I covered Stages 10 and 9 of the National Forest Way in three Monday morning walks. We've had some beautiful weather lately, so it's been lovely to get out.
I approached the first walk with some trepidation. The route took me through Tatenhill Woods, which has become known in our family as a place where anything could happen. The first time we went there, the paths were ankle-deep in mud; the second, we got caught in a summer thunderstorm and soaked to the skin! Fortunately this time the weather stayed calm and clear, and there wasn't as much mud as I expected.
|view towards Tatenhill Woods
Heading out of Rangemore, the Way took me over rolling fields with views north to the cooling towers at Willington. The bluebells were out in full force, and lambs were bouncing across the grass. Having successfully navigated the woods, I stopped for a snack on Battlestead Hill, then dropped down to walk alongside quarry workings and streams.
|view from Battlestead Hill
If I'd had a little longer, it would have been easy enough to walk to Branston Water Park and finish Stage 10. However, I'd left both Graham and Theo ill in bed, so I stopped about a mile short. I took a shortcut back through the neatly groomed Prince's Wood to Tatenhill village, then across the fields again to Rangemore.
The next Monday was a Bank Holiday. We had plans for later in the day, so I set my alarm clock early and hit the path by 7am. This section was a complete contrast to the previous one. It was so flat that I didn't cross a single contour line, and so industrialised that I should think every inch of the ground has been dug up repeatedly.
|some of it is still being dug up...
I started by finding my previous end-point and doing the last mile up the Trent and Mersey Canal (the earliest digging-up) to Branston Water Park (previously quarried for gravel). A foot tunnel took me under the A38 dual carriageway (more earth-moving) to a new housing estate (yep, more diggers). I crossed the mainline railway (you guessed it) and reached the River Trent. A sign informed me that the river, like its surroundings, was in a constant state of change.
|Tatenhill Lock, on the Trent & Mersey
|rather nice mural by the A38 tunnel
|NFW waypost by the River Trent
Tucklesholme Nature Reserve is an example of things changing back to nature. It used to be a quarry, but the heavy machinery has been replaced by coots, swans and ducks, enjoying what is now a large lake next to the Trent. I re-crossed the railway and A38, and followed the Trent & Mersey Canal back to my starting point. Once the canal was the major transport artery, but now it's a ribbon of calm next to the truck-infested main road. A large heron let me get quite close before it flapped off. Back at Branston, the gulls were making as much noise as any trucks, the car park was filling up, and the day had well and truly started.
|morning coffee at Tucklesholme
My final walk in this section took me across the River Trent to the small village of Walton-on-Trent. From there, the path across the fields looked easy to follow, but the grass had grown tall, and I had to check the map a few times to find the right track. I was glad the knee-high grass wasn't dripping wet!
|crossing the Trent
At Rosliston, the small parish church had its door open, so I stuck my head in and was warmly welcomed by the vicar, who was waiting for school pupils to arrive for a visit. The church had a buttercup-yellow ceiling, and looked like a cheerful place in which to worship. It was just around the corner from the Rosliston Forestry Centre, which marked the end of Stage 9. I had a quick coffee in the cafe there before embarking on the return journey.
The road back to Walton was the epitome of an English country lane - verges crowded with cow parsley, nettles and hawthorn; views across grassy meadows; and even, to my delight, the call of a cuckoo somewhere close by. The rarity of that sound is a sad reminder of how much we have recently lost from our countryside. What's left is still beautiful and exuberant, though, and only too willing to return if we give it a chance. I hope we do.
For Stages 11 and 12, see this post. I'm walking west to east, which is why the stages are numbered in reverse.