The perfect hike
What makes a perfect hike?
For me it includes:
- A circular route – I don’t want to go back on myself.
- A variety of countryside and views i.e. not all trees, fields or water
- Enough of a challenge to feel you’ve exercised (without being it perilous or too exhausting)
- You get home before dark!
- A few things of architectural or historic interest
- A nice pub near or at the end
My sister and I chose walk no 12 from the Pathfinder walk book The Cotswolds and set out with my teens on a Sunday morning. It definitely ticked all the items on my list for the perfect hike (although it wasn’t the perfect weather).
Mellow Cotswold stone cottages and St Kenelm church (dating from the 12th Century) form the heart of the pretty village of Sapperton. The church bell was ringing calling parishioners to Sunday prayer. We started the walk, across a grassy footpath opposite the church, behind the red telephone box. The muddy path led between fields and over a meadow before descending into woods and a stream in the Bathurst estate. A fairly steep, stony path flanked by ferns and mossy, crumbling walls led up to open fields.
When we got to Tunley cottage, the path led through their immaculate garden to more open fields with a view of expansive, lowering clouds and by the time we got near the end to a small copse by the stile they had released their contents liberally. We sheltered, eating slightly damp sandwiches until the rain lessened. Even so I couldn’t risk my camera to capture the carpet of yellow and purple wild flowers of a meadow dotted with architectural thistles or the ivy-clad trees in the Siccaridge Wood Nature Reserve. I was so concerned about it that I wore a fetching yellow poncho over my backpack giving a Quasimodo impression.
We reached the Thames and Severn canal just in time to shelter under the bridge as the heavens opened again. The canal was abandoned in 1927 and 90 years of nature have transformed it to mysterious, almost primeval channel crowded with rampant greenery. When we got going along the canal path, we passed the steep, mossy cavernous walls of old locks; rays of sunlight illuminating the neglected depths – it was truly magical. A man from the village who’d been walking two lurchers quizzed us about our route at The Daneway Inn. Friendly locals, real ale, and an open marquee in the garden so we could sit outside and contemplate the pretty garden and, yes, more rain.
A final gem was to come; following the canal path again we came across the turreted entrance to a canal tunnel. The sun came out and lit the mossy nooks and crannies and ivy-clad castellations. Looking over the stile into the next field, my sister exclaimed “oh no!” in dismay. “Not more mud?” said I? and yes indeed the path looked sticky and boggy. However it was a herd of cows with their calves that had sis and teens hesitating in trepidation. I tiptoed over the mud and marched towards two nervous looking youngsters across the path who were staring at us and lolloped off to their mothers. A last upward stride up the field with views behind us across the valley and we were soon opening the back gate into the churchyard. Medieval monuments and garden flowers were just two of the things that combined to make this an atmospheric and charming village church.
Click on the first image to view the gallery
The perfect hike? Definitely one of our favourites.
But then nearly all of the walks in the book have been rewarding. So far we’ve done:
- Minchinhampton Common (walk 3) – in the pouring rain
- Northleach and Hampnett (walk 4) – including an exquisite church with painted interior but many impassible fields because of bulls and huge herds of cows
- Brimpsfield and Syde (walk 9) – although we took a wrong turn and cut off the last bit of the route
- The Guitings and Guiting Wood (walk 11) – a favourite after visiting the Cotswold Farm Park
- Cooper’s Hill and Buckholt Wood (walk 16) – including looking down the terrifying Cooper’s Hill, home of the cheese rolling descent.
- Haresfield Beacon and Standish Wood (walk 18) – high up on the perfect hike scale.
- Laurie Lee Country (walk 21) – the epitome of the splendid Cotswold countryside
What makes your perfect hike?