council’s ‘Long Hot Summer’ video, something already referred to elsewhere on 50FootHead. But it was consistently entertaining throughout, and just to round it off Al very nearly matched ‘Darlin’ Bummerdog’ with another inspired post-credits sequence. This time our concupiscent canine starred as Roobarb in an X-rated cartoon, complete with Al’s lyrics to the theme tune, David Stubbs as Richard Briers, and even Custard.
Next: Day 37 (14 October 2018)… in which almost every step is familiar.