The Cotswold Way 2011

Day Three: 4th May

Weather: hazy sunshine with some high cloud - dry again

Route: Charlton Kings to Painswick - 17.5 miles with 2700ft of ascent

 

I had trouble with my blinking I-pod picture loading whilst out blogging along the way as it's the best reception is Orange around here – probably GCHQ intercepting my blogging even though I’ve not mentioned the Bin once. After a pleasant evening in Cheltenham admiring the grand regency buildings, and a fine nosh of pasta, I had a lift back up to my start point  near Dowdeswell Reservoir. Today started noisily by the A-road but once I started uphill it faded away, replaced by the wind in the trees. I’d heard Johny Cash ‘walk the line’ at breakfast and have been humming it all day, especially whilst next to the powerlines. Today was all about deciduous woodland and lots of it – mainly very mature beech trees, and while it is always pleasant walking in dappled sunlight, you can have too much of it. I often judge a day by how much the I-pod was plugged in – put it this way, it needs recharging tonight. But again it was an enjoyable day with one steep ascent, but generally a steady up and down scarp slope route with the odd hill fort thrown in.  More wildlife today with plenty of birdsong, woodpeckers hammering away, and a few very small deer. Not many people out and about apart from a few dog walkers and a pleasant gent called Mike up on Painswick golf course AKA the best hill fort ramparts I’ve seen for a while. 

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uphill to start the day - all the way for the first mile

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the best bumbag in town...having a sunbathe

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pleasant walking through Lineover Woods

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the hillside above Old Dole Farm

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the steepest part of the Cotswold Way - up Ravensgate Hill

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a nice warm up for the legs to start the day - looking back down from the top of the slope

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a hazy view down over Cheltenham from Wistley Hill

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just after crossing the main road at Seven Springs

It was an uphill start today walking away from the Reservoir Inn and uphill beside Lineover Wood, and under the power lines. At least the plantations along the way are not too dense and let plenty of light down to the undergrowth. A little warm up left me removing my woolie and strapping it to the back of my bumbag. I was really beginning to appreciate travelling light and it certainly added to my enjoyment of the way. Once I'd reached the top of the hill the path entered the woods and meandered along the contours for a while, passing a glorious walled vegetable plot before reaching the steepest part of the Cotswold Way - shock horror. At Ravengate Hill the narrow path ahead climbed the scarp steeply giving rise to some splendid views out over the surrounding countryside. Up at the top is a strategically placed bench for those a little short of breathe - I only stopped for a photoshoot - honestly. A grassy path led me on to the summit of Wistley Hill with wide views down over Cheltenham, before turning away on a little detour, passing a sour faced property owner, who looks like she would prod you with a pitchfork if she could. No doubt that is why the way detours around to the main road as the trail couldn't gain a right of way. Walking along the edge of a field behind a hedgerow I  passed by a buttie wagon, which was annoying as the smell of fried onions had me salivating, but it was far too early in the day to partake. The early route through farmland reminded me of Offa’s Dyke path near Monmouth – red soil and green crops. Crossing the main A435 road wasn't as bad as I thought it would be and I was soon along another lane walking up towards Hartley Hill and Leckhampton Hill, passing a waymarker that looked liked the scouts had been around it had so many badges - 6 if you include the acorn symbol. Sadly a field full of bright yellow cowslip was past it's best as I climbed gently alongside a newly rebuilt drystone wall and came out onto the edge of the scarp with good views down over Cheltenham once more and a lovely golf course at Sandy Lane. Up here the grass was coarser and gorse bushes replaced the normal woodlands. Continuing around the track I came to another old hillfort site with many lumps and bumps, with a couple of banks and ditches with the trig point plonked conveniently on top - I guess that shows they took the high ground. Another topograph pointed out the many hills around, and along the path the edge got a little sharper as quarried ground came into sight. Up over the lumpy ground of the hill fort and across the first golf course of the day I reached the NW end and looked down on the Devils Chimney – it didn’t look that devilish, and it can’t be because there’s a sign requesting ‘no climbing’ due to erosion - I think the record for people standing on the top is 12, or so I've read somewhere - they'd have to be very good friends is all I can say.

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you need an I-spy book of badges around here - this way and that way

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new walling up the side of Hartley Hill

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looking down from Hartley Hill over the golf course at Sandy Lane, with Cheltenham spread out beyond

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looking back towards Wistley Hill

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the Devil's Chimney

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some nice contrast between sun, cloud and fauna

Up on Leckhampton Hill there were good views down over Cheltenham, although the weather was hazy and I couldn’t see that far.  A bit further around Leckhampton Hill was a car park, which was being cleared of scrub by what looked like inmates from the local gaol – I couldn’t help myself and started whistling the great escape – well it made a change from Johny Cash. A wee steep dash up the road led me to another farm track with the bizarre signpost of adult holding childs hand - strange I thought but there were a few residences down the lane. Around the bend was a large branch hanging off a tree and a worried resident thinking it would fall on anyone passing by - so they had coned off the area and managed to get hold of a roadsign. There followed a long little lane walking passing Ullenwood, an old camp, and the fire brigade emergency response centre, before walking into the woods to Crickley Hill. Up on the top was a good topograph kindly pointing out the many hills from afar and also the GCHQ - useful for any passing terrorists, so they could spot the Black Hills far away on the Welsh borders, and the Wrekin away to the north. The beech trees up here are massive, at least a few hundred years old, and offer some welcome shade on a hot day. After walking along the edge and over another hillfort it was down to a very busy junction and the Air Balloon pub. Too early and not my planned stop so I plodded on uphill and up into more beech woodland to escape the road noise, before emerging along an edge with good views over to my walk for tomorrow at Haresfield Beacon and Stroud. Lunch was beckoning and my pace increased a little as I diverted up to Birdlip for a well deserved pint and a very tasty ham sandwich with piccalilli – aaaaagh bliss to stop and tarry awhile on a comfy seat. The barman topped up my juice bottles as well without being asked so i gave him an extra tip – ‘mind your head on the taps when you bend down in the shower’. I didn’t tarry too long as I still had 7 or 8 more miles to go, which were nearly all in woodland. My route coincided with the Gustav Holst Way – I think they have a chamber orchestra in every village it passes, although I could be wrong. Shortly afterwards I passed an art installation on a woodland path, thought provoking for a tired thirsty walker. From Birdlip onwards to the end of the day at Painswick the way passed through much woodland, some along the edge, and some delightful dells, but I must admit to tuning in the I-pod and letting my mind wander to nothing in particular. Several miles along I reached the highlight of the afternoon, walking past Cooper’s Hill – the famous cheese rolling, run downhill and break your neck hill. I tell you this – it is suicidally steep and how nobody gets killed amazes me. There’s a fence top and bottom to keep people off due to the path getting a little worn. I believe the fence at the bottom is to stop people before they hit the wall, although several of the clips I have watched on U-tube have a local rugby team at the bottom waiting to tackle the out of control descent of many of the runners.

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danger - loose limbs up above - but the path was still open

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more big trees at Crickley Hill

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hazy views to the far distant Welsh Hills

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looking back to Crickley Hill - the M5 was close by here

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restricted views to the south today

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more mature woodland at Witcombe Wood

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with sunken lanes here and there

Then it was in with the I-pod and knock out the miles again, passing some nicely coppiced woods and seeing the occasional deer – very small deer here. Much more woodland later I came upon Painswick Beacon, the golf club, and some fantastic old hill fort ramparts – look it up on the net – it’s impressive. The golf course looked difficult and judging by the puzzled look on some of the players faces, it was. I stopped here for a long chat with a local gent Mark, and we had a good natter for 1/2 hour, while gazing out over the ramparts and the Vale of Evesham beyond, before taking the last mile or so down into Painswick. I passed by a small quarry that was making and dressing building stone - valuable stuff judging by the security around the site. Into Painswick itself was a lovely little walk, passing many tidy and interesting buildings. I finally reached the B&B  next to the old church which has 99 clipped Yew trees – apparently the 100th one wouldn't grow - something to do with the Devil....or not enough good soil to grow one? .Another good day, warm and dry again - good job the factor 25 worked ok on the old legs.

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the 'art' installation - worthy of a degree in some not so worthy colleges

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Cooper's Hill - see you tube for mad videos and leg crunching uncontrolled descents

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and a fuzzy picture looking down the slope

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followed by much more woodland walking

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before coming out to the view over the golf course - tricky little blighter

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Painswick is a short distance down to the left across a golf course

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the ramparts - ditch and banks at Painswick

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 the churchyard at Painswick - some of the 99 Yew trees

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