The Cotswold Way 2011

Day One: 2nd May

Weather: Sunshine all day long

Route: Chipping Camden to Winchcombe - 16.6 miles with 2260ft of ascent

 

As we left the B&B this morning John the farmer told me this gem – ‘Oak before ash just a splash, Ash before Oak for a good soak’ – and judging by the cracked ground and the Oak being very early, we may have a very dry summer. I hope they introduce a hosepipe ban sooner rather than later, but not before I've finished watering in my trees or the walk. I didn’t sleep too well last night but felt fine this morning and set off from the Market Hall in Chipping Campden at a leisurely 09:30, the local architecture positively glowing in the morning sunlight. It was a little chilly early on so I donned a thin merino wool layer which did the trick - very fitting as this was the centre of the wool trade in this area - hence lots of fine buildings and merchants houses. I based my walking time on the average I have been doing in the Lake District, at around 2.5mph that includes all the picture taking etc – but as I set off I found I was averaging closer to 3mph, so I had to slow down so I didn’t get to Winchcombe too early – I was quite pleased about that. The route took me through honey coloured houses up lanes and up onto pasture land at Dovers Hill – the site of the original Olimpick games. The paths were very dusty after the lack of rain and often run between high hedgerows with occasional glimpses of the countryside, and the ascent was nice and gradual, easing in my legs for the path ahead. Up on top of Dovers Hill there were fine views out over the plains, with many fields full of yellow oilseed rape and many small towns and villages dotted around. The weather was good for walking – wind at my back (not last nights curry ) and clear blue skies, which stayed like that all day long. The Cotswold Way is farmland all the way, so there was a gentle rhythm to the walk – plenty of grass, sheep with lambs, drystone Walls, big trees and the odd hairy lady. No big views like the lakes or Wales, and it won’t really change much all the way, but very enjoyable and deeply relaxing. After viewing the topograph from the viewpoint the path dropped down through a car park and along the road a little before a long walk along the fields, narrow between trees, and soft on the feet for a few miles took me to Broadway Tower – a folly that dominates the higher ground and can be seen from quite a way. Most of the ascent and descent today was quite gradual, with the odd bit of steep ground, but as it was bone dry underfoot it was easy going. My traditional tube of Fruit Pastilles didn't last too long and once I'd started I couldn't stop, and once I was warmed up off came the merino, to walk along in base layer and no back pack - bliss.

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the starting point at the Old Market Hall in Chipping Campden - old floor and old roof

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Dovers Hill - site of the 'Olimpick Games'

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the long stretch from Dovers Hill alongside the road

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Bright yellow fields of Oilseed Rape

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On my way towards Broadway Tower

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the tower dominates the edge above Broadway

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what a fine folly - there's a nuclear bunker to the left of where I stand - but it's a secret

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looking down over the Vale of Evesham

Another feature of the Cotswold Way are the numerous quarries, small and large, and of indeterminate age - all dotted along the top of the scarp slope, with most a little way back from the edge. A couple of miles of pasture gave way to fields of yellow rapeseed oil, always a colourful patchwork with the sun shining. After crossing a road or two, including the busy A44 at Fish Hill - which wasn't a problem - I passed by a big old quarry, a little woodland glade and out onto more pasture on the steady ascent to Broadway Tower. The path followed a dry valley and up to the left was a small enclosed patch with a few people being sternly lectured - as in don't touch this or that - they were going on a trip to look at the secret nuclear bunker - not so secret now as I know where it is. Up ahead the folly that is Broadway Tower stands proud above the surrounding ground, looking down over the plains to the far away hills of the Brecon Beacons...apparently. It was built by the Earl of Coventry in 1800 - in a 'mine is bigger than yours'  fit of pique. The Harvey strip map told me that there are panoramic views from the battlements for a modest entry fee. It cost £4.75 to go up the tower to see the same view, so I didn’t bother. After enjoying the said panorama I took to a nice grassy path which led all the way down to Broadway, a real honeypot and full of trippers and old residents. Lots of lumps and bumps on the path down, which were probably signs of old settlements, and wide views to the north west to a distant welsh border over the plains. I don't know the distant hills, and the view from the escarpment tended to always look towards the NW as the scarp of Cotswold limestone runs from NE to SW. I found one of the downsides to using a bumbag was that my juice bottles were a little too handy and after a regular inflow of water, there was a regular outflow of water, thankfully there are plenty of hedgerows around. I was soon down into Broadway along the broad street, with fine buildings each side - especially some lovely bow windows with curved glass fronts - and judging by the look of the glass, quite old as well. Broadway was a planned watering hole for me and eventually I found a small shop selling crocheted mars bar and bottled water. A very well heeled place - It took ten minutes to get to the till with my water bottle, and I was only stood behind Doris and her mate Vera……’ooh yes me piles have been playing up etc etc’ . I by-passed all the shops and managed to escape with only a Twix bar jumping into my pocket. Being a National Trail the way is well sign posted and easy to follow, so I didn’t really need the map. My new Bumbag was working well, and this travelling light is definitely the way to go, as long as I can get water at regular points.

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dropping down the hillside towards Broadway

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lots of lumps and bumps of old settlement and quarrying down near Broadway

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the wide main street of Broadway

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out of Broadway and back uphill to the scarp slope

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back up on top and pleasant walking along pasture

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plenty of medieval terraces in the fields near Manor Farm

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					<p>Turning out of 
					Broadway it was soon out onto pasture, climbing steadily up 
					into Broadway Coppice and out onto more pasture, before 
					entering a bright dusty farm track that ran for a few miles. 
					I still hadn't met anyone walking the Cotswold Way going 
					south, but met a few walking north - the majority of the 
					people I met all week were locals out for a stroll and often 
					keen to extol the virtues of the Cotswolds - like you need 
					to. Disappointingly there wasn't much wildlife out 
					and about today, probably too windy, and not much flora to 
					look at either – just bluebells here and there, and most of 
					those were past their best and generally looking very floppy. There were 
					plenty of lumps and bumps around in the fields, suggesting 
					old settlements, with a plethora of ‘ridge and furrow’- very 
					well defined in places, with buttercups growing on the 
					ridges and grass in the furrows. I was soon back out to the 
					farmland and back up to higher ground (not very high, but 
					higher). Dusty tracks followed, but not stony all the way 
					up to Shenbarrow Hill, where there is some roman stuff but I couldn’t see it just 
					more lumps and bumps - there are many hillforts along the 
					edge and I couldn't investigate them all - I'd never finish. 
					To compensate for the lack of all things Roman there is a lovely grass track 
					that wound down to 
					Stanton between trees in dappled sunlight, and then more 
					gently tilted pasture down to the village. The path passes a 
					couple of thatched houses, one with a thatched kangaroo on 
					top of the ridge - a makers mark from down under I suppose, 
					or a sign of the occupants? I veered off the way and uphill 
					to have some drinks and a quick snack at a very 
					busy Mount Inn – pretty rubbish actually as they were so busy 
					on this bank holiday. I 
					topped up with water from the toilets – the taps, and set off 
					into the sun once more. After walking through the village 
					and admiring some lovely houses and trim gardens, it was out 
					onto more pasture and ridge and furrow, and mature trees - 
					beech abounds across this area. The next stop along the way was Stanway, 
					home to Stanway House, which has a fantastic gate house, 
					hiding the manor house from view. 
					The rendered wall next to the gatehouse has been built with 
					round portals set into it above head height, and it's such a 
					shame that there was no way to have a nosey through them at 
					the grounds within. Before I reached the small hamlet  
					there is a fine thatched 'shed' - which turned out to be the 
					local cricket pavilion. What a fine location, and I can just 
					imagine the cider flowing at the height of summer, dozing 
					away in the shade of a big beech tree. Across parkland fields, which have some fine large trees, 
					led me to Wood Stanway with it’s fine Tithe Barn, and then 
					once more a steady climb back up the slopes to Stumps Cross 
					– the stump of a cross. </p>
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typical landscape along the top of the scarp slope

Turning out of Broadway it was soon out onto pasture, climbing steadily up into Broadway Coppice and out onto more pasture, before entering a bright dusty farm track that ran for a few miles. I still hadn't met anyone walking the Cotswold Way going south, but met a few walking north - the majority of the people I met all week were locals out for a stroll and often keen to extol the virtues of the Cotswolds - like you need to. Disappointingly there wasn't much wildlife out and about today, probably too windy, and not much flora to look at either – just bluebells here and there, and most of those were past their best and generally looking very floppy. There were plenty of lumps and bumps around in the fields, suggesting old settlements, with a plethora of ‘ridge and furrow’- very well defined in places, with buttercups growing on the ridges and grass in the furrows. I was soon back out to the farmland and back up to higher ground (not very high, but higher). Dusty tracks followed, but not stony all the way up to Shenbarrow Hill, where there is some roman stuff but I couldn’t see it just more lumps and bumps - there are many hillforts along the edge and I couldn't investigate them all - I'd never finish. To compensate for the lack of all things Roman there is a lovely grass track that wound down to Stanton between trees in dappled sunlight, and then more gently tilted pasture down to the village. The path passes a couple of thatched houses, one with a thatched kangaroo on top of the ridge - a makers mark from down under I suppose, or a sign of the occupants? I veered off the way and uphill to have some drinks and a quick snack at a very busy Mount Inn – pretty rubbish actually as they were so busy on this bank holiday. I topped up with water from the toilets – the taps, and set off into the sun once more. After walking through the village and admiring some lovely houses and trim gardens, it was out onto more pasture and ridge and furrow, and mature trees - beech abounds across this area. The next stop along the way was Stanway, home to Stanway House, which has a fantastic gate house, hiding the manor house from view. The rendered wall next to the gatehouse has been built with round portals set into it above head height, and it's such a shame that there was no way to have a nosey through them at the grounds within. Before I reached the small hamlet  there is a fine thatched 'shed' - which turned out to be the local cricket pavilion. What a fine location, and I can just imagine the cider flowing at the height of summer, dozing away in the shade of a big beech tree. Across parkland fields, which have some fine large trees, led me to Wood Stanway with it’s fine Tithe Barn, and then once more a steady climb back up the slopes to Stumps Cross – the stump of a cross.

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long views looking to the NW far over to Wales

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the bank and ditch at Shenbarrow Hill - an old lane runs down through the woods

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the delightful path winds down through the woods to Stanton

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 I think this is the old Tithe Barn in Stanton 

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many of the thatched cottages and barns have the makers mark on the ridge

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fine mature copper beech and beech dominate the lower slopes on the way to Stanway

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the cricket pavilion near Stanway - what an idyllic setting

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honey coloured stone in the church at Stanway

There is a national trust property just outside Wood Stanway and luckily for me it was shut, or that would have added more faffing around time and I was getting hungry. The wind picked up on higher ground and I had to don an extra layer for a while, and it helped keep the sun off a little as well. I had a mooch around some roman ditch and banks, and could pick out the old route out of whatever it was – probably a hillfort, marked by a small monument - to what nobody seemed to know, but the soft Cotswold limestone had been well engraved with various graffiti. It had a nice little perch to tarry a while, drink in the day and some more water. Below the old fort were plenty of old medieval ’strip lytchets’, although these were quite wide terraces – quite impressive compared to the usual thin strips usually seen. It was mostly downhill from here, with wide views of the scarp to be walked tomorrow. Down a small track I passed hillsides full of fruit trees and then the remains of Hailes Abbey – I didn’t pay to go in here either – just looked over the fence and took a photograph of the ruins. The last couple of miles to Winchcombe was through mixed farmland, plenty of yellow rapeseed oil and grass flowing in the wind. I walked into Winchcombe with a smile and wandered up the main street to find the B&B for the night - the smallest room of the week, but the bonus of a private roof terrace and an ice cold beer – a fine start to the week.

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the elaborate gatehouse at Stanway House

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newly planted poplars along the old ridge and furrow on the way to Wood Stanway

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yet another hillfort bank

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a nice graffiti stone monument - a pleasant place to sit and ponder

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across the fields to begin the drop down to Hailes Abbey

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the path is easy to follow

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an ivy clad tree in Hailes Wood

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Hailes Abbey remains - photo taken over the fence

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 across the fields to end the day in Winchcombe

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