It was 10a.m. as we pulled into the parking area near Wetton Mill and there was only one other car standing there. As we were pulling on coats and checking that car doors were locked a man approached us to ask if we were from the Hanley Walking Club. We said we weren't and he seemed disappointed. Apparently they were supposed to meet at 10a.m. for a walk - I do hope they all turned up eventually. We wandered along the trail from Wetton Mill towards Thor's Cave. The air was damp with just the occasional spot of rain and it was so peaceful that the quiet seemed almost touchable; just the occasional squawk of a crow or coo of a pigeon to break the intense silence. Two squirrels ran out of the undergrowth and along the path in front of us before they veered off to the other side, up the nearest tree and disappeared. A redstart flitted across a small field where two calves and their mother peered at us from the shelter of their disintegrating barn.
The last time we'd walked this route was in autumn when the trees and hedgerows were russet red to pale yellow in colour and the wild rose hips and sloes were lingering on the bushes along the pathway. Today the hedgerows were fresh and green and the predominant colour on the path sides was a silvery white interspersed occasionally with the pale bright blue of the meadow cranesbill which grows in profusion in this area. The white, of course, from the Cow Parsley or Keck as it is sometimes called. There was a huge expanse of it just near the pathway up to Thor's cave.
As we stood gazing up at the cave deciding that we couldn't make it up there today a voice said 'Does the bear still live in there?' We turned to see a man and his son who had been gazing at the information panel which had a picture of a bear in the mouth of the cave. He was smiling in fun but his son looked slightly worried. 'No', we said 'it's long gone' I think they were possibly Dutch or German but their spoken english was perfect. They set off to make their way up to the cave whilst we turned and made our way back to the mill arriving at the cafe just as the heavens opened. We sat with steaming hot mugs of coffee and pieces of homemade lemon cake, the tortoiseshell cat was in her usual place on one of the benches, used to all the fuss and attention she gets and taking it all in her stride, whilst outside the ducks gathered near the tables waiting for a crumb or two - unfortunately we were all inside with the cat.