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Staffordshire County Challenge Ride

Completed  September 2015 with Darrel Bray

As part of our new venture - British Long Distance Riders (bldr) we have started putting together a series of County Challenge Rides (see the bldr website for latest list of completed ridebooks). Having put together a roadbook for StaffordshireI thought it best to test ride it before publishing the final version. So on Saturday 19th September 2015 I set out to do this, accompanied by my friend Darrel.

After completing the Shropshire County Challenge a few weeks before I was eager to test out the second county ride I had put together and ride the route for Staffordshire, the county I now live in.

We met up at my house, Darrel would be on his 2013 BMW R1200GSA and I on the Honda CB500X. Although it was 9.30 by the time we left, it was still as foggy as Darrel had found it riding up from Ludlow, and for the first half hour visibility was quite difficult even on the dual carriageway heading north.


My GPS helpfully led us right past the turning for the first landmark (who looks at signposts anymore!) and tried to lead us across a very small track leading across Cannock Chase. We turned back and found the road into the German War memorial. I had been past here many times but never realised the significance of this place - after the second world war the bodies of all the German soldiers who had died in Britain were brought here and interred. The cemetery itself was closed but we took a photograph outside the main building before heading back across the Chase. The mist was still swirling across the road and the deer signs reminded us that this is one of the worst roads in the country for deer strikes.


We reached the county town of Stafford a few milesd own the road and then circled the centre following one way signs and trying to get close to the Ancient High House, the largest timber framed building in England. I had stopped outside it on the English Counties Ride but I think that was very early in the morning or late at night as the road is pedestrianised in the day and we ended up parking down the street and walking 100 yards back to take a photograph of the house, which is now a museum for the Staffordshire Regiment.

It was a bit of a pain riding round the town and I did think of changing the landmark but after finishing the ride decided it does add a different element to the ride and a bit of variety - although Stafford is not one of the only two cities in Staffordshire (both the other two are slightly odd, Stoke being made up of six towns joined together, and Lichfield only beign a city by right of having a cathedral), this was the only real urban riding for the day.

Riding out of Stafford we turned on to some country lanes and came to the memorial stone for the civil war Battle of Hopton Heath - not the most obvious of memorials, and no sign of any sort of battlefield now. We then had a pleasant ride through Admaston and over the Blithfield Reservoir to Abbots Bromley to grab a picture of the Buttercross there.


Two churches followed - first the parish church of St Peters at Yoxall, most famous for having had the body of Gladys Hammond dug up in 2004 by extremist Animal Rights protestors, protesting at the use of her family's farm for breeding guinea-pigs for medical testing. As we stopped for the photograph we were passed by a beautiful red BSA with a large dustbin fairing and had the delight of sitting behind it for a mile after that and listen to its exhaust. In Lichfield we visited the cathedral - again somewhere I had ridden past a number of times but never actually seen it is very impressive, reminding me more of German cathedrals than most English churches, and we stood and had a chat about its construction - both marvelling at how such building was possible over 900 years ago.


The day had become decidely warm by now and the next few landmarks were despatched fairly quickly over the next hour - most of the roads were A roads with some fast dual carriageway work in between. At Wall we only stopped long enough to photograph the sign for the Roman site of Letocetum, a staging post at the junction of Watling Street (now the A5) and Icknield Street (now the A38). We were particularly lazy in Tamworth - if you follow the signs for the Castle they take you to the castle car park which is across the river from the Castle itself, so we ended up with a fairly long range shot, but it does include the castle in it! We intended to stop at our next landmark, the National Memorial Arboretum, for a bite to eat - I had been there about 8 years before and remembered a small car park and coffee shop. it has grown immeasurably over the intervening years and the car park as was is now for disabled visitors only and there was a huge car park over the adjoining fields, with a large number of coaches; it was clearly very busy. Darrel had not been there before but we both agreed another, quieter time would be better to visit. So we carried on up the A38 to Burton, the home of brewing in Britain and home to the National Brewery Centre. We stopped at the Brewery Tap for a welcome pint and sandwich in the garden.


It was around 2pm by the time we got back on the bikes - and realsied we had only visited ten landmarks and had anotehr fifteen to go, so decided we had better push on. Comiing out of Burton i narrowly avoided being knocked off by a car pulling out right in front of me after the Land Rover in front of us had turned left - luckily I had seen her and had that feeling you get sometimes when you are riding that someone is going to do something stupid, and had enough time to swerve around her. Darrel who was following me did say she looked suitably apologetic!