Burslem provides the perfect introduction to Stoke's cultural heritage.
Distance 2.7 miles (4.4km)
Minimum time 1hr
Ascent/gradient 262ft (80m)
Level of difficulty Easy
Paths Pavement and hill trail
Landscape Streets and urban parkland
Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 258 Stoke-on-Trent
Start/finish SJ 870497
Dog friendliness Must be on lead near roads
Parking Ample parking at visitors' centre
Public toilets At visitors' centre
1 From the Royal Doulton visitors' centre turn left along Nile Street until you get to the imaginatively named Dudson Factory Cash and Carry shop on the left. A little further up on the right is Cobridge Stoneware. Keep going in the same direction all the way to the traffic-lights at the top of the hill and turn right on to Sandbach Road.
2 Moorcroft Museum is 100yds (91m) along this road on the right. After visiting the museum walk back along Sandbach Road and keep going over the traffic-lights. After 400yds (366m), just as the road eases round to the right, turn sharp right up the gravel path into Sneyd Hill Park and immediately take a left fork straight up the hill following the steep slope to the top for excellent views. From the top of the hill walk back down the way you came, but bear left until you get to an obvious trail contouring round the hill to the left. Follow this round and down to the cemetery and then keep going left until it rejoins the road.
3 At the road, head right to the top of Sneyd Hill and then sharp left past the Moorland Inn and down Moorland Road. After about 500yds (457m) you pass Burslem Park on the right, which makes an excellent spot for a short detour or picnic. From here, keep going down the hill until you get to Moorland Pottery on your left.
4 When you reach the bottom of Moorland Hill turn left on Swan Square and continue past the signed fork that leads down to the Royal Doulton visitors' centre. Turn left just before Argyle China (on your left-hand side) and continue back to the start of the walk at the visitors' centre.
The City of Stoke-on-Trent, known as 'the Potteries,' actually consists of six towns, each with their own sense of history, character and identity: Burslem, Fenton, Hanley, Longton, Tunstall and Stoke itself. All six owe their existence to the rich seams of coal and clay in the area which originally would have been mined at or near the surface. Both coal and clay were mined by the Romans and excavations at Trent Vale in the 1950s uncovered a pottery kiln and workshop dating from the 1st century ad. But it was in Burslem in the 16th century that the pottery revolution got underway, thanks largely to the efforts of one man, Josiah Wedgwood.
In addition to being a talented craftsmen and an astute businessman, Wedgwood was also an innovator - he was the first to establish a factory for making fine pots. Until then pottery had been a cottage industry, but Wedgwood's Burslem factory set a new standard, and before long similar buildings were springing up all over Stoke. Today, Burslem still boasts the highest concentration of potteries in the city.
The walk starts at the Royal Doulton visitors' centre is housed in the original Doulton factory building, first bought by Sir Henry Doulton in 1877. It was here that far-sighted Art Director Charles Noke was responsible for reviving the Staffordshire tradition of china figurines by creating the now famous Royal Doulton figure collection. Here visitors can explore the world's largest collection of figurines and take a fascinating factory tour (they begin at 10:30am and 2pm on weekdays, 1:30pm on Fridays).
Just down the road is the Dudson Cash and Carry (open to the public 9-5, Monday to Friday) has been in business for over two centuries and specialises in producing tableware for the catering industry, but the shop has been opened to meet a demand for reasonably priced fine quality tableware. Cobridge Stoneway, a bit further on, is a relative newcomer, less than 10 years old, but has already made a name for itself as an innovative and creative producer of hand--painted pieces.
Next up is the Moorcroft Pottery and Factory Shop, complete with original bottle kiln and open daily except Sunday. Like Royal Doulton, Moorcroft has been making fine china for over 100 years and despite near-bankruptcy in the mid-80s it now employs eight designers to make every single piece by hand.
Ford Green Hall, a mile (1.6km) north east of Sneyd Hill, is a 17th-century, timber-framed farmhouse with a museum, Tudor garden and tea room. Although it may not seem welcoming (or even open!) from the outside, it has been lovingly restored and furnished with an outstanding collection of local textiles, ceramic and furniture. It's open Sunday to Thursday, 1-5, all year (nominal fee).
The Moorland Inn is part of the Brewer's Fayre chain and offers a varied, good-value menu of traditional pub food mixed with Tex-Mex classics. There are picnic benches in the summer (although the traffic may persuade you otherwise) and food is served 11:30am to 10pm, seven days a week, year round.
The walk wouldn't be complete without taking time to soak up the views of Burslem and the rest of Stoke from the good vantage point at the top of the Sneyd Hill. Burslem Park (near the end of the walk) is an ideal spot for a picnic, or for a short extension to get away from the noise of this thriving region.