Walk 6: Hidden Valleys

This walk showcases the spectacular diversity and beauty of the Staffordshire countryside and waterways. A walk for all seasons.

6 miles - 150 mins

Turn right out of Canalside Farm gate.  Within a few seconds you will cross the road bridge which spans the Trent and Mersey Canal – the UK’s first long distance canal stretching 93.5 miles in length, built by James Brindley in 1777 and championed by Josiah Wedgwood to transport pottery from his factory in Stoke on Trent.

Turn immediately left and walk down to join the Trent and Mersey Canal towpath. Turn right on the tow path and walk over the historical Junction Bridge that crosses the head of the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal (c.1771). Continue on the towpath for approximately 200 yards (180 metres) to Haywood’s very busy Georgian canal lock!

At the lock go under the stone footbridge and turn immediately right. Walk through the iron gate and bare left to cross the historic Essex Bridge (c1550) leading on to the Shugborough Estate.

This grade 1 listed bridge was reputedly built by the Earl of Essex for Queen Elizabeth 1st to visit him in nearby Chartley Castle! Today it lays claim to being the longest remaining packhorse bridge in England with fourteen of its original forty round span arches left. From the bridge it looks like 3 rivers meet here, but it is actually only two – the Trent and the Sow. The third is a detour of the Sow which was man-made to run close to Shugborough Hall for aesthetic value!

Continue straight ahead, walking down the bridle way across the park. On your right you will see the palatial Shugborough Hall, a grade-I listed mansion house dating back to the 1700’s and home to the Earl of Lichfield. Today the estate is managed by the National Trust, whose ticket office you will pass on the right after about 10 minutes.

Pass through the gate ahead and continue over the railway bridge following the drive round to the right.  After the next bend, to the left, you will see a gate on the right. Walk through it and follow the ascending track through the woodland.

At the first marker post (after 200 yards/180 metres) follow the orange arrow left, up the bank, and then down the other side to the gate.  Cross almost straight over this main track and up the bank opposite, continuing on this path (which runs parallel to the main road), until it emerges into a parking area.

Cross the car park taking the left fork on exit.  Cross the main road going into a second parking area (known as the Punch Bowl), then head left towards the exit.  Look for a small cut-through in the fence –  if you get to a gate you have passed the entry point and need to go back! Once through the fence, follow the narrow track until it forks. Go right and then right again to join a wider track up the valley with a stream to the right. 

Sherbrook Valley is very beautiful in springtime with parts awash with bluebells! In fact the whole of Cannock Chase (where you now are) was officially designated an ‘Area of Outstanding National Beauty’ in 1958, with its gentle valleys, forests, woods, heathlands, parklands, wildlife and plant communities recognised as part of the UK’s historic landscape dating back thousands of years. Whilst on the Chase do look out for wild deer that still roam freely and ‘probably’ descended from the original herd introduced in Norman times for hunting purposes!

Carry on this pathway until you emerge onto a main track in a grassy area. Turn left, however to your right you will see ‘Stepping Stones’ where you can take a well deserved rest before you embark on the final stage of the walk.

Walk for about ½ a mile along this main track. At the marker post go a further 20 yards  (18 metres) before taking a minor woodland track to the left.  This track follows the outside of a field and leads down through a gully to the main road (again, beautiful at bluebell time!).

Carefully cross the road and ascend the small bank ahead, continuing straight down a steep bank. 

At the bottom of the bank, continue straight towards the fence (do not cross) to pick up a single track in the woodlands which heads towards the railway bridge and river.

Follow this track to the right, as it continues beside the river. It eventually emerges up a small steep bank on to the road side.  Turn left and walk for about 50 yards (45 metres) before turning left across a cobbled bridge and down Meadow Lane, towards Little Haywood.  Before entering Little Haywood village, at the canal bridge go down the steps on the right.  Turn left, go under the bridge and follow the towpath back to our farm just under 1½ miles away.