Downs Banks dog walk
Downs Banks, near Stone, StaffordshireRoute details and mapDownload as a print friendly PDF
This little wilderness of woodlands and heath in the heart of the West Midlands is a fantastic place to explore with your dog. Take a little exercise and enjoy the fresh air on this 1.5 mile (2.4km) route alongside the stream, or if you’re both feeling energetic, add 0.5 mile (0.8km) more and climb uphill for fantastic panoramic views. A great escape from the busy towns of Stone, Stoke-on-Trent and Stafford.
- Bus stop
Start: National Trust Downs Banks car park, grid ref: SJ900365
Head south out of the car park and turn right on to Washdale Lane keep your dog on a lead for now in case of traffic.
Carry on for a short distance until reaching the stream. Cross the footbridge and turn right into the woods. (If your dog is safe around people, other dogs and wildlife, you may wish to let it off its lead here.) This babbling stream runs the length of Downs Banks along a serene rolling valley. Keep your eyes open and you may see the fantastic blue flash of a kingfisher.
Centuries-worth of discarded apple pips have planted themselves here and grown into some fine mature trees. Look out for spectacular displays of blossom in spring.
Follow this path along beside the waters edge all the way to another footbridge and cross the stream again. (Last chance for dogs to paddle.)
In spring the woodland floors are a sea of bluebells. Have a closer peek around the trees or among the grasses and you'll find some fascinating wildflower communities in spring and summer. In autumn the area comes alive with colourful and weirdly-shaped fungi.
Once over the stream follow the path to a set of steps down one bank and up the other side. This hilly area was once the site of an ancient watermill. You now have two choices: turn right and take the shorter, flatter route along the valley bottom, back to the car park, or follow the Ridge Path up a steep hill to the highest viewpoint at Downs Banks.
If you choose to go uphill, follow a path that rises sharply ahead of you. There are benches on the way to the top, so take a rest any time you like.
From spring to autumn much of Downs Banks is grazed by a small herd of non-inquisitive, dog-friendly beef cattle. They're helping us restore the heath by preventing too much bracken growth. Years of heathland restoration are beginning to make Downs Banks a better place for wildlife. Patches of plants like bilberry, heather and gorse are steadily growing a great sign of a healthy heathland.
Pass the Millennium Monument and stay on the same route. When you reach a fence, turn right and follow the path through a gate. The Milennium Monument is a rock pillar standing at the highest point on the Downs and shows you what landmarks can be seen in the distance. On a clear day you have marvellous views across the Staffordshire countryside of up to 40 miles (64.3km).
Once through the gate head straight on, back into woodland. Continue down steps along a wooded valley.
End: National Trust Downs Banks car park, grid ref: SJ900365
- Trail: Walking
- Grade: Easy
- Distance: 2 miles (3.2km)
- Time: 40 minutes
- OS Map: Landranger 127; Explorer 258, 243
A 1.5 mile (2.4km) route along the valley floor. Easy-going on well-surfaced paths, suitable for rugged pushchairs and adventurous wheelchair users. A 0.5 mile (0.8km) extension up onto the hill tops is a little more strenuous and uneven. DOGGIE HIGHLIGHTS: with cool pools, muddy puddles, woods and open grassland, the Clent Hills offer a doggy paradise. No need for leads if your dog behaves itself around other dogs, horses and people. Please remove dog mess and dispose of it responsibly. Bins and water bowls available at Nimmings Wood car park.
- How to get here:
By foot: 2 miles (3.2km) from Stone and Barlaston on footpaths, 0.5 mile (0.8km) from Trent & Mersey Canal
By bike: 0.5 mile (0.8km) from Sustrans National Cycle Network route 5 (runs from Stoke-on-Trent to Stafford, through Stone)
By bus: service between Stoke-on-Trent station and Stafford station - alight at Barlaston or Stone
By train: Stone station 3 miles (4.8km)
By car: 15 min south of Stoke-on-Trent and 10 min north of Stone off the A34
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