Wood Anemone The Churnet Valley - Winter Days Out
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Winter weather doesn't generally agree with me and I'm usually content to wait 'til Easter before I get back into the countryside. However, in the late winter of 2006 there was a period of cold but sunny weather that I couldn't resist exploiting.

Click the images to enlarge.

Day out number one started in Oakamoor in the car park next to the former copper and brass works. T.P. stands for Thomas Patton: one of the former owners.

There's not much of it left now, except these gate posts. The works were served by the North Staffordshire Railway and before that the Uttoxeter Canal, which accounts for the boggy stripe of different-coloured grass.

Having no leaves on the trees lets the light in. The entrance to Oakamoor railway tunnel would be obscured in shadow, if this was summer.

There is also much less undergrowth at this time of year. This narrow cut in the line of the old canal is about the right shape for a lock. The general position suggests Ottersley Bank Lock, but it's hard to be sure. It could be just a ditch, after all.

The winter sun shines through the trees at Lord's Bridge illuminating the former railway and canal.

Approaching Alton from Red Road, the Castle basks in the low winter sun while the river meanders through shade. When I reached Alton, it started to snow, so I turned back up the valley and headed for home.

Walk number two started on a frosty afternoon in Alton. Down the valley towards Denstone, the former Uttoxeter Canal had a layer of ice on it.

The lack of leaves on the trees and obscuring undergrowth made the shape of Carringtons Lock clear.

Below the lock, the old canal runs into the Churnet at Crumpwood Weir, before emerging through the flood lock on the other side.

Climbing out of the valley towards Saltersford Lane, it was still a cold day despite the sunshine, so I was somewhat surprised to meet a nutter in shorts.

In a field, off the lane, some horned cattle were basking contentedly in the sun. That was just as well because there was no gate keeping them in there.

Out of the sun, the deeply-rutted mud of the lane was frozen solid, making for easy walking back to Alton.

That was it for winter 2006. At the time of writing, spring has come and it's hardly stopped raining since. Saltersford Lane is probably a sea of mud now, although the line of stones from its days as a packhorse route should keep it passable with care. I noticed a large number of bluebells pushing through the mud there, which should look great in a few weeks time. The rest of the valley is starting to green up too and many of its former industrial features will soon disappear back into the undergrowth. I'm not complaining, though. I enjoyed my winter days out but I prefer sunny days that are also warm, whatever the bloke in the shorts might think.