First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
Consall Nature Park is a truly fantastic resource for nearby Stoke-on-Trent – a network of colour-coded paths in a proper wild tangle of steep woods and stream canyons.
On a cold spring morning we set out to explore. A duckboard path took us down over stodgy black bog to cross a stream in a dell shaggy with moss. Steps rose and steps fell over the shoulders of wooded promontories as we followed the white and purple trails through the Nature Park. A bench perched high on a west-facing ledge of Far Kingsley Banks gave a view across massed treetops of smoky green and milky purple, a subtle touch of spring’s finger on these awakening woods.
On past distorted oaks throwing swollen arms in all directions, down a long flight of knee-cracking steps, and out into the bottom of the Churnet Valley. We crossed the River Churnet tumbling over its sandstone ledges, then the track of the Churnet Valley Railway, and the silver strip of the Caldon Canal whose barges once shifted locally mined ironstone to Froghall.
We followed the canal as far as the gothic arch of Cherryeye Bridge, then climbed steeply up through forestry into upland fields walled with stone and open to the wind. Great puffing gouts of blue-brown coal smoke from the valley bottom showed where the steam engines of the Churnet Valley Railway were getting their spring blow-through.
A plunge down through Booth’s Wood, a zigzag of steps up to Booth’s Hall Farm in a sea of old tyres and hay bales. Down again to the railway and canal, and a towpath stroll to the Black Lion at Consall Forge. A quick stop for a drink in the company of a local humorist and his glossy labrador – the latter a complete fool for pork scratchings – and we were back in Consall Nature Park on the homeward trail.
Start: Consall Nature Park Visitor Centre car park, near Leek, Staffs ST9 0AF (OS ref SJ 994484)
Getting there: ‘Consall Hall Gardens’ signed off A52 (Stoke-on-Trent – Ashbourne) between Kingsley and Cellarhead.
Walk (5½ miles, moderate-strenuous, OS Explorers 258, 259; download trail map at staffordshire.gov.uk): From car park, pass ‘Follow the coloured posts’ notice. Path downhill; at Heron Pool, fork right downhill (Red Walk, White Walk). Opposite ‘Lower Lady Park Wood’ sign on right, go left down steps. Duckboard path across stream; up steps to post with yellow arrows/YA (996481). Left down to stream (don’t cross!); up again (many steps!) and follow White Walk. In 300m pass bench; in another 150m, fork right on Purple Walk (999483, ‘Far Kingsley Banks’ notice, purple post). In 250m (001483) descend long flight of steps. At bottom, cross stream; in 30m, by ‘Consall Nature Park’ notice (003484), Purple Walk forks right; but you fork left down steps to cross River Churnet, Churnet Valley Railway and Caldon Canal.
Turn right (004484) along canal towpath for ¾ mile to pass under Bridge 53/Cherryeye Bridge (014482). Right over stile (‘Moorlands Walk/MW’); cross bridge; follow MW directly up little slope; steeply on up to valley top and stile into field (017483, MW). Ahead to far wall; left along it. In 200m, wall turns right; keep ahead here into wood (017486, MW). Down to footbridge; up steep steps to field (015488). Follow MW to Booth’s Hall Farm. Aim right of barn (MW), then house; pass Orchard View; follow fence on left to field corner (011490). Left through kissing gate (MW); right along fence/hedge. Where it bends away right, keep ahead past telephone pole (YA) through gap with bank (008489) to Glenwood House.
Follow YAs to left, and on into field (006488). Follow right-hand hedge to stile (004488, MW) into wood. Down to road and canal (001487). Right under Bridge 50B; towpath past Consall station to Black Lion PH (000492). Go under railway bridge; left across canal bridge 50 and river bridge. Left along riverside track past Consall station; on past ‘Consall Nature Park’ sign to cross road (000486); follow white posts back to Visitor Centre.
Conditions: many short, steep ascents, descents and steps
Lunch: Black Lion, Consall Forge (01782-550294; blacklionpub.co.uk)
Accommodation: The Manor, Cheadle ST10 1NZ (01538-753450, themanorcheadle.co.uk)
Consall Nature Park: 01782-550939 or 302030; staffordshire.gov.uk. Visitor Centre open 2-4, weekends, BH.
Info: Leek TIC (01538-483741)