Walking in the land of Gingerbread.

Audley’s Cross stands in a middle of a field and marks the spot where Lord Audley fell during the battle of Blore Heath. There is no public path to this location.

Why waste a fine day I thought! It’s time to go off for a walk and so it is a later than usual start for this walk. I have decided to walk from the Shropshire market town of Market Drayton which is synonymous with the making of gingerbread but why?
Gingerbread was introduced into Britain during the 14th century but the earliest record of gingerbread in Market Drayton comes from the late seventeen hundreds. By the early nineteen hundreds there were several bakers making gingerbread in the town and today, Billington’s is the only brand with a connection with the town.
The town was originally known as Drayton before Henry III granted a charter for a market in 1245 which still exists today.

I’m setting out from the large free but almost full car park close to the leisure centre on the southern edge of the town and first follow lanes to Broomhall Grange before taking a good

field path to Almington. I briefly follow the road through the village before taking an equally good path towards Blore Heath. I want to see if I can get to the cross at Blore Heath which does mean a trespass across a field. For a short distance I have to follow the A53 and with no pavements it means frequently leaping up and down onto the narrow verge. I chose a quiet moment in the passing traffic to scale a fence then to over a field to the cross marking the site where Lord Audley who was in command of the Lancastrian forces fell in the Battle of Blore Heath during the War of the Roses. The battle was fought on the 23rd of September 1459 and was one of the first major battles during this conflict which lasted more than thirty years. Despite the Yorkists being heavily outnumbered, and after a long standoff, their tack ticks won the day by falsely retreating to coax the Lancasterian forces across an overgrown valley where the Yorkists then counter attacked and won the day. Afterwards the Yorkist army pursued the Lancastrian forces across several miles of countryside.

Hales Church stands in a prominent position on a embankment.

I head south next via quiet lanes to the village of Hales where I opted to have lunch on a seat in the elevated churchyard. There has been a church on this site since Anglo-Saxon times but the prominent church here today dates from 13th century and the tower itself is 16th century. The path south from the village crosses the wide and peaceful valley of Coal Brook but somehow I lose the path as I near Wood Farm and end up on the main farm drive instead of crossing a field further west. Nearing the next lane, I hear a rustling noise behind me and on turning I now witness a dust devil or mini tornado which picks up straw and light material as it whorls across the field behind me. It is little more than ten feet wide but is picking up light material to a height of around thirty feet. At the end of the field it suddenly fizzles out but the event is far too quick for me to capture it on my camera. I now follow a quiet lane south in the warm spring sunshine before taking a good field track onto Cheswardine. The name of the village in Old English probably means ‘cheese producing settlement’. In Norman times there stood a moated manor house at the northern end of the village which later was rebuilt as a castle but today only earthworks remain in a wooded area. The village church of St Swithun’s just south of the original castle overlooks the village street and is the third church to stand on this site and the present building dates from late Victorian times.

The field path leading from Hales towards Cheswardine makes fine walking on a sunny spring day.

St Swithun’s Church, Cheswardine is the third church to stand on this site. It commands a fine view over the village.

Stonehenge in miniature. These stones are located on a residential road in Cheswardine.

I pause awhile here before taking a minor road to the west and passing a miniature stone circle on the roadside. At the back of some houses I take a path up to Haywood Lane which I now follow west from the village for a short distance. I soon branch left to take a field path down to the Shropshire Union Canal. The canal was once one of the main transport arteries across England prior to the coming of the railways. Today it is popular with leisure craft..

The Shropshire Union Canal close to Goldstone Bridge near Cheswardine.

I next follow the towpath the short distance along to Goldtstone Bridge then take the road west for about a half mile. A track then field paths are followed northwest next to reach Woodseaves Manor Farm and just beyond here I cross the A529. A short lane walk follows before I take a path across a field then it is along another lane southwest to Lower Sydnall. Branching right and following what is shown on the map as a road used as a public path I expect a well defined route but as it turns out it is just a faint path along a field boundary. The next path north is not defined and crosses large fields and for much of the way it is mostly guesswork. I eventually reach Sutton Farm and here turn right then left to follow a very uneven path along the edge of a recently ploughed field. I am thankful at the end to turn left on the quiet Sandy Lane. A good track runs north towards Market Drayton next and this is marked as a right of way of later maps. Entering the town I cross Walkmill Bridge which spans the infant river tern and afterwards I turned right to follow the residential road back to the car.