Walking the Cotswolds, Part 1

Oct 15th, 2006, 12:40 PM
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Walking the Cotswolds, Part 1

Walking through England: The Cotswold Way

September 18-28, 2006

Actually this whole idea of a "walk" (American: hike) was the result of reading "A Walk Across France" by Miles Morland. It was a birthday gift from my husband to me a few years ago. It sat languishing on my bedside table for months and I finally picked it up and started reading. Before this time we had always taken vacations that were somewhat abnormal in terms of the usual American vacation. We had home-exchanged three times - once to the far suburbs of the London sprawl to a town called Berkhamstead, once to a commuter town outside of Paris (Le Pecq), and once to Paris proper in the 17th arrondissement. All exchanges were for 3 weeks each and all performed like clockwork. There was a "minor" detail in the third exchange when the Parisian family wouldn't send the equivalent of $80 for a phone bill that they incurred, but other than that, it was painless and our family got a "free" place to stay in another country and free use of the other family's car too. We've also gone for a month to Hawaii/New Zealand/Australia with our two kids, rented a house in Eleuthera, taken our kids and their friends to Normandy and Brittany (1 friend each: 4 teens!) - rented a house in Brittany etc etc However, now our kids are in college with one living the dorm life and the other commuting and of course using our home. No home exchanges for a while.

Fast forward to Miles Morland and his book. Miles was (and possibly still is) an investment banker but in the early 90's he was a bit tired of the whole "shouting down the phone bit" (his words) so he, along with his wife Guislaine (hard "g"), decided that he'd give up the corporate life and begin that by doing a "walk" somewhere for a month. But where to go? After exploring options, they decided on walking across France from the Mediterrean to the Atlantic - all told about 300 miles. I read the book and after a few late nights of page slapping, turned to my husband and proclaimed: "We can DO this!" I suggested that we could walk across Italy instead of France and he responded with a big "YES!" (of the high-five variety) and so the planning started.

Paul was a bit tired of France since we had been there 4 years out of the last 5 and he kept saying "It's a big world out there, Liz." Also, we had just spent a week in Umbria for our 30th anniversary and needed to go back and see some more of the Italian countryside. So we started planning a walk/hike across Italy. The more I researched that trip, I began to note internet sites about walking and almost all of them were based in the UK and found specifically tons of information about Wainwright's Coast to Coast Walk which is from St. Bees on the Irish Sea to Robin Hood's Bay on the North Sea - 190 miles. This sounded roughly like the equivalent of what we wanted to do in Italy. After reading about that for a few weeks it just seemed to make sense to do a walk in an English speaking country with the excellent Ordnance Survey maps that the Brits have, before embarking on the more difficult, trail-less hike in Italy from the Mediterrean to the Adriatic (roughly Pisa to Ravenna). One thing led to another in my research and I found all sorts of walks in the UK: The Pennine Way, Offa's Dyke Path, the Cleveland Way, Cumbria Way, Norfolk Coast Path, Southwest Coast Path (Cornwall), various walks in and around Gloucestershire (Cotswolds): McMillan Way, Monarch Way, Diamond Way etc etc Paths and walks of every distance and level of difficulty!

I said to myself and somewhat aloud <grin> to my husband "I wish hadn't sent a deposit on that holiday flat on the Costa del Sol for November. Now I've committed us to a vacation in Spain and I'd much rather do a short walk in the UK to get ready for the coast-to-coast in the UK to get ready for our coast-to-coast in Italy." Got that? He replied "Why don't we just count the deposit as a loss and do a walk in England instead." Love that man. So that's how the Cotswold Way got cemented into our brains.

The Cotswolds are an AONB in England - an Area of Natural Beauty. Truly. Tiny picturesque villages built of the local honey-colored Cotswold stone, scattered cottages with thatched roofs, green rolling hills of horses, sheep and cows, ancient pubs and a heavy smattering of those wonderful places called "B&B's" - exactly what we would need. Because, like the Morland's, we would not be carrying a tent and cooking equipment in our rucksacks - Perish the Thought! Our nights would be spent in small inns or bed and breakfast accommodations. Ah, a clean, soft bed and a different pub meal each night! What could be better?

And so I planned from May until September, bought the OS maps we would need (from the internet of course), logged list after list of B&B's along our route, emailed people who had walked the CW, emailed others who had walked Wainwright's C2C (I was getting really flip with my abbreviations by this point) and in general researched this trip inside and out, upsidedown and right side up. We bought backpacks (not too big and not too small), walking pants (Brit: trousers) and decided that we would go with two pair of sneakers each (we would definitely need 2 pair as we were going to The Land of Rain and Mud) and that were definitely not new as this was about the single worst idea of Miles Morland - a new pair of shoes for the walk. Not! We've taken too many vacations to know that one doesn't go with brand new shoes if one wants to remain comfortable and more or less free of blisters. We had been told (towards the end of our walk) that on the Cotswold Way, a walker will ascend a total of 18,000 feet - which of course means decending 18,000 feet as well - and for that we would need really really comfortable sneakers/trainers, but not necessarily boots. As a matter of fact, at no point on the walk did we feel that we should have had boots instead of our sneakers. It just wasn't all that rocky although when we got a morning full of a hard rain (remains of Hurricane Gordon) a pair of boots rubbed with silicone would have done the trick for keeping our feet dry(er).

Within the weeks before the walk both of us would pack our rucksacks, unpack, pack again, move things around, delete some clothes, add others before we completely decided on what we would bring. Here's my list:

2 pair light weight "cargo" pants/trousers
3 long-sleeved cotton T's (one to be used w/pajamas)
1 pajama bottom
1 short-sleeved T
1 hooded sweatshirt (front zipper)
1 waterproof rain jacket
1 baseball cap (Fenway Park/Boston Red Sox thankyouverymuch)
5 pair socks
assorted underwear
assorted bandaids and pre-cut mole skin patches
6 OS maps, the Harvey Cotswold Way waterproof map, Mark Richards Cotswold Way book/map
2 pairs sneakers, well broken-in
a tiny paperback New Testament with Psalms
Dick Francis' (paperback) "Reflex"
5 packets of one-use Instant Cold Compresses (I work at Tyco/Kendall Healthcare and get these for next to nothing from our company store. They're lightweight and both of us had been having on/off problems with our knees. I was a bit worried about this. Never used them once and probably won't take them again. Well, OK, maybe one.)
1 Ace bandage
1 Ace wrap
2 water bottles

Total weight: 14 pounds (felt like 40 some days!)

Obviously as I would be wearing some of these clothes I would only be carrying 1 pair pants, 1 pair sneakers etc, - so it's not quite as bulky as it looks. My husband brought roughly the same things except he brought an extra pair of pants and also carried everything "heavy": the toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, hotel-sized shampoo (for the B&Bs without them), camera, adapter, rechargers etc. Also, along the trail we would drink MY waterbottles first and then start on his. Paul's total backpack weight: 24 pounds. Also, I made foam rubber pads to go underneath the rucksack shoulder straps. These would prove to be vital to our eventual ease of carrying the backpacks. The first few days our shoulders just were sore. Gotta suck it up.

We decided that like Miles and Guislaine Morland, we would never succumb to using public transportation or taxis unless there was an emergency. As it happened, at one point on just our second day we waited for a bus that never came and also hitch hiked and were never picked up. Once we were done with the "official" walk it was another story! The Cotswold Way has been measured to equal 101 - 106 miles depending on who you read. Since we often went off the trail and followed our OS maps only, we don't know exactly how many miles we walked in total but it was at least 105 and we did this in 6 days, with 17.73 miles (the first day) as our longest but averaging mostly 15 miles per day. We also decided before starting that we would walk right out of our front door here in Massachusetts, walk to the commuter rail in town (3 miles), take the train to South Station in Boston and then the Silver Line to Logan International. No car period!
lizcakes is offline  
Oct 15th, 2006, 12:46 PM
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This is great---I've been wanting to do this. Can't wait to read more!
enzian is offline  
Oct 15th, 2006, 02:55 PM
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More! Don't quit on us now

OK, we can give you a few hours . . . . .
janisj is online now  
Oct 17th, 2006, 10:38 AM
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Very interesting so far . . .
Oct 17th, 2006, 12:36 PM
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Great report so far, Lizcakes! Please keep posting your report on this thread so it will be easier to find and read.

Lee Ann
ElendilPickle is offline  
Oct 17th, 2006, 12:50 PM
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Hi ...

Great report ...

On thing - if you decide to do the Coast to Coast walk, there is a company that will carry you luggage from B&B to B&B - not cheap, but might be worth it. Haven't used them myself, so cann't recommend them - but it would save on the weight.

I have done the coast-to-coast walk a number of years ago - excellent walk - you will definitely need boots for that.

isplumm is offline  
Oct 17th, 2006, 01:43 PM
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Re-reading the post, Lizcakes may think that's the full report.

Her (potentially) constant readers disagree. We want more. Now!!
flanneruk is online now  
Oct 17th, 2006, 01:55 PM
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lizcakes - Love how you set up how this all came about. Please keep the remainder of your adventure on this thread for ease in finding.

Bring on Part 2 please.


SandyBrit is offline  
Oct 17th, 2006, 02:46 PM
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As to the person who posted the idea that a company can carry your luggage from place to place... Yes, we were/are fully aware of that. More than fully aware, lol! Sherpa does it and several others and they also do it for the Cotswold Way and any other walk you care to do, whether a known walk or one that you set up yourself. We think luggage-carry companies are for WUSSES!! Nah, really, we feel it's all part of the experience to carry-yer-own and so we do. Maybe when we're well into our 70's we'll let someone else do the carrying.

Part II should be posted this weekend. It's going to take me FOREVER to write this thing! I can't even imagine how many installments there will be.
lizcakes is offline  
Oct 17th, 2006, 03:18 PM
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We're really looking forward to the next installment, Liz. I really appreciate all the effort you are putting into this. And planning on making use of your report on your experiences in a future trip. Thanks!
enzian is offline  
Oct 17th, 2006, 03:21 PM
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Fabulous report but please, hurry and post Part 2 before you TURN 70 LOL!
Dukey is offline  
Oct 17th, 2006, 05:23 PM
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Part II - Walking the Cotswold Way - Boston to Moreton-in-Marsh

And so we left. To say that we were excited is the understatement of the century. For the hours before we left (noonish, Monday, 9/18/06) we were both wandering around the house moving this and that, tidying up, walking out to look at the garden, counting my gourds for the umpteenth time (23), moving the backpacks from the bedroom to the downstairs hall, walking out to the mailbox just to see... Finally, when we walked out the front door, I almost danced down the street. "We're finally doing it! We're on our way! What a gorgeous day isn't it???" yadda yadda yadda I wanted to stop people and tell them (how lame is this?) "We're going to hike 105 miles in England!" Kids were in school, adults were at work or at home. Nobody cared but us but it was a GREAT feeling.

We walked the 3 miles to our commuter train station (called the "T" here in Mass.) and I kid you not, I had the beginnings of blisters on two of the tiniest toes on my left foot. They would never leave me the entire trip as I would eventually find out. It was hot and we were both in our T shirts - which I hadn't planned on bringing. Our 20 year old daughter was aghast that I would only bring long sleeves and talked me into at least one T shirt - she turned out to be right because I actually ended up with something like a reddish tan - it was that warm hiking - but not a "real" tan. I'm Irish and English so it's the best I can do.

The train was right on time and off we went on the train to South Station feeling very secure with our backpacks on the train floor under our feet. We had a smaller backpack that we would check through (not in the original plans) with 3 bottles of Poland Spring water (my "comfort" water as I hate UK water - so sue me. Only good for tea, lol!) even though it would only last through the 1st day, Paul's pocket knife, razor etc. This small backpack is what I would carry around at night when we went out to a pub, with our passports and airline printouts and credit cards safely near me at all times. Paul carries his credit cards, ATM card and his folding money in a little square pouch that I made a few years ago for one of our trips to Paris. It has a draw string which he loops through his belt loop and then tucks inside his jeans. Works like a charm. But to my tale...

We arrived at South Station and made a beeline for the Silver Line to Logan and at long last we were there. After checking our tiny bag through, we went through security with our backpacks (no problems thank goodness) and over to Legal Seafood for our usual "first" dinner of vacation. Paul always gets the calamari and I always get something and DESSERT. (I've been on a "Liz" diet and have lost 21 pounds this past year - took me the whole year to do it but one of the most important parts of this diet is NO DESSERTS at least not on a regular basis. I'll wait for a birthday or an anniversary or a holiday and then have one. I only eat fruit for lunch and one slice of toast for breakfast and anything anything anything for dinner - but no dessert. Plus the gym 5 days a week. Works for me.) The boarding time arrived and we got settled in for a normal flight (normal's good!) with the normal horrendous food, try to sleep but it's really too early as we've left at 7 pm and we'll get in to LHR at about 1:00 a.m. Boston time. Normally we're in bed by 10 and in dreamland by 10:30 but we're both too excited... We watched Inspector Lewis on the seat-backs and I thought fondly of John Thaw and Morse. Ah well. We do like the new Lewis episodes.

We arrived a tad early and toddled off to the luggage area to get our tiny backpack. We repacked the stuff and strolled off to find the train to Paddington. So glad to be here! The train was a tad expensive - £14.50 each one way - but we didn't care, we were on our way to the Cotswolds via London and it was clean and green ... Ya gotta love Paddington Station, there's no other way about it. I took pics at the end of the trip - it's just so Victorian mixed with contemporary covered with a Holmesian fog, almost indescribable for me. I used to live just around the corner, more or less, at 64 Gloucester Terrace (in 1971/72) and Paddington Station, at least for part of the time, was what I used for my commute to work. At other times I used busses (77? 88? too long ago) but it's Paddington that I remember the most and this place, once I looked away from the tracks and in the direction of Praed Street, was not the Paddinton that I knew. A Starbucks! Automated ticket machines! Cappuccino! A SUSHI TRACK FOR PETE'S SAKES! I liked it. I could never have afforded any of it in 1971, but I can now and it feels GREAT.

Paul and I nipped off the train and went in search of information for our train to Moreton-in-Marsh and our lodging for the night. We walked down to the end of the station where the automated machines are, waited our turn in a queue, and started to navigate the screen. There is was! MORETON-IN-MARSH. I pressed the appropriate screen, fed my Amex card in - and it wouldn't take. Tried a couple more times and nada so went to see a person at the Information desk. Queued up again. The man didn't tell us this but apparently there are certain places that for some reason you can't access with the computer screen. Oh well. Got the tickets for both of us for £46.60 and our train left at 9:52 a.m. It was only about 8:30 so we decided it would be a good time to check out the loo. I toddled down to the Ladies and drat, needed a 20p piece. Out again, find Paul and tell him the bad news. He gave me a pile of notes as he had just been to the ATM and I scouted around for a sympathetic person who would give me change. I went into that little shop that sells cards and sweets and asked him if, please sir, could he give me change for the loo? I fully expected to be rebuffed but this is where my 55 years of age must have kicked in. He said he had to wait until someone bought something and the drawer was open, then he would provide me what I needed. Felt sorry for the old lady!

I waited and he changed a tenner for me. Thank you SO much sir! Back down to the loo and then I see that there's a change machine right there. Sigh. My goodness, those stalls are about as big as our bathroom at home! Ah, the luxury of a paid-for toilet.

Our train arrived right on time (hey, it's the UK) and we were off. Even though we were pie eyed by this time with being up all night, my face was glued to the window. As we went farther and farther and the countryside grew greener and a bit more rolling I thought "We're going to be walking through all of this!" I'm easily amused. We arrived at Moreton and I had of course memorized the route we were to take to get to our first B&B, "Treetops" in the London Road. We followed a couple of ladies off the train who were headed to the Tuesday market that takes place each week in Moreton, and when we got out to a main street, we were lost. Looking back, we found that we had simply walked to the right out of the station and we should have gone left. Oh well. After wandering around, going up streets and down lanes, we found our way back to the train station and set out in the proper direction. Liz Dean, owner with husband Brian of Treetops B&B, was right there after a quick knock on the door.

Poor Liz Dean had had 6 teeth extracted just a couple of days before and she apologized as best she could (felt SO sorry for her) and she showed us straight up to our room. Ahhhhh. Off with the backpacks (they had been getting heavy as we weren't used to them just yet), peruse the room. A bit too much furniture but it had a good bathroom, well, a shower room really, and everything worked. The bed had the usual duvet which my husband doesn't really like as he's a sheet-sleeper. We're not in Kansas anymore. At least we had normal pillows and not those horrid completely square ones that you always get in France. We didn't get a single weird pillow the whole trip and I was glad. Hooray! We find there is a crispy sheet as well as the duvet so we were both happy. We showered, rested for awhile, changed our clothes and went out to look for a pub or small restaurant for a bite to eat.

We found the Bell Inn and after looking a bit lost in the doorway, we were assisted by a patron having a pint at one of the tables near the door. Oh, we order at the bar after we've staked out a table? OK. We can do that. No problem! It had been a long long time since I was in a British pub for a meal. We each had cod, chips and peas (not mushy peas thank goodness). The "cod" was a giant fishstick but the local ale was great. Oh well. The barman was absolutely jolly and when I asked him what was the correct pronunciation for "Moreton" he told me and then the lady behind me in the queue told me her version and we just had a jolly old time. They asked where I was from but as the Cotswolds are by nature crawling with tourists from every corner of the globe, they weren't surprised and duh, just about everyone's heard of Boston. It's was £12.50 for our food including a pint of ale for Paul and a half of bitter for me.

Back to Treetops and we spread out the maps (see photos). Note that the first photo has me with bare legs. Not showing anything necessarily but I thought I'd better put my pants on for the next pic. (When I can figure out how to "share" them from Yahoo, I'll put the link in here but it'll be at least a few more days to sort them all into an album as for some reason they are out of order and it's driving me crazy.) After plotting our trail and discussing the walk yet again we eventually fell asleep.

We woke at around 7:30, packed our gear and were downstairs and in the breakfast room for 8 a.m. The night before we had filled out a little card saying just what we'd like for breakfast. Our first B&B breakfast. "You may have orange juice OR breakfast cereal OR grapefruit, a full English Breakfast OR kippers OR pancakes... " We are generally "Slow Travellers" in that we would rather rent an apartment or a house or home exchange and really "see" an area thoroughly before moving on. When we were first married I was aghast at the thought of a B&B with, I thought in my newly-married-way, no "privacy" and "GAAAKKK. What if someone should HEAR us??!!" LOLOL.... You know the drill. Now we're in our 50's and say "So WHAT if anyone hears us!" Again, LOL. Breakfast was OK but we were to find out that it would pale in comparison to the other spreads we would be given to break our fast. Oh the joys of a Full English at 8 a.m. We gave Liz our Amex and paid the remainder of the tariff (I had booked online with her and already paid half), shouldered our packs and we were on our way to our first town by 8:45 - onwards and upwards to Winchcombe. Oh, if I had only known how much would be "upwards"!
lizcakes is offline  
Oct 18th, 2006, 05:51 AM
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Liz, I'm really enjoying your report. Thanks so much for posting!

We’ve been to the Cotswolds many times and I even have a little milk bottle with Moreton-in-the-Marsh in bright red letters.

Like you, we've done a number of house exchanges too, mostly to the US but one to Shoreham-by-sea near Brighton and one to Lyon, France.

I'm very impressed by your dedication to pure walking. We love walking too and go to the English lake district almost every year but we base ourselves in one place and then walk from there. We settled on an area with a good variety of local walks. Some days we drive to a different area for a change of pace.

Here is the link for my report in case you’re interested:

moolyn is offline  
Oct 18th, 2006, 12:59 PM
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What a fun report! I can't believe how light you packed. Looking forward to the rest...
noe847 is offline  
Oct 18th, 2006, 01:06 PM
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Loved the book, A walk across France. The dogs running loose sounded a little too much for me, though.
pat is offline  
Oct 27th, 2006, 04:12 AM
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More, more, more, please!
cmcfong is offline  
Oct 27th, 2006, 07:10 AM
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Need my Cotswolds fix.
LAwoman is offline  
Oct 28th, 2006, 05:27 PM
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Part III: Moreton-in-Marsh to Winchcombe

[While we had been at the pub the afternoon before we asked the bartender if he knew where the Monarch's Way started in Moreton. He had to think about that a bit and then said that he was quite sure it was along the High Street and take a right at the duck pond. Meticulous directions. So, after thanking him, and before returning to Treetops, we did walk along the High Street and look for said duck pond and of course we had our trusty OS map with us and as we weren't yet anywhere near the Cotswold Way, any of those particular instructions and maps would be useless for us the next morning.

So, to the duck pond, hung a right and down a narrow street that culminated at a gate but looking left we saw a path that ran behind a mixture of terraced and detached houses until the path stopped and a wide grassy area presented itself. This must be it. With this information in hand, we marched back to the B&B, prepared everything we could for the morning, and hit the hay.]

As I said, onwards and upwards to Winchcombe. We arrived at the grassy verge in the morning and knew we were at last starting our "walk". To say it was exciting is again understating the fact. We put our feet onto that grass and off we went. The OS map said we would pass Fosseway Farm and lo and behold we did just that. Verdant fields, blocks of hay stacked up to the height of about 20 feet, blackberries or black raspberries overhanging every path, a couple of swings on a huge tree in a field - gorgeous. We walked on and the air was still cool, probably in the mid-50's and slightly overcast but no rain - perfect for walking. We came upon our first "stile" which had a step built into it for walkers and we also saw our first "Public Footpath" marker. A round, white, thin piece of metal with a yellow arrow on it which said, duh, "Public Walkway".

As for the stiles, I had at one time in my young and foolish years, memorized two of Robert Burns poems: "To a Mouse" and "Tam O'Shanter". In Tam O'Shanter the lines run something like "...over mosses, waters, slaps and stiles, that lie between us and our hame, where sits our sulky sullen dame, gatherin' her brow like gatherin' storm, nursing her wrath to keep it warm." I would be saying these lines over and over again all along the walk, coming upon stile after stile, kissing gate after kissing gate. But even more than this poem, John Bunyan's "A Pilgrim's Progress" would leap into my mind as we peered down narrow roads and broad ways, looking for the right gate that would lead us in the proper direction. The narrow path that leads to life? or the broad way that leads to destruction? I'll never think of Pilgrim's Progress in quite the same way again.

Onward we went through farmland, sometimes not knowing which way to turn as the markers didn't always say which was the Monarch Way (and then to become the Gloucestershire Way) and we knew we wanted this specific path as it went towards Longborough - our first town - and it was from Longborough that we could finally head west towards Winchcombe (we had been travelling south). Now if you look at the Ordnance Survey map for the area, you will see that it's a fairly easy, direct route from Moreton to Longborough. In practical terms, THIS WAS NOT THE CASE. Oh boy, was it ever not the case as there are other public paths that are marked but not named and still other paths that locals may use that are neither marked nor named. Just a tad confusing but we could see what we thought was Longborough in the not too distant horizon, complete with church steeple.

We headed for this town along a path, saw a Monarch's Way marker and almost yelled Hooray. That was until the bull stopped us. Fortunately he was safely ensconced in his paddock with a large sign that read "Bull in Field". Duh. But the path supposedly ran right through the field and the bull was facing us, looking through the gate right into our eyes, replete with brass ring in his nose. We were not going through his field, no way. There was another sort of path uphill and to the right, through high, wet grass. To the left and through another gate was a way to another fenced field. I thought we should take this, Paul thought we should go up the hill. We stood and discussed it for a good five minutes or so, looking around, scanning the map for hints, eyeing the bull as the bull eyed us. Paul checked his compass and the grassy hill led in a somewhat westerly direction even though we still had some southwards to go to get out of Longborough. Oh well, in for a penny, in for a pound - we struck out west.

This was our first hard hill. The grass for quite high, as a matter of fact we were not to go through such long grass for the next 100 miles to Bath as all the grass on every farm, in every field, in every lee, looked as though it had been carefully mown, perhaps being of a certain type of grass that only grew "so high" as we were rarely even within sight of farms or homes for there to be careful maintenance of the acreages. This grass was so wet that soon we were both squishing as we walked and eventually my sneakers were so very full of water that the 3 blisters on my left foot (which never did leave me until I got home) were bathed in cold water for a good half hour. It was glorious. I didn't care that my feet were soaked because the blisters on my toes were thanking me for taking them through a cool lake...

We came out onto a road. The signpost read "To Stow-on-the-Wold" and "To Bourton-on-the-Hill". We didn't want either! Sigh. We checked out the map again and for the second time said "Oh, let's go this way..." and we started downhill on the road towards what we hoped was Longborough. We got into the "center" of the town, more or less, and asked directions of some locals on the sidewalk. "We're trying to walk to Winchcombe - and we're trying to get to this road" as we showed them the map. "You're WALKING to Winchcombe? TODAY? My, but that's a long way! That will take you a long time." I asked how far (I had alread thought about 14 miles) and the man said "Oh, about 14 or 15 miles I should say." I said "Oh, that's fine, just as long as we get there before dark."

Well, the directions from them were to go BACK up the road, all uphill, that we had just come down. Sigh. We got to the top, looked at the signpost that said to Stow-on-the-Wold and Bourton-on-the-Hill, thought about it until it dawned on us that we had to take this road to get to the road that would take a DRIVER to these places. We, however, would be instead walking on the footpath and going off the road, Winchcombe or bust.

So we set out that way, along the road. It was still glorious walking as I had stopped at one of the gates and fixed up my blisters with bandaids and moleskin, changed my socks and shoes as did Paul (he had NO blisters), so we were both in good shape. Good thing I had brought plastic bags for wet shoes and clothes. We walked on, up hill and down, in the woods, in the fields, sighting pheasant, rabbits and at one point, on the road through Luckley Farm, we spotted a lovely horse in a fenced field. We had bought some apples in Moreton the day before and we crunched those sweet apples down to the core and then fed the cores to the horse. He was so thankful and so sweet! He trotted right over to us and let both of us scritch his nose and he looked to us for more apples but of course we had none left and we had to continue on.

The Luckley Farm road (which was very narrow) took us through the small settlement of Condicote where we stopped to talk to a man who was walking his dog in his garden. He said his wife bred the dogs - Cairn Terriers - and this little one was named "Mini" as it had been the runt of the litter. His wife had nursed it with an eye dropper day and night until it was big enough to feed itself. Both the little dog and the man were so lovely. We were thoroughly enjoying England.

Eventually this road through Condicote emptied out onto the B4077 and we knew that we had to turn right and head west if we were ever to reach Winchcombe before nightfall. We surveyed our task: straight up, as far as we could see. Always up! We put our heads down and I walked first as we had to walk single file with the traffic. Up to this point we had had conversation on and off the whole morning as were weren't really on busy roads and were mostly in farm country where we could walk side-by-side. Heaven. The road leveled off for a bit and I thought "Yea. We're at the top!" Not! Another half mile, another half mile, another half mile. We were to level off several more times only to find ourselves climbing yet again. We passed a signpost that said "The Cotswold Farm Park, The Slaughters, Bourton-o-t-Water" pointing south, and "Snowshill, Broadway" pointing north and we pass right by heading for the town of Ford where we hope to find some food somewhere. All in all we figure it was almost two miles up the B4077 into the settlement of Ford, forever to be remembered in our minds as "Two Mile Hill". It was slow going.

HOWEVER. Once we came into Ford we saw what was to be one of the most wonderful sights of the whole trip. A sign read: "The Plough Inn" and another near the door: "Cotswold Cream Teas Served Here" (see photo). Thank you Lord. And it was nearly 3 o'clock!! Tea Time!! Since breakfast we had only eaten the two apples we bought in Moreton and we were ravenous. We took our weary feet and heavy backpacks into the ancient inn and the landlord eyed us warily and said "The best I can do is soup, I'm afraid. We're just clearing up from luncheon." My eyes grew wide and all that I could croak out was "Cream tea? Can we have tea and at least a biscuit??" He looked a little relieved and said "Oh sure. We can do you a cream tea. No problem. Take a seat in that room over there." We hauled our happy little bodies over to a table by a window, fast by TWO fireplaces (see the photo). Actually one of the fireplaces was under the sign that I took a photo of instead of the fireplace.

In what seemed to be just a minute or two, a waitress brought out, on a large tray, a pot of tea, cups, two scones each, strawberry jam, fresh raspberries in their own reduction (not sweet),and two ramekins with what looked like margarine. My countenance fell just a bit at the thought of margarine accompanying my scones but at that point I just didn't care. I hate margarine but here was sustenance and rest. God is so good to us! As I dived into the ramekin with my knife, behold! it was thick Devon cream. Or perhaps thick Cotswold cream. Whatever. It was CREAM! Oh my oh my, did that look good. What a sight for sore eyes!! The last time I had had a "Cream Tea" was in New Zealand in 1995 where they're called "Devonshire Teas" and I've waiting all this time for more. Always two scones, butter, strawberry jam and thick cream. I piled my first scone-half with the jam, piled cream onto that and bit deeply into it.

Oh my. I know that in heaven we won't necessarily be eating and drinking as we do here on earth, but if we DO, I'll have a Cream Tea, thankyouverymuch!

We drank all the delicious tea. We ate every crumb of the scones but I did leave some cream for the cat. I just couldn't finish it all! We took some photos, paid the check (£7.95) and left. It was 3:45 and we were still perhaps 5 miles of hills and dales away from Winchcombe. If you think about walking 5 miles, it's really no big deal. Maybe an hour and a half. When it's flat. On the road. This wasn't. At one point we were on someone's farm - it might have been Slade Barn Farm as we had already passed something called Three Gate Piggeries, but it was uphill uphill uphill alongside the farmer who was harrowing. He must have thought we were mad. May I say it was a "harrowing" experience? You don't have to laugh. I certainly wasn't.

Eventually we came out again onto a road which took us past Pinnock Wood Farm, past Sudeley Hill Farm, past Old House Farm (where we found the only nasty barking dog we would meet the whole 100 miles but it only chased us a bit and then its owner called it off) and finally to the River Isbourne which runs alongside Winchcombe - hardly more than a wide stream in places. It's now about 5:30 and the sun is getting very low indeed and I'm not much better. We walk on the pathway alongside the river which has little wooden bridges every so often that go over the river and connect to backgardens. We take one of these, hoping to get to the main street of Winchcombe rather than having to walk the whole length of the town to the mark on the map where it says "Footbridge". This will be better and shorter! However, the next sight we see is a sign that says: "Rottweiler roaming free". Hmmm. We turned around and walked back over the footbridge and continued to the public bridge. Enough said.

Through a kissing gate, over the bridge, take a left at Puck Pit Lane turning onto the High Street (we had already walked half the length of Winchcombe in the wrong direction), and we spy a realtor (we think) talking to a client on someone's front lawn. "Hello! Can you tell us the way to a B&B? Oaklands B&B perhaps? Or Gower House?" "Yes! Oaklands B&B - that's the road my Mum lives on. Go right down the High Street here and take your first right, bear right and then left and you'll see Oaklands on the right. It's big and used to be an old people's home. Not even five minutes." We thanked her profusely and walked with a new quickness in our steps. Hope they have a vacancy!

We found Oaklands exactly the way she described, at 6:15 p.m., knocked on the door and a young woman answered with a little girl, perhaps two or three years old, peeking around her mother's skirt. "Do you have a vacancy for tonight?" She did! She let us in, went to get a key from somewhere and then led us immediately upstairs to the second floor to a room at the front of the house. It was a good size, perhaps 12X15, a crispy, white, embroidered, linen duvet on the bed (standard double), a dressing table, TV, hospitality tray, bureau, ensuite with mustard colored tub (no shower), sink and WC! But we didn't care WHAT color the fixtures were - we had our own bathroom.

We both took long hot baths and then washed out some clothes and unpacked our still-soaking sneakers. Behind the tub was a closet which held the water heater and it was ROASTING in there, so we laid out our wet things in this "drying closet", as we called it, and they were crispy dry by morning. We had changed into our other set of decent clothes (this is a matter of opinion of course as we never looked really spiffy by any stretch of the imagination) and then went downstairs and asked "Esme" (I think that was her name) where was a good place for dinner. Without hesitation she answered "The Corner Cupboard", right down on the High Street or failing that, The Plaisterer's Arms (pronounced "plasterers"). "But you'd better hurry as they book up very fast." So off we scooted without wasting a moment - it was already 7:30. We got there in ten minutes or so but it was mobbed with people and not a table to be had and this was a Wednesday night! I asked a few people at the bar where THEY would go and one said "Restaurant Five" (or something "5") and another said "The P.A." (The Plaisterers' Arms).

After heading to Restaurant 5 and taking a look inside, we decided NOT. It smelled peculiar, there was no one else there and only one elderly waitress - it all looked a little sketchy even though it was a charming and ancient half-timbered building. Not for us. We headed back the way we had just come and went into the P.A. and happily got a table. We realized after a moment we were yet again in a place where we had to 1) read the menu, and 2) go up to the bar to order. Having done that, and Paul having gone back again to the bar to fetch us a couple of pints of local ale, we settled in to wait for our food.

I had steak (not very thick at all but OK), REAL mashed potatoes and roasted sweet red peppers. Paul had duck with a cherry sauce and mashed also and we shared a dish of carrots and something else - maybe cabbage, oh and broccoli too. For dessert (had to have dessert) I had chocolate crepes with banana slices, caramel sauce and toffee ice cream. Ah, it was good. The coffee was good also and in those personal drip thingies that are right in/over your cup and you must wait for it to drip through. Nice! All told, the bill was £33.85 and we left a £5 tip.

Back to Oaklands, packed up what things we could before bed, and we were off to dreamland. Actually, we read our bible first. I was still working my way through Ephesians and Paul was in the Psalms. We were sharing a small new testament with Psalms (our regular bibles at home were much too heavy to backpack) so while Paul was praying, I was reading and then we switched. I was surprised at the somewhat shallow devotional time I was having but my mind was so busy going over and over the map for the next day in my head, that it was difficult to concentrate. Paul did quite a bit better and says now that he even remembers that he was reading Psalm 19 the next day, Thursday, September 21st, as this was his 53rd birthday. We didn't know then as we were getting ready to sleep at Oaklands that the next day, Paul's birthday, would prove to be more than just a tad, shall we say, challenging.

According to Paul's pedometer (I had lost mine somewhere along the path) we had walked 17.73 miles today and this would prove to be our longest day's travel in terms of miles. Off to dreamland at Oaklands. On to Leckhampton in the morning - The Longest Day.
lizcakes is offline  
Oct 28th, 2006, 11:05 PM
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 17,211

I'm very worried about your last episode.

As you've described it, the farmer who'd kept an untethered solitary bull on a public footpath was committing a very stupid and dangerous criminal offence. It's very rare that farmers are so stupid round here, but if they break that law they deserve (and receive) prosecution.

Would you mind emailing me ([email protected]) details of precisely where (just the OS references will do) and when it happened. Over the past thousand years, we've developed very clear rights for walkers - and one of them is the right to walk on public footpaths without being threatened by dangerous farm animals (or even by inaccurate "beware of the bull" notices).
flanneruk is online now  
Oct 29th, 2006, 01:32 AM
Join Date: Aug 2004
Posts: 4,608
flanner is quite right. in years of walking UK's footpaths, i have only encountered a bull a few times in fields crossed by a public footpath.

farmers are allowed to keep bulls in such fields under some circumstances (related to age of bull, breed, whether solitary or not). but even with such allowances, i have only seen it very rarely. i'm not an expert on cattle so i cannot say if these instances were against the legislation or not...but either way, to see any bull in a footpathed field is not common.
walkinaround is offline  

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