A useful if utilitarian connecting route through Midland countryside, this runs from the edge of Cannock Chase through Lichfield, past the canal villages of Fradley and Alrewas, to Burton-on-Trent and Derby.
Lichfield deserves to be more on the tourist trail than it is, not just for its magnificent cathedral but also for independent shops and cafes. Heading north, do detour a few yards to Fradley Junction, a bustling canal scene where you can sit outside the Swan Inn or Kingfisher Café and watch the boats face off at the busy junction.
After Alrewas, another canal village, the route follows the footpath beside the A38 for one thoroughly unpleasant mile. You’ll have a more enjoyable ride on the unsurfaced towpath, though it is very narrow so take care with walkers. The green lane from Wychnor to Barton-under-Needwood can be rough and is not really road bike territory.
The route through the southern part of Burton-on-Trent follows roadside paths through industrial areas – safe but hardly inspiring. Again, we’d suggest diverting onto the unpaved canal towpath. After Shobnall Meadows, however, the route becomes much more enjoyable, paralleling the canal on an old railway line.
One more unpleasant stretch by the A38 takes the route to Eggington, and then, at Etwall, an excellent railway path into Derby city centre.
In future, the route will continue further up the Derwent Valley into the Peak District; and hopefully some of the less enjoyable sections can be replaced with an improved canal towpath route.