During the previous evening, at our request, Vikki the receptionist arranged for our rucksacks to be sent by taxi to our next port of call – The Mount Hotel in Tettenhall, near Wolverhampton.
Walking without rucksacks seemed to increase our pace as we left Penkridge, initially heading north-west towards the hamlet of Mitton. The terrain was flat and featureless; the tedium was lightened by the company of two ladies who were walking the Penkridge to Brewood stretch of the Way. We travelled together between Mitton and Lapley through the marshy Bickford Meadows Nature Reserve. It took all four of us to figure our way around Longnor Farm; there had obviously been considerable change at the farm since the publication of the Way’s official guide; many waymarkers and signs were absent. Fortunately, the church tower at Lapley provided a sturdy landmark.
From Lapley, it was but a short walk to the towpath of The Shropshire Union Canal, which at this point, was slicing through a wooded cutting. After about a mile on the towpath, we crossed the Stretton Aqueduct, one of the last aqueducts designed by Thomas Telford, constructed in 1832. It crosses the busy A5. Continuing along the towpath in a south-easterly direction, we soon reached the village of Brewood.
It was the hour of lunch, and there was an eatery, The Bridge Inn, conveniently positioned adjacent to the canal. We were enjoying chicken and mushroom pie in a stilton sauce, when Julia’s crown came away! This was a dental rather than a millinery problem. Fortunately Julia was not in pain and gingerly finished her pie, which proved to be gorgeous.
After lunch, we crossed the canal to have a peek at St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church. Like Alton Towers (and the interior of the Palace of Westminster)), it had been designed by Augustus Pugin. From the church, the Way took us through Brewood, past the incongruously grand façade of Speedwell Castle. This 18th century folly had apparently been built out of the proceeds of betting successfully on the Duke of Bolton’s horse, Speedwell!
The afternoon was somewhat overcast as we continued south over undemanding terrain; past Chillington Hall with its mile-long avenue of oaks; over the M54 by footbridge. We arrived in Codsall at about four o’clock, and as luck would have it, we stumbled upon a traditional, welcoming tearoom in the centre of the village. Codsall was the end of our planned walk for the day.
We were unsure as to how we could best get to Tettenhall. We walked on to the railway station at Codsall with a view of catching a train into Wolverhampton, but this would have entailed a wait of nearly an hour. So we rang for a taxi, and as this also entailed a wait, albeit of only twenty minutes, we wandered into Codsall Railway Station. Lo and behold! It was a public house! It retained the atmosphere of the old waiting room. The walls were festooned with railway memorabilia. It seemed a little early for a half. But what the heck! We were on holiday!
It didn’t seem very far to Tettenhall. This is really a suburb on the western fringe of Wolverhampton. The Mount Hotel was in the hands of Charles Mander, the paint and varnish manufacturer, at the end of the nineteenth century. His cousin, Theodore Mander, built Wightwick Manor at about that time, less than a mile from The Mount. Wightwick remains as a testament to late nineteenth century sensibility, particularly the art and craft movement – well worth a visit.
Having not organised luggage transfer before, we were greatly relieved to find our rucksacks in our room. Having lunched well in Brewood, we just had fish cakes in the Mount’s bar, before returning to our room for what was now becoming a bit of a tradition – falling asleep with the TV on!