For the blog this month, I am handing over to Sue Down who with her husband Ken
have been journeying along the Two Saints Way. Here’s their story…
Ken & I are grandparents, still working but approaching retirement age. We haven’t done much walking but do run quite a bit and have managed to complete a couple of half marathons. When we heard about the Two Saints Way, we were excited at the prospect of walking a long-distance path that went through our ‘own patch’. We loved the fact that the path has such a richness about it from retracing the footsteps of ancient pilgrims and getting a good view of the Staffordshire Hoard; exploring our industrial heritage through the Potteries and the canals; having the opportunity to level in glorious countryside such as Cannock Chase and the Trentham Estate as well as exploring beautiful English cities, towns and villages.
So the decision was made to walk the way in six days, beginning on 1st April. We planned the route by comparing the draft guide book to Google Earth and an Ordnance Survey Street Atlas that we had. We booked a couple of B&Bs and contacted friends in Baddeley Green. David sent out a barrage of emails to let people know that we were on our way and four friends and their dog agreed to join us for the first day.
We had a thoroughly enjoyable time exploring Chester on Bank Holiday Monday, the highlight being a very informative tour of the Cathedral led by Nick Fry. The weather was dry and sunny albeit bitterly cold. We were very glad to stretch our legs and set off for Christleton. After having a good look round this pretty village we headed for The Cheshire Cat which backs onto the canal. We were superbly well looked after and would have no hesitation in recommending this excellent Innkeepers Lodge.
Tuesday was another dry, bright day with a cold wind. We set off towards Nantwich at a brisk pace which, sadly, we were not able to maintain throughout the day. Ken developed painful blisters on his heels and later in the day I too discovered a few problems with my feet. We lost our way for a time at Calveley when we couldn’t find any way markers to help us. We soon got back onto the canal towpath and continued on our way. To keep our spirits up, we found ourselves singing old hymns – fortunately, there were not many people around at that point! I think the highlight of the day must be limping into Nantwich, 11 hours after we set out, eating fish & chips from the shop on Chester Road. We stayed the night at The Crown Hotel, a bit pricey but a very welcome resting point.
We started Wednesday with a tour of the beautiful St Mary’s Nantwich, thanks to Alan Joslyn, and the purchase of every blister treatment in the town. So with Ken’s wounds dressed and new socks on, off we went again. We decided to walk as far as the village of Hough and then get a bus as Ken’s feet were not up to more than 7 miles. Another dry day saw us crossing fields and strolling along country lanes. We stopped for coffee at the Swan Inn at Wybunbury which was most welcome. You can see on the left the very first Two Saints Way signs to be erected and a new panel with the map also. We got a bus to Crewe, then to Hanley and then to Baddeley Green, where we passed a very comfortable night with friends.
On Thursday morning we were finally able to see the Staffordshire Saxon and the Hoard, at The Potteries Museum, having failed on a couple of previous occasions. We were back on the bus and heading for home in Stafford by lunchtime. More blister treatment and a night in our own bed saw us ready to fight another day.
The path goes through the centre of Stafford and out along the River Sow to the edge of Cannock Chase at Milford. That is about 6 miles from our house so our plan was to reassess our fitness when we got there. I’m pleased to say that were able to keep going and enjoyed a fabulous 17 mile walk across the Chase to Beaudesert where Angela Bickley very kindly met us with hot chocolate and biscuits. The last pull up a steep, snow covered trail in the woods was tough but it was well worth it for the views from Castle Ring, the Iron Age fort on the highest point of the Chase.
After another very comfortable night spent with John & Christine Polhill at Reflections, their retreat centre home, we were off again. Wonderful sunshine, no wind for the first time all week and snow stacked up against the hedges. It was a delightful 8 mile stroll into Lichfield. We met up with Lilas Rawling, who walked the last little way with us and before we knew it we were at St Chad’s Well with Mike Preston excitedly showing us the drawings of the archaeological digs on the site. It was a fantastic, heady moment and I felt as though I could have turned around and walked all the way back to Chester!
Probably just as well that Ken was there to keep my feet where they belonged and Lilas very kindly offered us a lift back to Stafford.
Two Saints Way is a wonderful walk that I would recommend to anyone. We learned many lessons about our own capabilities, God’s provision and the beauty of creation and the importance of having the right equipment for the job. We would be happy to help anyone else who is planning to walk the way and can always offer a bed for the night in Stafford. Oh, and we do intend to go back and walk the missing 30 miles!