Outdoor Discoveries

What originally was a news section for the rest of the website soon became a place for me to write about human-powered wanderings in the countryside. Photography inspires me to get out there, mostly on foot these days, though cycling got me started. Musings on the wider context of outdoor activity complete the picture, so I hope that there is something of interest in all that you find here. Thank you for coming!

Bringing home some Staffordshire mud

7th February 2008

It’s amazing how an idea can come to be planted in your head. There was a time when I used the prospect of a dull day to keep me home from the outdoors so to get other important things done. On the other hand, that might have gone too far because I then might have become far too picky about the days on which I headed out unless my determination to get out there was strong enough. Now that I think of it, I suppose that my using the prospect of making pleasant photos as a motivation for my wanderings exacerbated the situation, as did the idea of having a photo to accompany a trip report on this blog.

So, a comment from The Solitary Walker on a previous post was a useful counterpoint to all the above and this year may be the one when I head off into the outdoors without regard for the photographic possibilities. I have decided that it will not be the end of the world if a post sees no photo brightening up its text, so that gets me over one hurdle. In fact, that kind of thinking got me into the outdoors last Sunday week when the prospect of a dull day might have caused me to remain at home to do the usual chores.

Being a country lad, I have never been that bothered by imperfect conditions underfoot and, given the amount of Staffordshire mud that I encountered on my recent outing, that’s just as well; thoughts, probably inaccurate, of where they get all the clay for their pottery began to enter the mind. So long as I have dry feet and gaiters to keep the muck out of my boots, I am fine. Of course, you’d never set out to come home muddy, but a misplaced foot is all that it needs sometimes. I recall going through a gate while following the Dane Valley Way in December 2004 where a single step left me with one leg up to the shin in mud so it can easily happen. The muddiness didn’t relent after that, something that didn’t surprise me because the year in question was far from being a dry one; I reckon that a washout would have been an appropriate description.

Coming back to the trip that inspired this post, a return bus ride on the 108 to Leek was enough to set me up for six hours of quality walking all around Tittesworth Reservoir and the watershed of the River Churnet. Once I managed to find my way out of Leek and onto part of the Staffordshire Moorlands Walks network, I was off tarmac with a good track to get things started. Soggy ground was quickly encountered but not for long and my hike eventually returned me to tarmac until Meerbrook, after which I lost it again. That’s when things really got messy and the cause was the springs feeding the reservoir around which I was walking. A chat with a friendly farming type kept me away from what might have been the worst of it as I made my way towards Hen Cloud and the rest of the Roaches. In fact, I was momentarily back on tarmac again before walking up and over Hen Cloud in mild if blustery conditions. I wasn’t hoping for sunshine, but that’s what greeted me at this point when the seemingly immobile cloud began to break up. It turned a walking day into one fit for photography in less than half an hour, all a very pleasing bonus. There were plenty of cars parked on the side of the road lining the Roaches but I have no idea where everyone else was since I amazingly had Hen Cloud to myself. Some retracing of steps and following another section of the Moorlands Walks took me all the way back to Leek at the end of the satisfying and muddy day. Yes, some of that mud did come home with me but it didn’t keep me from using the bus to get back. Neither will it stop me returning…

Hen Cloud, Upper Hulme, Leek, Staffordshire, England


  • The Solitary Walker says:

    Mud is good..! Glad you had a good day. Check out Andy Howell’s recent Shropshire trip and my own latest Camino stage for “bad weather” experiences… Didn’t Ruskin say somewhere there is no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather? Or something like that.

  • John says:

    I have recently added another “bad” weather experience to the canon so I can agree with you. I only wish that weather warnings were more precise and not issued as willy nilly as it appears. Nevertheless, the motivating capability of the prospect of fine sunny weather should never be underestimated…

  • The Solitary Walker says:

    True… look at the wonderful Lake District weather this last week… wish I had been up there…

  • John says:

    I know how you feel. A plan to head up there over the weekend did come to mind but, sadly, nothing came of it…

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