We are just over half way through our Cotswolds walk. It is meant to be a total of around 164km in length but as we passed the, kind of, sort of, half way marker yesterday (one direction was 55miles the other was 47miles) we had clocked up 100km and that was with very little “lost time” which could account for our overage. An Australian engineer assured us that it was due to distances being measured out on a flat map and not taking account of the undulations in the terraine, that sounded like a good explanation to us.
The walk started in gung-ho fashion, Jane King (a former colleague from APN days) joined us for the first day and was able to observe some of my wayward map reading abilities first hand. However, the little slip-up that day has been our only major effort at getting too lost (in reasonable weather conditions) during the walk.
Part of the problem that first day was that we were busy chatting and missed a marker. When we decided that we had not seen any way marks for a while, a quick check on the GPS indicated that we had not strayed into Wales or Scotland and were still heading in the right direction.
We had plenty of time to fit in a ploughmans lunch in Broadway and stop and chat to a number of the locals on the path (most of whom had been to New Zealand).
The trail is always changing as it takes you through an ever changing scene of farmland and villages.
Through the middle of wheat, corn and maize fields, across sheep, dairy and horse paddocks and of course through the many villages and towns that dot the area.
The last few days we have spent a lot of time in woodland which now seems to cover the tops of the wolds or downs that the hills are called. Today we came to “Cam Long Down” which was actually a “long slog up”.
The weather gods decided that the rain and mist dished up in Cornwall was a bit patsy and have delivered more meaningful inclement weather on two of the first four days of the walk.
We awoke to light rain on day two which steadily deteriorated to driving rain, wind and low cloud. Unfortunately, day two was also the day on which we reached the highest point on the Cotswolds Walk. Our timing was very poor and we reached the highest point as the storm unleashed it’s full fury.
Visibility reduced to almost zero, the temperature dropped to mid winter levels and all of our landmarks and way marks disappeared from visib ility. The countryside opened into grassland with tracks all over the place as we found ourselves on a gold course come “common” called Cleeve Hill. Apparently there were spectacular views to be had of Cheltenham race course of “Grand National” fame.
Most other walkers seemed to have disappeared (sensible ones who caught taxis) and we only occassionally spotted a local in the gloom hurrying along to get in front of a warm fire. We did ask a passing runner if we were headed the right way but he gave an incoherrent answer which was understandable given that he looked as if he was about to expire from exposure.
The BnB we were staying at was “off-trail”, in the countryside, somewhere out in the mist and rain. We knew we had to take a turn off track (if we were on the right one) but the only “track” that headed in the right direction looked more like an open drain.
We rang the accommodation to see if they may be able to help.
- “Where are you?”
- “um we have no idea”
- “look for the pylons”
- “um I can hardly see the phone”
- “mmm well you can’t be too far away”
- “um thats good, hang on, someone is coming we will ask them”
- “hi, do you know where we are?”
- “no we have been walking for eight hours and have no idea of where we are”
- “mmm, don’t suppose there was a road at the top of the drain you just walked down?”
- “thanks, good luck”
We found the BnB after sloshing up what was apparently an old historic pathway (rather than a drain), walked down the road, then up a long driveway, we would not have cared if the BnB had been an unconverted barn.
The owners were very nice, Paul and Helen of Upper Hill Farm. After an hour to thaw out we were dropped into a nearby Cheltenham pub which was thankfully very warm. Had a very enjoyable pub dinner with two of the other BnB guests.
Fortunately, we were staying in the same BnB the next night which gave us an opportunity to dry out a lot of very wet gear.
The next day we completed our scheduled walk (in much better conditions) and Paul collected us at the end of the day and drove us back to the accommodation, a very nice service.
That night we were dropped at another pub for dinner in nearby Brockhampton. As we approached the premises, it sounded as though Santa and his sleigh were in town. When we got inside, the source of the crazed bell ringing was revealed, it was heaving with Morris Dancers. The scene did not look good for cordinated Morris dancing, pints were being sunk at an unbelievable rate, I had visions of terrible injuries as they failed to get stick on stick during the “sword dance”. It was a lot of fun, I had joked to Jane on the first day that I was disappointed not to have seen Morris Dancers in action.
Day three, you guessed it, the rain and cold returned.
Ruth was showing little interest in walking, Paul said he would drop us anywhere we liked but he did balk at Ruth’s suggestion of somewhere in the South of France. We compromised and decided to drop the most exposed 9km off the first part of our walk in the hope that the weather may improve for the second half. As it turned out, the 17km we chose to walk was largely through woods with the tall beech trees protecting us from the wind and rain raging above us.
We walked over Coopers Hill which is used for the annual cheese rolling contest. Conditions were so bad that any cheese rolling training had been cancelled, we had to imagine the scene of people and rounds of cheese tumbling down the steep hill.
The rain taps have been turned off for the last two days but the temperatures have remained firmly in winter territory. Things are looking promising for the remaining four days with temperatures maybe getting back up around 20c.
Apart from the very wet day, the walk has been great, the distances have melted away with the countryside being so different and pleasant to walk through.
We did wonder if we would tire a little of our own company but every day we seem to meet different people, learn different things and in the process have a lot of fun.