Woods, canals, cottages and a kamikaze drop
When I returned to Dubai from Lebanon all I wanted to do was to carry on walking through countryside. A city in a desert at 40 C+ and high humidity was not the best place so I leapt off the plane in Birmingham (UK) 6 weeks later inhaling fresh air and itching to get my walking boots on. Britain is a crowded island but it’s quite easy to get out into a bit of green space, ducking down a path with a green waymark, without meeting a single person on your way. My home county is Gloucestershire and I took advantage of the fine weather this week to discover a variety of walks and hikes.
This is a fabulous walk which we discovered last year after visiting the Cotswold Farm Park near Guiting Power. There are many famous Cotswold villages like the Slaughters, Broadway and Bourton-on-the-Water but the honey coloured stone cottages and tranquil feel of Guiting Power make it one of the prettiest to me. My Uncle first saw my Aunt on stage in a pantomime in the village hall; they celebrate their ruby wedding this year. After a surfeit of baby animal stroking, we (me, my daughters and my sister) started by parking in Critchford Lane by the sheep pens and walking down a track to the right of the stunning Manor House. The view across to this very desirable residence with sheep grazing on the common land in front of it mustn’t have changed for hundreds of years. The track takes you steeply upwards through a line of trees dotted with rabbit holes but you are soon deeply into Guiting Woods following the path of the Warden’s Way (a 14 mile trail). The dry weather meant that it was easy-going but it’s probably very muddy a lot of the time. At the far edge of the wood we left the Warden’s Way taking a left turn steeply back up through the trees (we had no map and my daughter cleverly remembered the way). A bit of a pant and a puff upwards and we were soon back on a broad path. At a stone post we left the dark woods for a red earth track by the edge of cornfields – the change is dramatic. The views across the fields are the epitome of the Cotswold countryside and we eventually joined the drive of the Manor House. Two riders saluted us on our way but apart from a couple of dog walkers at the start, we saw no one else. This route took us one and a half hours at a reasonably swift pace. We drove back through the village stopping at the pretty Hollow Bottom pub for a drink. We sat at tables outside in the early evening sunshine looking at the view of a glorious meadow.
Saul junction and Frampton on Severn
We needed a walk for all the family; stretching enough for the keen hikers but not too demanding for older members of the party. A flat walk along a canal path with a great tea shop at the end near Frampton on Severn fitted the bill. We covered the five-mile circular trail in two hours. We started at Saul junction, followed a canal path, crossed a bridge and admired the neat gardens along the road to Frampton. There were duck eggs for sale with an honesty box. We crossed the beautiful village green, went through the lych gate and fields by the church, crossing back over the hand turned bridge onto the canal path with views across the broad flood plains to the Severn estuary. We ended the walk at the Stables cafe where we had bacon and egg rolls, homemade cake and cups of tea while watching the ducks and swans with their cygnets on the water. You could take this at an easier pace or add on other sections of the canal path for a longer walk (or cycle). Slimbridge Wetlands Centre is very near and worth a visit.
My sister admitted that she had often, as a child, gazed from the car window into the mysterious woods that border the road from Cheltenham to Painswick wishing she could explore. We bought The Cotswolds Walks book by Pathfinder Guides and followed the route 16 via Cooper’s Hill and Buckholt Wood. Leaving the small car park we entered straight into deeply loamed wooded paths striking up through leafy canopies on a well waymarked path dappled with sunlight. These would have been edged with bluebells in the Spring. My sister spotted a long-tailed tit on a beech tree and as we looked closer we spotted more and more, counting at least 12 of these tiny, busy little birds. We skirted the woods with glimpses of open countryside and eventually entered the village of Cranham, admiring the cottages and vowing to return to visit the Black Horse Inn. At the edge of Cranham Common we re-entered the woods eventually reaching the hamlet of Cooper’s Hill and the site of the annual cheese-rolling competition. The sheer drop that people hurl themselves down is truly frightening when viewed from the base or the top – we did both (viewing not hurling). Personally I would rather dance round the maypole. We got very slightly lost right near the end and I realised my new perchant for extreme inclines when I suggested to my sister that we scale the side of a quarry. She declined. This lovely circular walk is perfect for a hot day due to the shady trees and took us just over two hours.
Brimpsfield and Syde
Testing another of the Pathfinder routes we left the A417 on our way back from Cirencester, parked in the village hall car park in Brimpsfield and walked through the village. It was a glorious summer’s evening. This was a gentler landscape of cottages, lakes, woods and fields covered with sheep – who were fairly unfazed by our company. We climbed up the only steep section to the village of Syde and then back again as we decided not to visit the church. As the evening was humid we took a path by Ettington woods when we got to Caudle Green, passing a stream, cows and horses before rejoining the lane in Brimpsfield with plans to return for the rest of the route another day. The villages were incredibly peaceful and very pretty. The Old Vicarage in Brimpsfield had me dreaming – but we realised they all lacked something…a pub. Ah well.