Haresfield Beacon and running in hiking boots
I’ve been struggling to find a regime that will fit into my life and keep my fitness levels somewhere near those attained for my Lebanon challenge. I really felt the benefits – more energy, a better shape – but with a new job and the temperatures soaring in Dubai it’s not been easy. I need something that’s a bit more intensive than walking and doesn’t involve a drive to the gym.
Running has always been a bit of a swear word to me but when my sister who has never done any running in her life completed 10 km recently some thoughts were seeded that I never imagined would ever enter my brain. Still in England on my hols, I accompanied said sister on 5 km yesterday – she jogged, I walked (albeit at a very swift pace) and I ran for a short section too. I hate running but I also hate walking up steep hills but have learned to love them in a masochistic way. I mentioned these dark thoughts via Facebook to my super-fit Lebanon trek buddy Karen and she started sending motivational messages immediately.
But back to my true love – walking. Sis and I thought we’d do another of the routes in the Pathfinder Cotswold Walks book (walk 18) and drove a couple of junctions down the M5 southbound from Cheltenham. These guides are great but I’ll supplement the directions when I think it will be useful. To get to the start of the walk you take an immediate left hand turn from the Stroud road once you’ve left the motorway slip road (from junction 12) which is brown signposted Beacon Inn. Continue to the village of Haresfield, go over a railway bridge and turn right by the village school then left to take you up a steep, narrow and winding road to Haresfield Beacon which ends in a National Trust car park at Shortwood. The day wasn’t extremely clear but we struck off diagonally right across the fields to reach the impressive bronze topograph viewpoint and were rewarded by really spectacular views across the river Severn extending to Sugar Loaf Mountain in Wales. Almost doubling back and following a wooded path to reach Iron Age earth works it was fantastic to walk along the ridge of these ancient fortifications to the triangulation point and Beacon for more great views. Doubling back again we reached the edge of a field to glimpse, through the wooded perimeter, a farmer herding calves by shaking a bag of cow nuts in front of them.
Crossing the road and enjoying more soft earth paths through deep woods we eventually reached a stone memorial commemorating the end of the siege of Gloucester by Royalist forces in 1643 and then an old well with an interesting inscription. On the next section of the Cotswold Way, watch out for the turning sharply right up through the woods. We missed it and had to double back – it’s at the end of the drive by the field which has a small camp with a sort of yurt complete with chimney and washing line.
The path upwards was the steepest section but short and we were soon sitting on a felled tree trunk eating bananas for energy. Crossing the road and stile we entered a large field and headed for the right of the farmhouse in the distance. My sister began to run – she wore trainers – not to be outdone I did too despite the hiking boots and rucksack with 2 litres of water in it. The more I ran the more determined I became to reach the stile, Karen’s comments keeping me going. Gasping and wheezing as I reached the stile, I burst out laughing to see the creatures in the field on the other side of the road. They were alpacas and they stretched their long necks up and looked inquiringly as if to say ‘what on earth are you doing?’ What indeed.
Don’t be tempted to take the first entry into Standish Woods. Continue down the road by Park Bungalow. I think this route through the woods is called the Robber’s Road. We left the woods by the 2000 steps waymarker (no sign of the conifer stands that are mentioned in the guide) and walked down the road into the village of Randwick to the Vine Tree Inn for a very good half of Bob ale (they are a CAMRA pub) while sitting in the garden admiring the view over Stroud and Painswick.
Retracing our steps and taking the path opposite the red phone box, past a beautiful mare and foal, we re-entered the beautiful woods which made up the rest of our walk. The last bit was described as steep but it was actually a long and gentle climb taking us back to the car park. We took a left hand detour when leaving the village of Haresfield to look at the Beacon Inn which is an old Victorian railway pub and looked inviting…for next time. It was an invigorating and rewarding hike of 7 miles or 11.25 kilometres and took us about 3 hours 15 minutes (including our stop at the pub) which I would strongly recommend. Running in hiking boots entirely optional!