Earlier this month we spent a week with friends walking in the Cotswolds. Normally we would book independently but this time we opted to go with Macs Adventures for ease, let them sort out the different accommodation for each day, another first was using the luggage transfer service, rather than carrying everything in our rucksacks. We chose their 5 day Cotswold Round self guided walking tour.
We started our walk from Cheltenham, having stayed at Burlington House B & B, (the photographs do not do it justice) such lovely friendly hosts and the place was immaculate, would highly recommend it. It was roughly 10-15mins walk into Cheltenham so handy & 5 mins from the station too.
Macs Advenures provide an OS map together with detailed route descriptions for each day of the walk, so we set off in good spirits and confident about reaching our first overnight stop of Winchcombe, which is approx. 10miles from leaving the guest house…
We confidently reached the actual starting point, The Pitville Pump House.. 7 miles to go..
We set off and soon reached Cheltenham Racecourse and up onto the hillside outside Cheltenham.
I have to add here, this is where hindsight is a great thing… as we finally passed the racecourse, a man stopped Mark for a chat and together they were looking at the map, Mark shouted over ” do we need anymore maps”… the three of us answer “no” (thinking why would we have the OS etc etc)…. so we headed on…
The weather was constantly changing from cool to warm, we were chased by stormy skies that never reached us..
Just before we reach Cleeve Common things start to go a little **** up… or more commonly know as LOST !! Turns out, the map Mark gave away to the man was the only map that had the rest of the route to Winchcome because the OS map didn’t start until tomorrow’s route.. (who’d have thought !?!) so after walking round in circles and back and forth for a bit we eventually found someone to ask, they pointed us in the direction of Cleeve Common by now it had turned very overcast and very cold on top of the common… now we stood there in the freezing cold with no idea which direction to head, the sign posts were all faded or missing, the paths in the grass were not visible, the surrounding villages couldn’t be seen and the people on the common all told us a different direction to head for Winchcome & the GPS .. no signal ! Its a bit of a weird feeling having absolutely no idea which direction to go..
We finally picked a route and headed off, no not in the right direction, which actually became a fairly persistent pattern, we wandered up and down and round and round for what seemed forever, each time we thought this is right, we’d reach a fence to a field of sheep. This was probably a low point for the whole trip, you can imagine our spirits were deflated, one thinking, we are never going to make it to Winchcome we are going to be stuck here all night / did anyone pack an emergency blanket & head torch etc etc and secondly silently thinking this doesn’t bode well for the rest of the week getting lost on the first day… obviously I am here to tell the tale so we did make it off the Common by finding a river to follow into Winchcome. You can imagine how pleased we were to set eyes on our first nights accommodation The White Lion.. and straight to the bar we headed !
Oh nearly forgot, we passed a factory just on the outskirts that was churning out this very pretty but probably deadly water.. wonder what the make in there ?
Lovely pub, food, staff and rooms but VERY expensive, you needed a mortgage to pay for the meal & wine !
..and yes Geoff did bump his head going through this tiny door to the bathroom, it becomes a bit of a habit during the week for Mr Bump.
We left Winchcome in good spirits as we headed towards Broadway, roughly 12 miles to cover. It wasn’t long before we encountered mud, I HATE mud with a passion, most of the week by nearly all gates and styles there was mud and boggy ground..urgghh…
We walked through farmers fields, where I am sure the farmer deliberately tried to spray us with blue fertiliser ! Fields and fields of sheep and cute spring lambs, we passed by the abbey ruins and Hailes church, we struggled up (Karen & I) and down hills, through woods and orchards and idyllic Cotswold villages until we arrived at the very popular village of Broadway. A friend said he used to come here on business about 15 years ago and there were many Japanese tourists, well I can say, there still are coach loads of them. We stayed in the quaint Olive Branch B & B, we mingled with a couple from Texas also staying there.. (why do American always introduce themselves by name and town they are from ?? We (I) did terminate the conversation fairly promptly when we got onto gun and knife crime, some difference of opinion there) …before we headed out for our evening meal. A really good days walking with plenty of laughter.
Day Three – We left Broadway with a spring in our step under a beautiful blue sky with the promise of a good day ahead as we headed to Morton on Marsh, roughly 12 miles.
The day began with the steep climb up to Broadway Tower, fantastic views from the top. We had a brief stop for photos and Karen to add a few more plasters to here feet that weren’t quite covered (yet).. we headed off towards the woods, dappled sunlight streamed through the branches, a great photo opportunity… I took my photo looked behind me to find Geoff Karen & Mark all fumbling about in Karens rucksack… no camera ! After much blame being passed to & fro between Karen & Mark, Mark finally went back to the tower, well jogged back actually, we wait, Karen has another look in the bag.. opps.. there is the camera… ohhh I think Mark is going to be MAD… she phones him and calls him back..Geoff and I think its best to maybe set off ahead of them so they can ‘sort it out’ !!
They catch us up, we all carry on quietly (even Geoff) but not for long, the walk and views are so lovely its impossible not to be happy, before long laughter all round, you can’t keep us four down. Have to add here, just how many ‘tiddle’ breaks do my companions need in one day.. too many ! Lucky there were plenty of woods and bushes.
Quite boggy as we came in through the last fields into Morton on Marsh also many of the fields over the week had an unusual ‘pillow / wave formation’ looked man-made but not sure if its something unique to the area ??
We arrived again having avoided the rain all day, result. We stayed at the Redesdale Arms, modern styled rooms although Geoff still managed to knock his head on wall light. A friendly Hotel but our least favourite of the week.
We woke to heavy rain, the real soak you to the skin kind of stuff, we took the group decision to catch a bus the few miles to Stow on the Wold, have a wander round there and then start walking from there if the rain had stopped. Thus cutting our 12 mile walking day slightly short.
We did have a wander round Stow and stopped for a pot of tea, the sun briefly popped its head out and we set off walking towards Bourton on the Water, it wasn’t long before the thunder and rain arrived as we headed into the woods and across already wet muddy fields. These were the only few hours we encountered heavy rain showers all week, so not too bad considering the forecast had looked much worse. So we were pleased when we arrived in Bourton, walking the last mile in chatting with a local chap. We stayed at Chester House Hotel, again friendly and good atmosphere. (Geoff banged his toe here !)
The final day walking was upon us, Bourton to Cheltenham, the longest day of around 17 miles, which actually turned out to be nearer 20 miles… a super sunny day, what a day to end on. We all agreed everyday had offered something different, the scenery every changing so the walking was varied. Some days challenging with steep climbs and descents and mostly picturesque… until the last couple of miles… here the recently updated route notes became a nightmare. As Cleeve Common reared its ugly head, our nemesis which we were determined to conquer.. ha ha… laughed the Common I cannot be conquered, I will swallow you up and spit you out it said.. and it did !
I’ll just go back a few more miles where the notes were ‘off’ the distances were incorrect and the metal and wooden gates were muddled, minor things all sorted out with the OS map. Although a long day the walking was by far the easiest of all the days including some quiet country road walking, which in fact allows you to pick up the pace and cover more ground.
Then we reached CLEEVE COMMON, we knelt and prayed before we set foot on it (well we didn’t but we should have) we started well, confidently down the hill into the butterfly conservation area, all so easy and Cheltenham in site too, probably just 2 miles to go…. then … we reach a VERY muddy field and we can’t find any way through the shrubbery to get to the bottom, we set off in different directions to no avail… there was another quiet moment of ‘we are going to be stuck in this godforsaken place for ever’ ..nooooo… we silently screamed..
Now remember I HATE mud, so I step into a muddy patch and sink (picture Indiana Jones in the quicksand) its a very odd feeling, feeling the ground disappearing beneath you, naturally I squealed, Geoff turned to rescue me.. oh no he didn’t, he laughed and said come on just walk through it.. actually easier said than done I might add, when you are up to your knees in mud… having made it though (eventually) we headed down the field to the gate where four horses waited (I don’t like horses either).. the whole field was nearly a pond it had so much water in it… I made my way down gingerly hating every minute & I’m not going to even tell you about the horse breathing in my ear as I was trying desperately to exit the field, as I climbed onto the gate in case I drowned ! Okay maybe slightly melodramatic but I was having a moment!
No there aren’t any photos or videos, although the thought had crossed Geoffs mind, but lucky for him, he thought better of it…
We had a really good holiday and enjoyed nearly all of it !
(Hopefully knot too many speling nistakes etc, no time to heck it)