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  • Writer's pictureJane Smith

Day 39 - Lea Marston to Farewell

I write this blog in the Notes app on my phone during the day. As I walk I take a note or two so that I don’t forget stuff, and when I stop for a break I’ll add things too. Before I set off in the morning I open a new page and name it, and there’s often a frisson of nervous anticipation about what the day will bring. Because, despite the increasing aches and pains, and the periodic anxiety, the feeling of this being an adventure has not left me. Sometimes an adventure that feels a lot, even a bit too much at times, but an adventure nonetheless.

This morning’s breakfast was different to yesterday’s. Although there was a golf course attached to the hotel again, the clientele were not golfers. Instead they appeared to be conference attendees, and the mood was a lot lower than the jovial banter from yesterday. Some were lethargically talking about marketing, and one man, eating alone, was miserably staring at his toast as if all the universe’s answers were held there, if only he knew how to decode them.

Because of the heatwave coming next week, I have devised a plan. I can’t walk during the day on Monday and Tuesday as the forecast is in the high 30s. It wouldn’t be safe for me to be walking for hours in that heat. So today the plan was to go further than previously expected, as David is coming up this afternoon and will be able to transport me back to our accommodation. Tomorrow was supposed to be a rest day as we are driving to Wales for my lovely god daughter’s wedding. Instead, I’m going to try to walk 4 or 5 miles before breakfast. That should have reduced the mileage enough for me to be able to do Monday and Tuesday’s walks in the very early morning, before the heat gets too much.

The start was a delight this morning, past the Kingsbury Water Park, enjoying the birds in the morning sunshine.

And then the Heart of England Way followed the Birmingham and Fazeley canal for a few miles. I was utterly undisturbed, nobody else was out.

But sadly the path took me away from the tranquillity of the water, crossing the canal on one of the simple and elegant bridges.

I was less simply elegant when scaling a padlocked gate. Although there had been no indication at the bridge end of the road I’d walked on, it would appear I had been trespassing. Ah well. I smile at the matter of fact way I now just climb obstacles like this, instead of looking for an alternative.

It was possibly an augur of things to come. As in previous days, HS2 work was everywhere. I haven’t been very assiduous at checking for footpath closures in preparation, assuming that there’d be a way through. As I continued today though, my confidence started to falter. There was the sound of heavy machinery in the air for much of the walk, and I started to pass road closure (for two and a half years!) signs that were very near my route, together with sad boarded up farmhouses that had presumably been compulsorily purchased.

But I continued on in hope that I wouldn’t be affected. Because if any of the paths I was due to walk on we’re closed I was really in trouble. There was no alternative without walking many miles extra on A roads. Things got a bit hairy when I approached the excellently named Hints village. There was a helpful sign showing all the Hints footpaths that were closed. It took a while to decipher, but my conclusion was that I was incredibly lucky, as my path skirted round all of them.

Feeling very pleased, and possibly a bit cocky, I continued on the Heart of England, not bothered by the broad beans obscuring my way. Though I did consider the difficulties of growing crops when the soil is as parched as it is.

The path continued clearly through a field with yellow danger signs, indicating the presence of a bull in the field, together with cows with their calves. I’ve seen so many of these signs without yet corresponding animals that I now regard them as a way that farmers try to put walkers off accessing the footpaths. This time though…. The next two fields had the biggest herds of cattle I’ve seen yet, with a lot of young calves. As I’m writing this blog, I obviously lived to tell the tale. I skirted them with as wide a berth as possible, and in fact apart from some hard stares and a bit of a frisky jump about a couple of times they were fine. But it was unnerving. My heart was pounding, and the fields went on for a long time. For the duration of those fields I was checking where the animals were, and assessing how quickly I could scale the wire fence at my side. Reaching the final gate was a relief, and only then did I get my phone out to record the moment, with them by then just dots on the horizon. Hardly scary at all, you might say. You had to be there.

As I approached the crossing to the A5, I asked a dog walker if she was aware of any more footpath closures. She was unsure, so I decided to trust my luck. I then realised she had been the first person I’d seen today. A strangely quiet and secluded walk. And at that point my HS2 luck ran out. The path was supposed to run through a derelict farm yard that had been closed down with intimidating fencing and warning signs everywhere. But with a stroke of good fortune there was a road that ran semi parallel. It added a bit of mileage, but not much. Harder on the feet though.

As I approached the last bit of the Heart of England that I was due to walk today I couldn’t have crossed my fingers more tightly. And it was thankfully there, this time running between the areas closed off by the construction. Such a relief. And in fact it was a lovely bit of path, with the hay drying in the fields and a tree lined avenue.

Along with the smell of muck spreading, I could hear more heavy machinery, and was worried that just at the last minute I was going to be blocked again. I was so pleased to see it was a combine harvester and that I could continue into Lichfield with confidence.

A bit of a trudge through the outskirts, but then I had the delight of leaving my bag at my fantastic B and B. I then did 3 extra miles of Monday’s walk, taking in a bit of Lichfield as I went. We’ll have a better look tomorrow.

No ice cream today, but an excellent iced mocha with the cathedral as my back drop.

The last bit of today’s walk was on the Two Saints Way. This is a 92 mile pilgrimage route from Chester to Lichfield. The section I did was on road, and I stopped with very tired feet and legs at the hamlet called Farewell, intriguingly named after a priory in the 12th century. And there was David again. He’s going to be with me now for almost a week, at the wedding and then as my hot weather back up and support. It was so great to see him.


Distance travelled: 17.75

Total ascent: 1100 feet

Calories burned: 2140

Local tipple - Blood orange Malfy gin and tonic

Dinner at The Larder, Lichfield - excellent

Ricotta dumplings

Sea bass with asparagus, potato rosti, pepperrade and smoked pepper ketchup

Video of the day

New song of the day

Emley lights us moor - Aya and Iceboy Violet

The bass on this vibrated so deeply through my headphones that I thought I was having palpitations. All very atmospheric and whispery. I like the reverse vibe of the strings synth, and the rhythm. But I wasn’t sure what it was about.

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Unknown member
Jul 20, 2022

That was an exciting day! But how sad to see those empty farms as a result of HS2. Glad you didn't have to do a big détour. Again, beautifully clear photos. X


Jul 16, 2022

This read like a suspense film! This HS2 stuff. It’s so - empty. All those farmhouses with abandoned gardens and the ripping up of people’s settled lives. And for what? The connections are all needed up north. Eerie to walk without seeing a soul for so long. Glad you’re with David now and your plans to make up the miles are clever and sensible


Unknown member
Jul 15, 2022

An iced mocha is a very good substitute for an ice cream!


Jul 15, 2022

Your notes continue with thrilling detail, Jane - thank you for sharing. I am glad that your journey through the field with cattle proved ultimately uneventful 🐄

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