Shustoke to Lichfield
I stayed in the Old Station Guest House which was ok for the cheap price. I just ordered toast for breakfast because we had a long 34km walk to Lichfield ahead of us and the Guest House still had an air of British Rail inefficiency about it.
My iPhone struggled to recognise me when it was time to pay, presumably due to the bandage although it worked at the pub last night. At 7.20 I was on my way.
Disaster! The HS2 team had set up shop nearby. Perhaps they will convert the Old Station Guest House into a sleek new terminal. My path was closed and blocked and I couldn’t get anywhere near the Heart of England Way. A closure order by the council was displayed referring me to the new diversion signs, none of which existed. Just like yesterday.
I trekked out to the huge Shustoke reservoir and circumnavigated it. Then I cut through a thick wood to a fast flowing river and followed it for a long way looking for a crossing point. My luck was in. A tree had fallen across the river and I scrambled over. Immediately after the river was the railway line but Google knew about a bridge near the Guest House so I hurried back and crossed the line. Now I could back track to find her on the other side of the HS2 works.
“Tim, where have you been?”, she said, looking at her watch. “It’s almost 8.30”. “How’s your head?” We set off quickly because she was panicking about something. I knew what it was but it no longer mattered.
There was an incredible wind blowing which I considered good practice for the Pennine Way and we had prolonged rainfall too. We walked through more of the same mixed agriculture: sheep, cows, potatoes and barley.
We reached Kingsbury at coffee time but the choice was limited to two cafes. They occupied the same small parade of shops. One was only serving takeaways and was dead. The other was operating normally and was busy. It was the sort of cafe which people who’ve never been inside, call a greasy spoon. The rest call them a caff. The staff were friendly, addressing me like an old lover. I ordered scrambled eggs on toast but they were cremated inside a microwave oven.
We didn’t stay long. The greengrocer next door displayed some juicy peaches on the pavement but he wouldn’t accept ApplePay and I regretted being so generous with the barmaid last night.
We walked through the large Kingsbury water park which had birds galore and a fantastic narrow gauge railway. Sadly the trains were not running because of you know what but some people were working on the signals.
We passed a number of HS2 people enabling their never to be built railway. Everyone had some high tech specialist vehicle and several more were parked in little compounds protected by robotic devices. They had accidentally knocked over a Heart of England Way signpost and left it in a ditch, pointing the wrong way.
The rain fell again. I can’t remember it ever raining in 1971.
“What ever happened to Mary?” she asked.
“She was your friend”.
“She was your’s too”.
It was Mary who had Leonard Cohen’s LP. The first one. You can still buy it but I’ve not heard it since those days.
We walked on in silence.
There was a field of pigs for a change and lots of birds flying around. But it was a desolate path today, nowhere to get lunch so we didn’t stop again until the outskirts of Lichfield. There was a lovely pub called the Horse and Jockey with two barmaids who asked me about my walk.
The Premier Inn awaited me in the centre of Lichfield with its choice of breakfasts. The receptionist also asked me about my walk and she then told the manager who said, “just say if there’s anything you need”.
There will be no update tomorrow because it’s a rest day. So don’t worry. I’ll be back on Sunday when we must say farewell to the Heart of England Way.