This is a short walk of just over 2 miles and will take under 1 hour. Most of the walk lies on the perimeter of a large arable field on a permissive bridle path; as such, it will not be found on Ordinance Survey maps. The walk starts from the centre of the village and passes an unusual memorial.
Walk along Main Road, in the direction of Market Drayton, to Forge Lane and turn down the lane. Follow this, ignoring the public footpath sign on the left at the end of the houses. The lane then turns sharp left and continues. Where the lane next bends to the right, by a cherry tree, a turn into the field will be found. Enter the field and continue walking parallel to the lane, but inside the field. There is a short length of old hedge, followed by a new hedge on your left. At the gateway of a defunct hedge a shortcut may be made down the old hedge line to the right. For the full walk, continue uphill. Looking back, the village of Norton can be seen in the hollow; the Tern valley is away to the left as is the OakleyPark. At the top of the hill, continue inside the field and do not pass through the gate
As you drop down the field, Oakley Hall will be seen. Follow the field round at the bottom and, at some double gates, turn right to walk parallel to the Market Drayton road. The road here is sunken well below field level, indicating its great age. There are views to the left of Brand Hall parkland. If you have not yet seen a buzzard, which are quite numerous hereabouts, over Oakley, keep your eyes open for the sight of one over The Brand. The path eventually diverts from the road, with a small paddock on the left side of the fence.
Just before the fence becomes a hedge, an iron gate is found. Lean over this and the Murrain Stone can be seen. This is the size of a small gravestone and is most unusual. An old transcription tell us that the following is written on it:
THIS STONE IS RAISED AS A MEMENTO OF THE GREAT CATTLE PLAGUE OF 1866 WHICH SWEPT 54 HEAD OFF THIS FARM IN 14 DAYS OF MARCH. THEY DIED WITHOUT REMEDY AND HERE LIE. “Shall we receive good from God and not evil.” Job 2,10.’
This disease was Rinderpest and 1865/6 was the last major outbreak in this country. Cases were apparently found at Bearstone in November 1865. In January 1866 weekly prayer meetings were started to avert the plague and on March 7th a general Fast Day was proclaimed. On 21st June 1866 the plague died out.
At the next hedge turn right through 90’ and walk back to the starting point inside the big field. In the distance can be seen Arbour Farm. Arbour is a corruption of the Old English for earthwork and commemorates the burial mound that must have been in the fields here. Only the entrance stone with a circular hole and an upright stone remain (known as the Devils’ ring and finger), and that has been moved to a field boundary.
Cross the lane into the field opposite and follow the path diagonally across the field to the left, heading for a small poplar tree. This leads to Forge Lane by the small lorry park. All that now remains is to retrace your steps back to the centre of the village.