This walk showcases over 450 years of Staffordshire’s royal and industrial heritage.
4.5 miles - 120 mins
Walk out of the pedestrian access from our farm’s car park (A). Cross the road and turn right. Walk along the road for a few metres and after crossing over the canal, turn immediately left and walk down to join the Trent and Mersey Canal towpath. Turn right along the towpath and go over the cobbled Junction Bridge (1), one of the earliest canal bridges built in England, which spans the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal.
Continue straight for 100m until you reach Hayward Canal Lock. Dip under the footbridge, then turn right through a gate to join the footpath. Turn left to go over the historic Essex Bridge (2), which was built by the Earl of Essex for Queen Elizabeth I, so that when she visited the estate she could go hunting in the woodland around the village.
Continue straight following the bridleway through Shugborough Park, passing on the right the stately Shugborough Hall, ancestral home of the Earls of Lichfield. The fifth Earl of Lichfield, Patrick, was renown for his society photographs, the most famous being the formal portraits for the Prince of Wales’s marriage to Lady Diana Spencer in 1981.
After a few minutes you will then pass Park Farm buildings on your right followed by the National Trust admissions building and carpark (3). Continue ahead following this widened driveway, out towards the main road. Having passed through a gate across the driveway and gone over a railway bridge, walk round the bend to the right and then the bend to the left; after which (with the road exit in sight) you will see a pedestrian gate on the right leading into a wooded area (4). Take this path and follow it uphill.
At the next fingerpost continue uphill in the direction of the grey arrow. At the next fingerpost, where the track forks, take the left fork uphill – do not follow the grey arrow. On reaching a small clearing keep left, continuing in an uphill direction on the straight path ahead. As the woodlands track levels turn left to a gate. Go through the gate, straight ahead and follow the wide track (5). Go past the fenced and hidden reservoir on the right, and at the 6th boxed tree, take the left fork away from the reservoir. Emerge from trees onto a grassy track and take the right fork, passing 3 oak trees on left. As you start to descend there is a great view towards Stafford with The Wrekin (Shropshire’s iconic hill) on the horizon.
Nearing the bottom of the track bear left towards the road. At the road turn right towards Milford. After walking 50 metres turn right at the junction, continuing on the road past Shugborough Estate main gate (6). This road will take you over a railway line, then over the River Sow (7), which is a tributary of the River Trent and home to native fish species including roach, pike, bream and chub.
A little further on you will reach a canal bridge (across the Staffordshire and Worcestershire canal). Take the steps down on the left of the canal bridge and turn right under the bridge onto the towpath. Follow this towpath past Tixall Lock (8) and on to Tixall Wide (9).
Tixall Wide is a widened area of the canal which under the guidance of ‘England’s greatest gardener” Capability Brown, was made to look like a lake to appease the landowner (Thomas Clifford) who could see it from his house! Tixall Wide is now a popular overnight mooring spot for narrowboats, and if you look back from this point, you will see a lovely view of Tixall Hall’s magnificent Elizabethan gatehouse (c.1580). Although the house no longer stands, it was used to imprison Mary Queen of Scots for 2 weeks just months before she was taken to Fotheringhay Castle in Northamptonshire and beheaded (1597).
Follow the towpath approximately 2km back to Great Haywood’s Junction Bridge (1), which you crossed at the start of the walk. When you reach Junction Bridge, turn left and walk back up to the road. Turn right back to our farm (A).