Limestone Way 1
Uttoxeter to Ashbourne Heights – 15 miles
This trail was a bit of a spur of the moment decision back in July. I had a long weekend off scheduled at work and decided to add a few lieu days to walk the Limestone Way over 4 days. I’d booked the trains via a website called “trainsplit” – it can provide some significant savings over normal fares by “splitting” journeys at intermediate stations. Having booked the tickets I realised I had booked the return journey for the second day after finishing – I’d just have to spend an extra day in Castleton then!
I’d booked into the campsite at Uttoxeter Racecourse which was right next to the railway station. There was due to be a race meet the next morning which was a huge stroke of luck. The access from the station was open meaning I only had a walk of a few hundred yards, rather than the mile or so walk to the main entrance. Having a bit of time I took a wander into the town centre and sampled a few beers at the local Wetherspoons.
The trail itself starts in Rocester, 4 or 5 miles away and rather than get there by bus I had decided to walk via the Staffordshire Way. The route passed the racecourse so it was a simple case of crossing the railway and setting off towards Rocester.
Passing through a rather grotty industrial estate next to the station carpark the path emerged onto rough farmland, once a large system of water meadows. The farmland was teeming with wildflowers and wildlife making a nice distraction from the noisy A50 which I would have to use to cross the River Dove. The road was busy as I took to the walkway next to it then dropped down to cross underneath the road via a rather low underpass. Emerging from the underpass put me on top of the original Dove Bridge, a fairly narrow but attractive stone bridge. Looking back at the dual carriageway and its constant stream of traffic, it was hard to imagine how it all once squeezed across this old bridge. It took a moment for me to find the correct path, finally realising that the Staffordshire Way did, in fact, go through that overgrown patch of brambles and nettles. The route would roughly follow the Dove all the way to Rocester and I was expecting a bit of a riverside walk. Instead, after emerging from the nettles and crossing a stile the path started to rise, taking to the fields high above the river.
There was no clear path here and it was rapidly becoming obvious that this wasn’t a well travelled route. This was confirmed at one point where the path passed along a track between woodland which, to say it was overgrown, was an understatement. Thick nettles growing up to head height were intermingled with brambles, doing their level best to rip my skin and clothing. Here I found a new use for the walking poles -they did a great job of bushwhacking!
I was now meandering between field edges and woodland, the field verges thick with wild flowers. Ahead a seemingly random billboard appeared, a large orange “Doveridge” emblazoned over it, and I have to admit to being quite puzzled as to why such a large sign was seemingly positioned in the middle of a field. All became clear when I emerged onto a track that had been hidden by the thick undergrowth and passed underneath the sign, the entrance to a large range for clay pigeon shooting.
I walked through the range passing several young turkeys, amongst other fowl, that were apparently unconcerned by my presence. The path turned to bridleway and was easy walking. The approach to Rocester was marked, not so much by the huge property that I passed, but the rather garish bright yellow signs with JCB marked on them, Rocester being the international headquarters of the company.
Extensive playing fields heralded the impressive Abbitsholme school and from there it was a short riverside walk into Rocester and the start!
There was nothing to mark the start, other than the route on the map, so I made my way to the village centre to try and find something for breakfast. There had been a cafe at one time, now shut, so I had to make do with the local happy shopper.
The view into Derbyshire
It was a steady climb out of the village, fortunately away from the very large and obtrusive JCB building that dominated the view behind me. It wasn’t long before this was left behind and the landscape changed for the better. I had recrossed the Dove on entering Rocester and I was blessed with some fine views over the river into Derbyshire. This was delightful walking over a rolling landscape, a much better experience than the rather mundane Staffordshire Way. The way marking, however, was abysmal. Non-existent wasn’t quite accurate as I did encounter one around Ellastone, much to my surprise, at least 5km into the path! There were a few dog walkers out and about here, but soon after it was bush whacking time again. Crossing a road I entered a field that had been left to its own devices. There was nothing here that even looked like it could be a path – I had to take a compass bearing to avoid wandering about the field like a lost sheep!
The route here was climbing all the time, with plenty of stiles to add to the fun. Eventually, after some careful route finding, the path emerged onto a long ridge with some fine all round views. This really was lovely walking and again, it was obvious that very few people walk these paths. The route was feint in most places, and I wouldn’t see a soul until I crossed into Derbyshire.
A short section followed along the busy A52, and a rather scampered crossing onto a gated road where I stopped to rest and admire the view. Walking round the corner I encountered a herd of cows, one of which was obviously not happy by my presence. It’s the first time I’ve been nervous round cattle, and it was certainly making some very un-cow like noises.
The landscape was changing as well, the soft rolling hills were gradually turning rugged as I headed towards Thorpe. The path took to a track at Coldwall Farm to cross the Dove once again and enter Derbyshire, where the way marking immediately improved (which wasn’t really difficult). The bridge was a complete surprise, a large impressive structure that wouldn’t have been out of place on a major road, certainly not built for a farm track. It turns out that this was part of an old turnpike route that had fallen out of use. The milestone still in situ with “Cheadle 11” on it was a nice bonus too. It was a short climb to Thorpe where I left the path to head for my campsite. I decided to stop in the pub for food (and one or two pints) rather than walking to the site and walking back. The food was great and the beer (especially the chocolate beer) better!
Ashbury Heights campsite was busy, noisy and expensive for a backpacker. The facilities were superb though and it was a nice site. Most importantly it was close to the route and meant that in the morning I was pretty much right on top of the path.
Day Rating 8/10
View from the bridge
A day that got better as it went on. The Staffordshire Way was a little boring, but from the start, despite the dreadful way marking, the Limestone Way got better and better. The number of stiles was a killer though!