We drove to Keele, listening to a programme about Bob Dylan (with Lenny Henry struggling to discover what all the fuss is about), which led me to force Jennie to listen to my favourite Dylan track Idiot Wind: ‘blowing every time you move your mouth, Blowing down the backroads headin’ south.’ Which we were.
Jennie dropped me of in Keele village, and I resumed walking vaguely towards Brighton. First of all I wandered through the university campus. I had expected my ‘marketing mind’ to kick in, evaluating USPs and other quanta of desire, but I never really felt I’d arrived at the actual university. Some of it seemed almost abandoned, though the some of the older buildings were attractive, leading to a fantasy of romanticised students playing Secret/Midnight Garden games on moonlit lawns.
Then I was walking out down a treelined avenue, through some woods right alongside the motorway, and under the M6.
I passed some forbidding farm buildings, then followed an overgrown path to a short and scary stretch of A-road. (Perhaps not surprising that the path was overgrown as it only leads to a bend where hurtling death-machines accelerate towards you, with nowhere to retreat except hedges that springily force one outwards…)
But this brought me to a road with a cool name (adorned with sadly deflated balloons):
From there I walked through Swynnerton Old Park and Hanchurch Heath, experiencing major deja vu – I’m convinced that J and I walked here, back in the mid-90s when we did such things, perhaps in a route from a magazine.
Here I found a sign about woodland donated by Lord Stafford for the ‘perpetual enjoyment’ of the people, a nice concept, like perpetual motion. I contributed my share of enjoyment, got slightly lost, found another overgrown pathway which led to a filed of head-high rape. I detoured around this, and eventually recrossed the motorway, three hours after first crossing it (having made a journey that would be a few heedless minutes on the motorway itself.)
I marched along beside pylons for a while, then traversed the A34 near Tittensor, fortunately with less traffic danger. The wide grassy central reservation reminded me of a story by Gene Wolfe titled (I think) ‘Three Million Square Miles’, which I read in an anthology of SF stories on environmental themes called ‘Ruins of Earth’ back in the 70s. In the story as I remember it, the protagonist searches for the vast tracts of land in the US that are simply unaccounted for, and realises that they are comprised of tiny anonymous bits of territory, odd parcels of space that don’t have a real identity or purpose, but are simply there.
I met up briefly with Jen at Barlaston, having snapped some killer material for her Democracy and Proper Drains blog. However the charms of Barlaston failed to lure us in, and I continued on alongside the Trent and Mersey canal.
(If the sprayer of this graffiti wished to denote sympathy with the Thule-Gesellschaft, Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei or other historical unpleasantness they have botched the job by drawing it the wrong way round. Still, my advice would be don’t bother having another it’s not big and it’s not clever, fool.)
After a while it became another pleasant canalside walk. Strange sounds; a distant, invisible fairground and the bass hum of an electrical installation. A Virgin train sped past, on a route I have whizzed along many times, without observing this stretch of water, this place in all its particularness.
The approach to Stone was gentle. Some new buildings offereing a ‘marketing suite’ made me feel at home (my marketing receptors sated at last.)
I finished off with a drink at the Swan, a nice pub with real-ale selection that is, according to its MySpace page, aged 47 and male.
Start 53.005288, -2.289468
Finish 52.899530, -2.146720
13.4 miles of Staffordshire loveliness
28 June 2008