Yes, I’m still soldiering on with last year’s entries!
This was a tentative recce for a Christmas walk, as it passed by an excellent establishment, the Greyhound Inn at Burston, run by TGO Challengers Alan and Peter Jordan, with a sizeable restaurant that would meet our needs.
I enjoyed the walk, and there would be adequate parking at my start point in Milwich, but had the ground not been solidly frozen it could have proved to be a bit of a soggy endurance test. Moreover, a large group would be delayed by the 45 or so stiles I encountered en route, despite a quarter of the distance being along a canal towpath.
So this walk is maybe best left for either a dry summer’s day or a cold and frosty winter’s day like the one I enjoyed.
The route is shown below, in both ‘Anquet’ and ‘Garmin’ style, and there’s a comprehensive slideshow to supplement the following brief description, here.
Parking up outside Milwich Village Hall and former school, I took a well marked path beside the Green Man, which hostelry could be used for refreshments by those wishing to start from Burston or the A51.
Well marked paths and numerous stiles offered easy walking on frozen ground, with lingering fog helping to preserve the hoar frost that coated much of the scenery on this cold day.
Sandon Wood looked as if it is home to a large colony of badgers, and a stile leading into the wood could be used to access a good night time observation point. The path is to the right of that misleading stile, and it leads to a gate and a rough track through the woodland and bracken.
Numerous pheasants noisily tried to keep their distance as I proceeded through Sandon Park, where the sun was trying very hard to break through as I passed close to a folly that sits on a knoll in the centre of the park.
The fog was winning to the south, but the sun briefly dominated views back across the farmland to the north.
I missed a public woodland path to the right near Ritt’s Column and found myself in a narrow field between the A51 road and the London to Glasgow railway line, for the short stretch to the splendid construction that is bridge number 82 on the Trent and Mersey Canal.
Refreshments could be available in the nearby village of Salt, but I chose to head along the frozen towpath towards Burston. With the first mile post I encountered showing Shardlow 43 miles away in one direction, and Preston Brook 49 miles in the other, I seemed to be rather far from anywhere. No matter, after tiptoeing along the edge of the canal to avoid falling through a thin sheet of ice into a quagmire, I soon reached Sandon Lock, which thankfully delivered me to higher ground and a more solid path.
There were several barges moored within a short walk of the fleshpots of Sandon Lock.
The bridges (see slideshow) are all different on this section of canal, which I exited at bridge 85 towards Burston.
Burston was home to various members of the Stubbs family, about whom my father wrote a number of short essays. I may even have met dad’s ‘Cousin Mary’ who lived in Stone near to various other relatives. She died in 1953. Hers is an interesting story – her dad, the black sheep of the family, was born in 1803. But I digress.
I enjoyed looking around the village that was home to this strain of our family, wondering which of the houses had been their homes, before eventually wandering into the Greyhound Inn. Hot soup and an excellent beer were savoured in the company of Alan Jordan, who was on our Turkish trip last year and is a seasoned TGO Challenger, so an hour wasn’t really sufficient.
But, suitably refreshed, I eventually left, in rather dimmer afternoon light, with wintry views back to Burston, from a hill beyond which, as dusk approached, the unseen path to Milwich lay ahead.
Here's my route - 18km, 250 metres ascent, in 5.5 hours including a good hour at the Greyhound.
Here’s what the Garmin gadget recorded:
And here’s a link to the slideshow again.