Day 33: Uttoxeter – Swinscoe

Monday, 22/05/2017
Distance: 22,7 km (14,1 mi) for a total of 895,9 km (556,7 mi)
Ascent (ca.): 445 m (1460 ft)

Weather: Cloudy with much sunshine in between, warm

The first view from my tent this morning had something surreal.

I was just packing up when a car with an employee of the race course stopped by my side. He said he had already seen my tent during the night when doing his rounds and had wondered if some drunken bloke left over from the big race day party on Saturday was pitching there. He was relieved to see a harmless backpacker instead and even offered to get me a coffee or tea which I thankfully accepted. We chatted a bit and hearing I’m from Germany he told me he had been near Hameln and Lippstadt in his army times, just to continue that he thought Germany was better than England because green hills are nice but other things are more important. Well, what to answer?

The way out of Uttoxeter again required some instinct because no signs marked the Staffordshire Way. And this remained a constant problem over the day. At least from Eaton Hall on the way became better and following the river Dove even pretty. Here I was overtaken by a jogging lady with her dog which wouldn’t be notable except for the way she put the dog over a stile. She picked it up in her arms  (and it wasn’t a tiny terrier or so) and literally threw it over the stile to sort itself back on his feet. Obviously, the dog was used to this procedure and didn’t complain.

Shortly afterwards I entered Rocester where I just bought some provisions for elevenses before looking out for the Limestone Way which I wanted to follow from here. The first so called footpath was a brazenness: a gap between two houses filled with head-high nettles and definitely not used for a significant time. So I took the road again and checked at each crossing with my plotted route if the condition had improved. So I left the street a bit further on to walk towards Ellastone. The map indicated a pub there and I hoped it was already open for a pint. In fact, it wasn’t a usual pub but a high-class restaurant. I ordered a light lunch and enjoyed the sunshine as there were only a few miles left to the campsite where I wanted to stay.

During the day I pondered over the question if counties have a personality. This has been triggered by the counties with “shire” in their name. What I mean by “personality” is difficult to explain. It includes the landscape, the layout of the land by men to work on and with it, the people and their identification with it etc (I hope you get the idea). In that sense Cornwall definitely has a personality, everything there seemed to breathe “Cornish”, and to a lesser extent this is true for Devon, too. Somerset, I think, is too diverse in landscapes to develop something in the way I mean. But what now about the “Shires”?

Gloucestershire made a well-kept impression, tidy, orderly, proud of itself, the people somehow content to live here. Warwickshire was similar, I didn’t even noticed when exactly I moved from the one to the other. But I definitely noticed when I was in Staffordshire which,as I’m sorry to say, gave the impression of being decrepit and neglected. The difference is also told by waymarkers, signposts and stiles as the following which are representative. I could easily have chosen any other, typically the waymark badges consist only of small leftover segments indicating nothing anymore, everything wooden is often weathered beyond recognition or usability, the Limestone Way isn’t even named and the Staffordshire Way doesn’t look like something anybody takes pride in or do some maintenance on. In contrast, one signpost in Derbyshire where the way took me today for a short time.

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3 thoughts on “Day 33: Uttoxeter – Swinscoe

  1. Love the misty morning view, and your account of the lady throwing the dog over the stile made me laugh 🙂 I encountered a really difficult stile during a lakeside walk in north Wales at Easter – it wasn’t the easiest of things to negotiate with two dogs, especially when one can’t be let off the lead. Sometimes I think people erect stiles purposely to hamper short-legged walkers with dogs and/or backpacks! 🙂

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    • That’s certainly true for many stiles. Far from being tall myself I often found myself head-scratching how to get over or through the hindrances set up by farmers for the poor walkers.

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