Many people have asked me why I felt that the Two Saints Way should include Stoke-on-Trent. Too many people have negative perceptions of the city, but I have to admit to being a big fan! For me, it’s intriguing, fascinating and rather quirky!
The first thing that drew me to Stoke-on-Trent was the fine piece of an old Saxon Cross at Stoke Minster. This spot in the middle of the pilgrimage route was just perfect. Secondly, I have always appreciated the concept of urban pilgrimage – I wanted the route to be a real slice of England and the urban was essential. In medieval times, pilgrims did not avoid cities, indeed they were often the most important places on the route. A third reason became apparent when it was decided that half the Staffordshire Hoard would be in display at the Potteries Museum. In addition to this, there are other interesting places to see, the Two Saints Way going through Stoke provides some great regeneration opportunities and last but not least, ‘Stokies’ are lovely folk!
I’ve been checking out the best route for a while now and after a helpful walk with the Rights of Way officer Paul Pearce on May 25th I think we are hopefully getting to a final agreed route…
From the northwest, the Two Saints Way arrives in Stoke via a footpath under the A500 to reach the Trent & Mersey Canal just south of Westport Lake. After walking past some fascinating places like Middleport Pottery, we go off the canal at the Newport Lane bridge beside calcining bottle ovens at Oliver’s Mill. It then goes along the side of the former short stretch of canal called the Bursem Arm. The Burslem Port Project is aiming to restore the canal and the surrounding area and it will be good to support those developments.
The route then goes up into Grange Park. There is a pilgrimage link here in that this was the site of Grange Farm which supplied food for the monks at Abbey Hilton. Next is the amazing Festival Park. This was the site of the National Garden Festival in 1986 and has many interesting features including sculpture still in place in the natural woodland. When you leave the park you pass Etruria Hall and a brick statue of Josiah Wedgwood’s head. Next you cross over the A53 and walk up a delightful footpath which was once a section of the old Potteries Loop line.
The next highlight on the route is … Tescos! This will actually be very helpful as surprisingly there are no other shops directly on this route through the city. Soon after, you arrive at the Potteries Museum where as well as the Staffordshire Hoard, you can now see the 9 foot high Staffordshire Saxon statue by Andy Edwards which references the Hoard. After leaving the museum, you pass the new Central Mosque and go through Hanley Park to join the Caldon Canal where you turn west to rejoin the Trent & Mersey at the Etruria junction and from there head south to Stoke Minster.
I know that this route showcases the variety of interest in the middle of the city to great advantage. There is also the potential for an excellent 8 km / 5 mile circular walk using the Trent & Mersey Canal as the western section between Etruria Junction and Middleport. I am hopeful that the footpath improvements can mostly be achieved with voluntary help and that those costs will therefore be minimal. I anticipate that an overall budget of £5,000 will cover this project. I think you’ll agree that that will be an extremely cost effective way to bring benefits to this very special city.
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