Walking in Staffordshire
Extending from the forests and heaths of Cannock Chase in the south to the beautiful and remote Staffordshire Peak in the north, the meadows and pastures of Lichfield and the Bromleys in the east, and the heartland of England's canal heritage in its far south-west, Staffordshire offers a varied tapestry of easily accessible walking locations.
The Staffordshire Moorlands, in the north of the county, has to be the best area for walking. Situated on the southern fringes of the Peak District it's an ideal base for everything from gentle strolls to energetic hill walking. More demanding footpaths can be found among the rugged crags of The Roaches or along the ancient packhorse trails of the Dane Valley. Long distance walkers can enjoy the scenic pleasures of the Staffordshire Way, Gritstone Trail and Limestone Way. If you prefer short circular walks, head for the softer landscapes of the limestone dales, the Churnet Valley, Rudyard Lake or local country parks.
North of Leek lies some of the most impressive scenery in the county in the form of The Roaches, a group of rocky fortress like hills set amidst wild moorland. The highest, at 1,500 feet, is called Five Clouds.
South of Leek down to the east of Cheadle runs the beautiful richly wooded Churnet Valley. The Staffordshire Way runs along the valley, providing an easy waymarked route, but there are numerous other options for shorter walks in the valley. Possibilities include visits to Coombes Valley RSPB Reserve with peaceful walks in secluded oak woodlands, or Hawksmoor Nature Reserve near Cheadle with moor, marsh and woodland.
Further east the equally beautiful Manifold Valley provides peaceful riverside walking besides this tranquil, lazy river as it meanders through a delightful pastoral landscape. Near the lovely and interesting village of Ilam there is an abundance of wild meadow flowers in the summer months. From Wetton, at the north of the Valley, it is possible to walk to Thors Cave 300 feet above the valley floor. This 30 feet high cavern, named after the Norse god of thunder, provides an impressive viewpoint.
To the north west of Leek Rudyard Reservoir provides a popular recreational centre for boating, fishing and walking. The delightful village of Rudyard at the south end of the reservoir is set near lovely woods bordering the shore of the reservoir. There are pleasant walks in the woods and along the shoreline. A new visitor centre at Rudyard Lake tells you all you need to know about the area's fascinating wildlife.
Further west at Biddulph Grange Country Park you can trace the estate's environmentally friendly history by following the one mile Hydroelectric Walk. Further west still, on the Cheshire border, stands The Old Man of Mow, a 1100 ft. high crag topped with a ruined folly known as Mow Cop Castle.
Abbots Bromley - Situated in the Vale of Trent, Abbots Bromley is one of the most attractive and interesting villages in Staffordshire. There are several charming old black and white cottages and inns, a lovely old butter cross in the market square and the church of St Nicolas which has 14th century arcades. The village origin dates back to the year 942 and it is mentioned in the Domesday Book.
The village has an unusual claim to fame in the annual Horn Dance which is carried out on the Monday after the Sunday following 4th September. It is performed around the village by twelve men in Tudor costume, six of whom balance ancient reindeer horns on their shoulders, the other six acting as a hobby-horse, a jester, an archer, a maid, and two musicians on accordion and triangle. The procession tours the village and local farms and arrives for lunch at Blithfield Hall. This ancient ritual is believed to have religious associations, but its true origin is lost in the mists of time, so nowadays it is just an enjoyable local tradition. You can see the ancient antlers which are stored in St Nicolas's church.
OS Maps: Explorer 244
A Walk from Abbots Bromley [SK 081247]
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