From: Whiteacre Heath to Lichfield
Distance: 15m / 24km
Cumulated distance: 437m / 703km
Percentage completed: 42.5

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Following the cruisey day of yesterday I had a solid day planned for today. I was slightly apprehensive because whenever my sister joins me on a walk, the heavens open. Indeed, as we drove from her place back to Whitacre Heath, our starting point, the wipers had to fight hard to keep the windscreen clear. But the gods were smiling upon us as the rain cleared and  ‘Incy Wincy Spider climbed up the spout again’.

Setting off in Helks’ car

There was a bit of road walking ahead of us before we reached the delights of Kingsbury Water Park. We passed various small industrial parks, including one that had a huge statue of a gorilla outside the gates.

No plaque to explain why a statue of a gorilla was standing outside the industrial estate

Kingsbury Water Park is a series of 15 lakes fed by the River Tame. The Park lies between Birmingham and Tamworth and is a tranquil place, albeit for the hum of various motorways in the background. There was plenty of birdlife for us to see and all sorts of watery activities going on .. fishing, sailing, canoeing etc. Judging by the number of drakes hotly pursuing ducks, there will be a lot of cute little ducklings around in a month’s time.

Competing for her attention

 

Anglers at the lakeside

 

Helks captured the moment as the geese shook off the last vestiges of rain

 

Helks taking over navigational duties

My sister is a very fine map-reader.and it was a treat to hand the OS map to her. From the water park she took us to join the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal. There was a lot of water along the way with beautiful bulrushes and reeds. It was difficult to believe we were so close to cities.

Gorgeous reflections

The Birmingham and Fazeley Canal was built to provide a link between Coventry Canal and the city of Birmingham, so that there could be a connection via the Oxford Canal to transport coal to London. During its busy industrial days it was concealed behind high walls. In the 1980s, as many canals in the country were enjoying a renaissance, it was cleaned up and new access points were created, with the towpath resurfaced for walking. It starts in Gas Street Basin in the heart of Birmingham but by the time we joined the canal, it had made its way out into the green and peaceful Midlands countryside.

In contrast to the Stratford Canal, which I walked along the other day, it was quiet with little narrowboat traffic. But there was a fair amount of birdlife, including many voluble gulls on the waters to the right of the canal. There were lots of hides overlooking lakes, which my sister made a mental note to revisit another day, as the area is local to her.

Strong canal reflections

 

If this is Helks’ backpack for the day, I’m seriously concerned for how big it will be when she joins me for a week on the West Highland Way!

 

Teabreak number one in the bus shelter at Drayton Bassett

After a couple of hours of canal walking, the Heart of England Way took us north west into the countryside, walking along country lanes. The HOW is fantastically way-marked, unlike some others I could mention and the day was unmarred by any wrong turns or inadvertent loops .. and of course, my sister’s map-reading was faultless! We again remarked on the alarming amount of litter in the hedgerows and fly-tipping at the edge of fields. The Swedish have, in typical Scandinavian fashion, turned this unsightliness into a ‘virtue’. Click on this link to plogging and you’ll see how the nation keeps fit while cleansing the countryside. Let’s hope it goes global. www.businessinsider.com/plogging-is-the-new-eco-friendly-fitness-trend-thats-going-global-2018-4

Stiles across rolling hills

The day was a little grey but it didn’t prevent us from finding a spot overlooking the rolling green hills to stop for a cuppa. When the pastoral scene is overwhelmingly ‘English’ I play Vaughan Williams’ ‘The Lark Ascending’ on my iPhone. Unashamedly clichéed, I know but it makes me blissfully happy.

Pastoral perfection

Continuing on we came across a rather strange phenomenon .. I’d love for anyone to share with me what they think its purpose is, please! Essentially, it was a wide yellow path created across several fields using .. I don’t know what. Take a look:

Attempt at creating the ‘Yellow Brick Road’?

We walked over gentle hills, past copses of trees and observed plenty of everyday farming life in the Midlands.

Copse atop a hillock

 

Great place for a moth to fly, Patrick!

 

My sister attempting a little para-gliding

 

Beautiful red brick barns

Warwickshire gave way to Staffordshire and I celebrated my 7th county on the walk, as we crossed over a humming artery of the country.

County number 7!

As the evening birds started to sing, Lichfield with its three spired cathedral came into our sights. Not for the first time I imagined worshipers, from the Middle Ages to the advent of the car, being guided by the spires and towers of churches and cathedrals across Europe. A romantic notion, I know, but somehow satisfying to be doing just the same ourselves today.

Lichfield in the distance

As a kid growing up in Staffordshire, Lichfield with its unique triple spired cathedral was a familiar sight. The elegance of the three spires led the locals to call it ‘Ladies of the Vale’. Although it’s a beautiful Gothic building, it was preceded by a much older Saxon cathedral, which was consecrated on Christmas Day 700 and presided over by St Chad.

Lichfield Cathedral has two great treasures. One it’s always known about: the exquisite St Chad illuminated manuscript. The other item of great beauty lay protected under the stone floor, undisturbed by the millions of pilgrims, walking from nave to chancel, for over 1200 years. It is the Lichfield Angel, a rare Anglo-Saxon sculpture of Gabriel, still in pristine condition with much of the original painted surface intact. It was only in 2003, when the floor was being lifted up to erect a raised dais for recitals, that the discovery of the angel was made by builders. According to the Guardian, ’The angel also bears glowing witness to the understanding that the sober white and grey interiors of Europe’s historic churches once blazed with colours as lavish as any fairground carousel’. I’m looking forward to seeing it for myself tomorrow. 

Black Dog Tails
Excuse the poor image of His Holiness Leo and the Pope as they shake paws. Leo rescued a young girl from the rubble of an Italian earthquake and was then given a papal audience by way of reward.