Cotswolds - Winchcombe Way (15-16/10/2011)
Pheasants, Phones & Furrows
We enjoyed a weekend in the Cotswolds, walking the 42-mile Winchcombe Way.
At 8.30, Rosie & John B (now living in nearby Tewkesbury) were joined outside Winchcombe tourist office by local Bristol & West member Julianne (Jules), Chris & Glenis from Staffordshire & Graham from Wiltshire. By 8.45, as everyone was getting cold, they set off; where were the South Manchester people? At 8.55, Rosie got a call - "we're parking up; how do we find you?". Yes, John K had got the start time wrong (duh!). So Rosie had to go haring back to town to collect him, along with Duncan & Quentin. Everyone finally met up at Gretton, on the far side of Langley Hill.
It was a fine sunny day - it felt unseasonally warm for those of us who had travelled down from t'North the night before. Passing Alderton Church, then skirting Alderton Hill, we arrived at Dumbleton. There, we lingered decadently outside the delightful tea-shop, until John B mercilessly whipped us back onto our feet and on our way. Now heading west, we skirted Dumbleton Hill, then turned south to pass west of Alderton. Reaching the B4077 Tewkesbury road, we virtuously walked right on past the Hob Nails Inn, to continue through the fields to Alstone. Continuing along the slopes of Woolstone Hill, we stopped to eat our sandwiches on the hillside below Dixton Wood.
It was here that Quentin realised that he had lost his mobile phone (his previous one is now providing shelter for a family of beetles in a clough somewhere on the slopes of Bleaklow). So, regretfully, he left us to retrace his steps. Graham very kindly accompanied him - he would keep ringing the phone number, in the hope that they would hear it, or someone else would answer.
The rest of us pressed on, soon climbing the steep holloway up Nottingham Hill, a flock of pheasants running along ahead of us. Next, up Cleeve Hill - despite some wistful noises about stopping at the Golf Club for an ice-cream, we pressed on. Across the airy, open spaces of Cleeve Common, we then dropped down to the spur of Belas Knap, with its magnificent Bronze Age barrow. After a tea-stop, it was only a couple of miles downhill to return to Winchcombe (although a slight disagreement between our leaders resulted in us actually following the Cotswold Way, rather than the Winchcombe Way). (20.65 miles and 2250ft ascent)
Meanwhile, Quentin & Graham, having returned to the Hob Nails, called in to see if the phone had been handed in. Despite making thorough enquiries within the pub, they had no luck. However, on leaving, Graham got an answer from Quentin's phone, from a Dutch lady called Lucy who had found it beside a stile! Over on a walking holiday, she was staying in Tewkesbury, a short stone's throw from Rosie & John's.
We all met up at the Raj Shahi in Tewkesbury that evening for a convivial curry. Jules' partner John joined us; with some prompting, she eventually admitted that he was in fact Lance Armstrong, seven-times winner of the Tour de France. She agreed that the yellow jerseys were filling up the bedroom walls, and confessed that Lance's engagement to Sheryl Crow "had caused a few problems" at the time. Quentin was also reunited with his phone.
Sunday morning saw some changes in personnel. Regretfully, Chris & Glenis, Jules & Graham all had other commitments, and Chairman Blagg decided to slope off to that London to attend a drumming concert. However, Christine and her dog Jess had travelled down from Cheshire, so five humans and one canine set off from Winchcombe (on time!) for the second half of the walk.
We first headed up Salter's Hill, passing near to "Adam's Farm", featured on the BBC's Countryfile, along quiet lanes, then came a steep climb up through Guiting Wood. Descending again, we turned sharp left, uphill & down again to reach Temple Guiting, where we stopped for a tea-break in the churchyard. Although it was a fine morning, we didn't see any other walkers, but plenty of horses and their riders.
On through Ford and Taddington, then uphill to skirt Lidcombe Wood, we arrived at the village of Snowshill. Calling at the Snowshill Arms, we sat at the far end of the sun-drenched beer-garden, surreptitiously eating our sandwiches. John K's pint of SBA ale went down so nicely, his fingers had to be prised off the doorframe as he attempted to go back inside for several more.
So onwards and upwards to Buckland Wood, then down to Buckland village. A fenced path led to the nearby village of Laverton, and from here we continued to Stanton. Ridge-and-furrows were prominent here, relics of the ancient strip-farming once practised before the theft and enclosure of the common lands. After a quick halt by Stanton cross, we continued through the parkland of the Stanway estate, and past the magnificent church, across the busy B4077 once more, soon reaching the hamlet of Wood Stanway.
John K finished here, at the delightful B&B where Duncan, Quentin & he had been staying, and where he was due to be picked up for the journey home. The rest continued on, passing below Hailes Wood and the ruins of Hailes Abbey, and skirting Salter's Hill to return once more to Winchcombe and the end of the walk. (21.25 miles and 2375 ft ascent)
Our thanks to Rosie & John for hosting a super event in another classic walking landscape beyond our usual reach. Thanks also to all the guests who joined us, and made the weekend a real LDWA special.
(Text by John Knight; photos & statistics by Duncan Smith)