Walking in the Cotswold

 

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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..

IMG_1046We set off and soon reached Cheltenham Racecourse and up onto the hillside outside Cheltenham.

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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..IMG_1050

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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 ?

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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…

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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.

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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’ !!

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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)

 

 

 

 

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Cranbrook Wild Foods & Foraging

An educational walk –

Last Friday was the most beautiful hot sunny day, warmer than some days we experience in August… how lucky were we that this was the day we had booked a day course learning about wild food & foraging with Rural Courses.

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We arrived late, having spent half an hour driving round in circles out in the countryside, getting more and more hot under the collar… when we finally found the right field and parked up & made contact with Michael and the rest of the group we were most relieved.  Luckily for us they hadn’t set off on the walk through the countryside yet.

After a brief discussion in the kitchen/barn we headed out into the blistering heat in search of wild edible plants.  Michael was so knowledgeable and very interesting, we frequently stopped to look into hedgerows and be amazed at what could actually be eaten, he got us to try numerous leaves, wood sorrel, young hop shoots, Jack-by-the-hedge and various plants related to the cress family to name but a few.

Normally when we walk, we look at the views and the general area around us but not the ground in such detail.  The four mile walk included stopping and collecting some bull rushes, dandelion roots, river watercress, various mints all to be cooked up later.  Michael also pointed out a number of things to steer well clear of too, so we will be taking a pocket reference book with us in the future, we don’t want any mistakes.  We picked a large bag of wild garlic to take home to cook up later, it’s smells devine…

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The circular walk brought us back to the field of sheep and then to the rural course kitchen, where we had glasses of his most welcome home-made Elderflower cordial.  Michael then cooked up all the different plants we had collected which we all tried, this was after the beautiful lunch he had made for us, a super flan and salads.

The ones that stood out the most were the cooked bull rushes, so delicate and delicious that would make a beautiful light starter, the Japanese knot-weed stem (!) that looked, smelled and tasted just like rhubarb, if someone cooked that up as a crumble, you’d be pushed to tell the difference.  Michael then made coffee from dandelion roots that were cooked until black in the oven, then crushed to a powder then boiling water poured on top, wow, really had the aroma of coffee, along the lines of Camp coffee, do you remember that?

We saw wild orchids too, they are protected so don’t pick them..DB5871FE-9333-4356-824C-B1F30992E6B0

It really was a most interesting day and would highly recommend it.

 

48,185 Steps in one day…

Last weekend saw our first long walk of the season, topped off with a daypack weighing in at 4.5kg, doesn’t sound much but when you aren’t used to it and walk 22 miles you can feel it causing all sorts of twinges, aches and pains in your body, strangely different places through the day but luckily never too prolonged in one area.

We belong to the Confraternity of Pilgrims to Rome (CPR – those attempting to walk from Canterbury to Rome – Via Francigena, see previous posts for details)

The CPR were hosting an event in Canterbury on 6-7 April, we were to join a group of 60 walkers from the Arras Compostelle Francigena Association, who’d had come over for the day to walk from Canterbury to Dover and our 12 were there to keep them company and hopefully pick up some top tips for walking in France.

The English contingent met the evening before in a local restaurant called Deakins not far from the Cathedral, which was a really nice start, as most of us were strangers so a chance to get to know each other before the walk in the morning.

The plan was to meet at 7:15am Saturday for a blessing, needless to say the French arrived at 8am by which time the drizzle had arrived and Canon Claire needed to rush off for a service. So a quick blessing, group photos and we were off..

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Once out of Canterbury we had a short stop at the pretty church in Patrixbourne, then headed through the countyside to Shepherdswell. I think somewhere along the route some of the French got lost and had to be rescued by Julia, who managed to herd everyone together for lunch at Shepherdswell.  They had opened the church for refreshments which was most welcome.

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The sun came up after lunch and it turned into a beautiful afternoon, Geoff & I headed off towards Dover with our fellow Pilgrim Carlos ahead of the others, we reached Dover about 4 in the afternoon, very tired and ready for a chocolate fix (always helps). Timing was right for our train, so no pub refreshment for us this time.  A tiring but very enjoyable day meeting lots of new walkers.

Geoff & Carlos

Julia, The Canterbury Rep of the CPR with the very happy Didier from France, apparently he is the oracle for accommodation in France along the route.

Didier and Julia

Note to self: More practice walks with rucksack required !

Invisible footprints…

 

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Taken the day before I hurt my knee

There has been a void on my blog for sometime, I hurt my knee badly last March and couldn’t walk for a few weeks followed by baby steps to full recovery nearly a year on.  I was so annoyed with myself, my body letting me down that I couldn’t bring myself to add any posts..until now… needless to say we didn’t head off on our second stage of the Via Francigena or compete in Race to the Stones let alone all the other minor walks planned for the summer.  Just so frustrating… anyway, a deep breath and moving on.

Here are a few photos taken throughout 2017

of short walks I managed to hobble through.

 

 

 

Cissbury Ring Walk

Away for the weekend with friends for the Valentines Ball Saturday evening … during the day we took a lovely five mile walk up and down the hills forming part of the National Trust Cissbury Ring. It was bright a sunny although a slight nip in the air.  Plenty of spring flowers starting to come out,  a welcome sight.

Even with a slight mist on the horizon the views were still spectacular, we could just see the cliffs at Beachy Head too.

I would certainly like to go back an do more walking in the area of West Sussex.

Mud, mud & more mud…

We set off today for a walk in the country with our friends Karen & Terry.  Our walk started our work near West Stourmouth, outside a very old church, luckily it was open so we were able to have a quick look round before commencing our walk.

img_2090It was a very overcast day, with quite a damp feel and as we left the paths of West Stourmouth and ventured onto the country tracks and into the fields it was MUDDY… now I am a bit of a townie and I don’t ‘do’ mud, in fact I’m a bit of a mud squealer… and today there was A LOT of MUD, so there was a lot of squealing, I did try to suppress it but sometimes it was so thick squelchy and disgusting I couldn’t help it as my boots sunk in  and I slipped around, my boots got heavier, my trousers got muddier..oh what fun !

Luckily there were some great views over the countryside and plenty of wildlife, cows and pigs.  A few large lakes surrounded with the wintery trees and shrubbery quite striking.  I think this 12 mile walk would make a pleasant hike in the summer and hopefully no MUD !

We walked through West Stourmouth, Wickhambreaux, Stodmarsh, Grove Ferry and a lot of MUD !

 

We most of the way either next to the Little Stour or the Great Stour, this is roughly the route, as some of the time I had no idea where we were, but it gives some sort of idea to the countryside covered.

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Ramsgate & back…

A Saturday walk for a change, it looked very cold and windy outside as we were having breakfast…there is that moment when you both look at each other, that shall we stay inside or do we still walk look… we agreed still walk but we need to get off and out as soon as possible or we will change our minds.

So within no time we were wrapped up and out the door, it was surprisingly mild so we spent most of the day feeling over dressed and over heated… and more sunshine than we had expected which is always nice.

We walked to Ramsgate, turned around back to Broadstairs stopping for lunch in Prezzo, a delicious salad and an espresso (wine and Peroni, we’d earned it). It rained briefly whilst having lunch but cleared by the time we had left, although it had turned chilly as the sun went down.

Roughly and 10 mile walk.

 

Foggy walk

This Sunday we arranged to meet with friends Karen and Mark out at Weddington.  We left home in bright sunshine but within about 10 minutes we were in dense fog.. we slowly made our way over to them.

We wrapped up and headed off into the fog, never being able to see more than 50 yards in front of us.  We took the country roads and trudged through muddy fields from Weddington to Ash and on to Staple. Which apparently in good weather offers fabulous views to Chilenden.  We managed to find our way to the Black Pig Pub at Staple, lovely country pub, very busy, a kind chap gave up his table for us to sit and have lunch as he was just having a pint and was happy to sit at the bar… how kind. The food was very good and the wine slipped down easily !

The return walk from Staple past a vineyard might have been called Barnsole (?) back for a tasting in the summer I think.

Via Francigena – Stage 2

We have decided to stop putting it off and embark on our second stage of this ancient Pilgrims route from Canterbury to Rome, we set off in the summer, giving ourselves plenty of time to get practice miles in.

We’ll pick up where we left of in Arras and hope to make it through to Reims, we plan this time to follow the old route more closely, so although its less direct the roads should be much quieter for walking and thus be able to enjoy the scenery more.

The plan is:

Arras to Bapaume  approx. 20 miles

Bapaume to Peronne approx. 20 miles

Peronne to St Quentin approx. 20 miles we have to detour from the original route into St Quentin as there isn’t any other accommodation en-route in the right location.

St Quentin to Villequier-Aumont approx. 20 miles

Villequier-Aumont to Suzy approx. 15 miles

Suzy to Vorges approx. 15 miles

Vorges to Pontavert approx. 20 miles

Pontavert to Reims approx. 20 miles

The longer distances should be fine as we’ll be carrying lighter rucksakes this time as we are staying at B & B’s and hotels along the route as there aren’t enough campsites in the right locations.

 

 

 

January 15th 2017

Yesterday evening we watched a film called Mile..mile and a half a documentary about six friends walking the John Muir trail in America over 25 days..wow the scenery was ‘awesome’ ( I really hate that word)… but it did make us itch to get out walking.  So Sunday morning we were up bright and early, well as early as one does on a Sunday morning… and undeterred by the drizzle we put on our winter walking gear and headed out.

Although that horrible drizzle never stopped for a moment it wasn’t windy or as cold as it has been.  As they say there is no such thing as bad weather just the wrong clothing, and I had my super duper cozy new winter parka on so I was toasty the whole way.

We walked to Broadstairs and back which is roughly an eight mile round trip.  The whole way we discussed future walks that we’d like to do this year, everything from one day walks with friends to those longer ‘expeditions’ of a week to two weeks, the really long ones…six weeks or longer will have to wait until we retire!