As I had been able to get an early start on the
The Churnet Valley Line was originally part of a network of lines built for the North Staffordshire Railway, which eventually merged into the London Midland and Scottish. It was built with the intention of being a main route between
Most trains were therefore run as local services between Macclesfield and Uttoxeter, although some special journeys were laid on the promote
South of Kingsley and Froghall Station the preservation society has plans to re-connect to Oakamoor and potentially
This railway path proved to be extremely rewarding to explore, since it still has more than its fair share of railwayana still in place. As well as some well-preserved looking bridges, there are three stations still with intact platforms and the scenery is most beautiful. Unlike the
I started my journey at Oakamoor Station, where there is an ample (although popular) car park. Only the platforms remain of the station as the buildings burned down many years ago. However, to the north of the station the old level crossing keeper’s cottage remains intact as a wonderful reminder of what the buildings at the station may have looked like. Beyond that the portal of Oakamoor Tunnel sits at the end of a shady looking cutting. The trackbed is still in good condition here and it would be relatively easy to re-open this piece of railway.
After having a nose around at Oakamoor I headed south in the direction of Uttoxeter. The trackbed follows the river for most of the way to Denstone, although after leaving Oakamoor it is largely out of sight for most of the way. Unlike the
Just over a mile into the route and I came upon the first railway bridge. Lots of walkers seemed to be heading across it and so I thought I would be nosy and find out where they were going. I crossed the River Churnet and found a most attractive teashop that looked like an Italian Villa. I got the urge to have an ice cream but soon gave up on the idea when I saw how long the queue was. Slightly disappointed I pushed on although made a mental note to explore this area in more detail on another day since the surrounding forest looked most inviting.
Back at the railway I headed on towards
It is easy to see why the Churnet Valley Railway are anxious to incorporate
At the far end of the station I trundled through the tunnel like overbridge carrying the main road into the village. Alongside the bridge was a large but derelict warehouse type building. As a piece of heritage it looked great but I would fear for its long term future. The
Pushing on from
As it was now late afternoon, I entered a shadowy world on the other side of the bridge, as the sun was unable to penetrate the valley side. The effect on the trackbed was noticeable too, with a rather more difficult surface than I had had to encounter thus far. At the far end of this short section I caught sight of a house on my left hand side poking up just above the cutting. I took a closer look at the first opportunity, where a gateway existed a little further on. The sight of a derelict looking farm surprised me, especially as it had such a lovely setting, with the river in front and plenty of garden. I was puzzled as to why such a place could have become empty and unloved looking. I am guessing that it is probably a bit too far gone for anyone to fix it up now.
The onward trip to Denstone was rather less interesting but the end of the track at Denstone did serve up a couple of treats. Firstly the platforms of the old station are still intact and despite the loss of the buildings the site of the station seems to have been shown some love in recent years. It has a train related play area for small children at one end of the station and a picnic area for adults on the platforms at the other end. Sadly the trackbed beyond the station has been obliterated by the addition of a dreaded housing estate. Alongside the station was a rather fine, if modern, looking church. I took the opportunity to have a good look around at both and stopped for refreshments in the picnic area. I like to use these moments to consider what these places would have looked like when operational. I guessed this would have always been a rather sleepy station, with bursts of activity from school children arriving and departing at the nearby
By now the time was getting on and I summoned the strength to head back to Oakamoor. It was a nice quiet ride back, but when I got to the old station at the far end of the track I was rather shocked to see that my car was the last one remaining in the car park, from the dozens that had been there when I left! I had the horrible thought that I might be locked in, but discovered to my relief that there is no lockable gate. I was just more patient for my tea than anyone else!
This was a most rewarding ride. I wished that I had had the time to undertake the other section of line north of Leek, but there are several miles between the two sections and this will have to wait for another time. There is plenty of railway history to sustain the historian and most beautiful and gentle scenery to attract everyone else! The Rambler’s Retreat looks a most agreeable place to stop for refreshments half way along the track if you haven’t managed to bring any with you. Perhaps next time I come here it will be on board a train?