I decided to give the Staffordshire Way out of Utoxeter a fair hearing. Alas trudging along it through the rain soon diminished its appeal to me. Judging by the signs on the ground it is not well used and others have commented that it is neglected. I would have just said 'dull.'
I did stumble across the clearly exclusive Abbotsholme School and the World HQ of JCB (of excavator fame) at Rocester where the old cotton mill and surrounding expensive real estate seemed to be owned by the company.
I decided to leave the Staffordshire Way at Norbury and to swing west towards the old Tissington Railway trail, to save climbing over stiles and making frequent navigation checks. I crossed a lovely stone bridge, still guarded by a wartime pill box, and was suddenly in Derbyshire! I was immediately rewarded with the sight of an old railway station (Norbury) and platform. Dave’s family had lived there for over 50 years and he remembers the trains running.
Shortly after I stumbled on Norbury Manor and adjacent Abbey, another National Trust property open to the public at the time of my visit but deserted.
I had to admit I was not sorry to leave Staffordshire. All the other Shires I’d walked through had been a delight, but not Staffordshire. And there was that accent too!
As the day wore on I stopped at each pub to check for accommodation options nearby and ahead. I was astonished to find that being back in Derbyshire and the Peak District there were YHA’s nearby. They were all full. So were all the pubs, so too the B&B’s and the hotels.
I trudged into Ilam (pronounced eye lamb) at 6pm intending to throw myself onto the mercy of anyone willing to offer me a bed or place to pitch my tent. I passed a field out of town with two tents but it looked so forlorn I pushed onto the YHA at Ilam which I already knew was full.
I discovered the YHA occupied Ilam Hall, a magnificent National Trust property with the usual chequered history of changing hands and near demolition. I managed to persuade the YHA manager to allow me to stay the evening in the lounge and take advantage of the buffet and bar and lounge. Alas he still could not offer me accommodation so I set off in search in the grounds nearby. The annoying thing is that school parties book YHA accommodation by the dorm not by the bed for understandable reasons so beds were available but not for non school group members.
I discovered a small caravan park (not shown on the OS map) behind and associated with Ilam Hall that had access to toilets and showers.. The campsite warden apologised that the campsite was only for caravans but me being just a young man (his words) he pointed out a spot nearby just outside the park boundary that was just as good. I sweet talked one of the caravan park people to giving me the door code for the showers (and very hot and strong they were too).
And then I discovered several other places to rest my weary body for the night (apart from my tent) including the nearby church vestry, several dry but draughty alcoves, and a spot behind a sofa in the YHA when all the staff had retuired for the night.
So showered, fed and otherwise refreshed I enjoyed a night’s indoor accommodation free of charge, though I was happy to pay any reasonable amount on such a miserable cold rainy night.