A good start to the day’s walk, with a bit of an Industrial Revolution flavour about it. I started from Ironbridge in bright sunlight, heading out down the riverside before turning north over the canal and the Hay Inclined Plane (for those interested, an inclined plane in the industrial sense is a sloped railway used to transport boats to and from one canal to another; the one at Hay was 63m long and must have been very impressive in operation, but now has a slightly forlorn and forgotten air). A local pub had a chart up with record flood levels – a lot of entries from February of this year!
Unfortunately, things then went a bit downhill. The route (described as a ‘clear path’ through woods) was impassable, and I spent about an hour blundering around through brambles, branches and nettles before emerging, scratched and cross, onto a footpath through a golf course, where a polo-shirted player suggested I limit my rest (on the public right of way, mind) to ‘a few minutes’. I left, muttering to myself (and pointedly picking up the Snickers wrapper which I hadn’t left there), for a dull road walk.
A lot of the rest of the day was in the same vein. Footpaths diverted by order of Staffordshire council to avoid disturbing the privacy of large but deserted homes; road walking disturbed only by pressing myself into the hedge as shiny 4x4s whizzed past; paths blocked or invisible, necessitating long detours. There were some beautiful views, but they were largely wasted on me as I got more and more tired and fed up.
I hit a low point round Hawkshutts, where no fewer than 3 of the alternative bridleways going northeast towards the reservoir were completely blocked. Faced with a road detour of several miles, I eventually crawled through barbed wire to get to a right of way; fortunately there was nobody around to hear what I had to say about farmers as it was unprintable.
After that things improved, as I spent the last portion of the walk on the canal, which was cheerful and peaceful, with a good path underfoot and pretty bridges. I even got to cross a busy A-road on an aqueduct – a very strange feeling walking over a road whilst still on a canal! I was pleased to get to Lapley, after what had been a long and at times frustrating day.
Highlights: Poppies next to the Iron Bridge; the industrial leftovers, including an unexpectedly elegant lime kiln; a grey heron watching the still green waters of the canal.