Long Walks in July 2024

3 July 2024 Trentham to Stone  Leader: Kath & Elaine, Length of walk: 9.5 miles, Driving Distance: 19 miles, Number walking: 15

Parking is at Trentham Gardens

Click here to see a map of the walk.

All the drivers followed instructions and parked near the Premier Inn at Trentham Gardens, taking advantage of the free parking and toilets but ignoring the many shopping opportunities. There was slight rain on the journey south but little during the walk. The walkers set off in waterproofs and had to remove layers after a while as they generated some warmth. The sun made an occasional appearance, but the day was mostly cloudy.

The group left Trentham Gardens by climbing into King’s Wood and then followed the fence surrounding the Monkey Forest. Although the fence is alleged to retain a large group of Barbary macaques, none of the walkers claimed to have seen one. Possibly the fence no longer interests the animals when they realise that they can’t climb over it.

A final steep climb led the group to the monument commemorating what a great human being was the first Duke of Sutherland. His family seat was at Trentham Hall and, when he was made a Duke (for services to the Liberal Party), he chose Sutherland as his title to honour his wife, who was independently the Countess of Sutherland and owned massive chunks of Scottish countryside. Inscribed on the monument is the following:

“An upright and patriotic nobleman-a judicious kind and liberal landlord-who identified the improvement of his vast estates-with the prosperity of all who cultivated them-a public yet unostentatious benefactor-who while he provided useful employment-for the active labourer-opened wide his hand to the distresses-of the widow the sick and the traveller.”

In recent years the reputation of the Duke has been bought into question, in particular his connections with the slave trade, the poor working conditions of the mines he owned, and his involvement with the Highland Clearances.

After the coffee stop by the monument, the group continued south to Tittensor. After skirting the edge of the village, the walkers crossed the A34 and dived into a path overgrown with nettles and long grass. Those wearing shorts bore the insults to their skin with patient dignity.

The next stop was Barlaston and, to get there the group crossed the River Trent, the Trent and Mersey Canal and the main west cost rail line. After those exertions, the group fell in with a group of ladies outside the old Wedgwood College, who insisted on bringing up the murder that took place there in 1952. To cut a long story short, the perpetrator was the chauffeur, who had been sacked a short time earlier. He was hanged.

The green at Barlaston hosts a few scattered picnic tables as if the people who installed them intended there to be no fraternisation between tables. The group made good use of them for lunch.

The next leg of the journey crossed empty countryside including the National Trust property of Downs Banks. It was here that a woman walking two dogs had great difficulty preventing one of them from attacking the group. It noisily threatened the group as the woman dragged it away. The fact that it was muzzled may give an indication of its previous violent history. This section of the walk crossed two streams with the option of walking through the water or going dry-shod. Few chose the watery option.

The route joined the towpath of the Trent and Mersey Canal on the outskirts of Stone and continued into the town until it was time to leave the canal to find a bus stop. Another murder was discussed here. This time it was the case of Christina Collins in 1839. She was found dead in the canal at Rugeley after travelling to London on the Staffordshire Knot narrow boat. She had complained to the authorities that the crew had used “coarse language” and feared that the men “were going to meddle with her” but there was no alternative to the boat. The case was used as the plot of an episode of the Morse detective series but a BBC TV programme – Murder, Mystery and My Family – investigated the actual case and found that there was no evidence that Christina was murdered and evidence of a confession from one of the boat crew was tainted. The captain and one of the boatmen on the Staffordshire Knot were hanged and another boatman was transported. They and their descendants would be heartened to hear that their convictions were unsound.

As the group emerged on to the road to catch the bus back to Trentham, that very bus sailed past. You can’t blame the leaders for not making the walkers move faster; the group once had lunch at the distressingly late time of 2pm because they wouldn’t walk fast enough.

© Sandbach U3A 2024