The Cotswold Way – Painswick to King’s Stanley

July 17 – Spent too long over breakfast at the B&B this morning, swapping tales with three Aussies about times things went wrong on the trail. The screwups make the best memories! Ten miles planned for today.

Unbelievably, the weather continues clear and sunny, although this morning was a bit cooler.

A sculpture in the middle of a field – a memorial to a local “rambler.”

Through a green tunnel and into the woods.29980176_unknown-129980256_unknown

We reached the marker for the halfway point of the Cotswold Way, although it is not technically in the middle. 47 miles down, 55 more to Bath!29980304_unknown29980272_unknown

Pretty moss and ferns.

We came to a stone commemorating Oliver Cromwell’s successful battle in the civil war in 1643. Seems odd to fight a battle in the woods, but I guess there was a lot more woods back then!

We climbed the Haresfield Beacon, giving us 360 degree views of the countryside. Nice clouds.

As we walked down, we could see an image in the barn loft. What was that?

Oh! Thanks, zoom lens!

A downed tree trunk filled with coins.

Trees covered with ivy.

Our first grape arbor, with tiny green grapes.

Over the railroad trestle, and before too long, we were in King’s Stanley. Tonight we are staying at Grey Cottage. More about this tomorrow!

The Cotswold Way – Birdlip to Painswick

July 16 – Another continental breakfast this morning – I’m beginning to crave my full English! Eight and a half miles of shady woodland walking planned for today.

In an hour we reached Cooper’s Hill, home of the infamous annual cheese rolling competition. We saw this notice at the foot of the hill:

It’s hard to capture the steepness of a hill in a photo, but trust me, we are way high up and the hill is very steep. You can tell how hard we worked to climb the hill by the sweat that accumulated under Jim’s backpack, reminiscent of the silhouette of a Playboy bunny.

Every May holiday weekend, hundreds of people from all over the world congregate on Cooper’s Hill. A nine pound wheel of local cheese in a wooden container is rolled from the hilltop, and everyone scrambles down after it. The person who captures the cheese, wins! Ambulances wait at the foot of the hill to carry the many injured off to hospital. There were so many injuries that the local government demanded the contest cease several years ago, and refused any responsibility, but the annual contest goes on! Sort of like the running of the bulls in Pamplona, only with cheese.

Flowers blooming in the shade.

In Japan, this would be called a kami tree, with spaces for the spirits to live. Here it’s just an interesting tree.

After a while, we found ourselves on another golf course, also home to a Neolithic fort. You can’t fool me twice – it was just dirt.

Back into the woods. A pretty butterfly.

Then into Painswick, another Gloucestershire village that became prosperous in the wool trade. Walking into town, we came upon the Painswick Rococo Garden; a re-creation of a garden that occupied this very site in the 1740s. Built on six acres, the garden was a place to invite guests to schmooze and canoodle, with little cottages and secluded arbors.

There was also an extensive kitchen garden for fruits, vegetables and herbs.

The garden was abandoned and became overgrown, but is now being restored, using a painting of the original garden, and only plants that were available in England in the 1740s.

They recently added a maze to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the garden. We slogged around it for a while, but never found the center.

In town we found a stunning St. Mary’s Church. I’m still surprised that the C of E church is the fanciest one in town, and that all the churches are open to visit.

Also, the public stocks that were used to punish miscreants in the 1800s.

A pub supper, and we were off to bed. A lovely day.

The Cotswold Way – Winchcombe to Dowdeswell to Birdlip

July 14 – We hated to leave our luxurious substitute accommodations, but all good things must end. Back to our original historic hotel for breakfast, and then we were off. Totally bucolic walk today, with no tourist stops as there was nothing to see!

It rained a little last night, which made the morning foggier than usual. We climbed hills through the Cleeve golf course, hoping we wouldn’t get beaned by a stray ball. The wooden post up the hill has a trail arrow showing us which way to go – impossible to tell the trails from the sheep paths. Surreal walking experience amidst the mist. Here is a scenic hilltop view. Ah, let’s sit here and admire the… fog.

Mind you, I am not complaining. Most who walk this trail throughout the year see nothing but fog and rain every day!

The sun burned off the mist after a while.

Woodland walking.

Alien-looking flowers.

A sunny afternoon.

Our accommodation tonight is a room over a pub off the trail. The guide provided by our travel agent told us to leave the trail and walk one and a half miles to the pub. They didn’t mention that the walk was along a major highway with no shoulder. We jogged on the road when there were no cars coming, then dove into the scrub and cowered until the cars passed. Invigorating! The innkeeper gave us free beer for arriving alive.

July 15 – For the first time in the six weeks we’ve been here, we were not offered a cooked breakfast today. Our host provided a little fridge with yogurts, fruit, milk, juice, biscuits, cereals and porridge, in addition to the ubiquitous kettle for tea and coffee. Nice change from the full English, and it gave us control over what time we set out in the morning. Knowing that we had to do that mile and a half death jog back down the highway, we opted to leave at seven and hope that the Sunday morning traffic would be light. We lived to tell the tale. 12 miles today to the village of Birdlip. You can’t make these names up!

Spent the morning walking the ridge that looks down on the city of Cheltenham. We’ve gazed down on it from all angles, but will not actually visit Cheltenham.

Lots of families, bikers and dog walkers out enjoying a beautiful Sunday. Some pretty flowers.

At the top of Leckhampton Hill was a toposcope, showing what lies below in every direction.

We passed an old quarry area.

We visited the old Iron Age fort and Neolithic settlement at Crickley Hill. It looked like… a mound of dirt. Not a lot of artifacts in evidence from 6000 years ago!

Our accommodation tonight was off the trail, so if there is anything to see in the village of Birdlip, we did not see it. Our host picked us up, and will drop us back on the trail in the morning.

The Cotswold Way – Stanton to Winchcombe

July 13 – Now I know why old people used to get dowager’s hump – it’s from trying not to hit their heads on ceilings intended for people only four feet tall! We had our full English and walked out of Stanton, straightening up as best we could. Only eight miles planned for today, with a tourist stop in the middle.

The first field we walked through had a series of plowman’s humps – perhaps to allow better drainage of water? Not sure, but they were fun to walk across.

Soon we came to the little village of Stanway, where there was a big manor house next to a little church. The church was nothing much inside, but outside it sported some little faces dating from the 1100s.

We climbed a big hill, then rested on a bench. Thanks, Pinky Dickens.

By lunchtime we reached Hailes Church, built in 1149, famous for the medieval paintings on its walls, dating from the 13th century. A gryphon and a basilisk, amid heraldic designs, and some elephant-like creature with wings.

St. Christopher with baby Jesus on his shoulder. His is the largest image.

Saint Catherine.

The hunt.

Stained glass taken from the ruined Hailes Abbey. We saw another piece of this yesterday in another church.

We then walked across the street to see the ruins of Hailes Abbey, built in 1246, and run by Cistercian monks. When King Henry VIII decommissioned the monasteries, taking all the gold and smashing all the saint statues in 1539, the townspeople finished the job by plundering everything worth taking, including most of the bricks. The grass growing on top of the walls is called soft-capping, planted deliberately to prevent further damage by erosion.

The Abbey’s claim to fame was a relic said to contain Christ’s blood, which brought pilgrims and their offerings from miles around.

We ate lunch at the Abbey, then got back on the road.

We walked through our first cornfield. These plants don’t look happy – they need some rain!

Before we knew it, we were in Winchcombe, another historic town.

Tonight we are checked in to a 15th century room, with a bathroom door made for munchkins. Unfortunately, before we could get too comfy, we were told that a plumber was coming over to fix the leaky shower. (This bathroom had been upgraded to reflect the 20th century.) No problem, we went out and had dinner. When we returned, we found that the plumber was gone and the water to our room had been turned off – no sink, no toilet, nothing. The manager apologized and offered us a bottle of wine, saying they had no other rooms available. What?!!!

I’m sorry to say that I went full New York on the poor manager. Within 10 minutes, she checked other hotels for availability (no dice), then called the owner who personally drove in to ferry us to The Lodge – a £275. a night upscale place outside of town that has never seen a backpacker. I’m writing this from my Sleep Number bed with full head raising and reclining features, sipping my sparkling water while my socks dry on the electric towel warmer. Who says Friday the 13th is bad luck?

The Cotswold Way – Chipping Campden to Stanton

July 12 – Look out Gloucestershire, here we come! Breakfasted this morning with a British couple who just completed the Cotswold Way. They pronounced it lovely, but the weather too hot! I’ll take these 70 degree days hands down over any Virginia summer day. Ten miles planned for today.

The trail begins at St. James Church at the edge of the village. It’s a huge church for such a small town, built by wealthy wool farmers and merchants.

The covered market square dates back to the 1600s.

Thatched roofs on our way out of town. I wonder how often they must be replaced?

Misty in the morning.

Through farmers fields – fava beans and wheat.

By mid morning, what ho? A castle?

It was the Broadway Tower, built in 1800 by a rich guy so his wife could view the stars at night. True love. They call it a folly – built to look old, but not really old.

View from the top – kids on an end of term field trip playing soccer. Did you know kids go to school here until mid July? Six weeks holiday for summer.

The tower was used in both World Wars as a lookout post to report enemy planes.

Farewell, Tower! See the little gargoyle on the side?

By lunchtime we reached the touristy town of Broadway, full of tea shops and boutiques. More pretty houses and strange ivy.

We stopped in a church to eat our lunch – shady and quiet. We like that all the churches are open here, and welcome visitors. Here’s the view of St. Michael’s as we left town.

Scenic views in the afternoon.

Here’s something different – anti-slip metal added to the stile steps, and an auxiliary gate for the dogs!

How do you get up on a horse? One step at a time.

You can’t fool me. You are NOT a zebra!

Now we are in Stanton, another lovely old village.There is a very old church here, also called St. Michaels. It has the remains of medieval frescoes on the walls.

A pulpit from the 1300s.

A font from the 1500s, and a piece of old stained glass from the ruin of the medieval Hailes Abbey nearby.

We are staying at The Vine, a B&B in a building that dates back to the 1600s. We are told our room is in the attic. We climb up very steep winding stairs with no bannister, our packs bumping at every turn. We open the door at the top of the steps to find ourselves in…

…a bathroom with a huge tub! Further investigation reveals a bed next door, under the rafters. A very authentic historic and head-bumping experience!

York to Chipping Campden

July 11 – Today we travelled southwest on two buses and three trains, leaving Yorkshire and entering Gloucestershire, where tomorrow we will begin the 102 mile Cotswold Way. No pictures enroute. Weather remains sunny and warm. As we travelled, I marveled that this country has a public transit service that could get us from there to here, on time. Good on ya, England!

Just to recap, in June we warmed up with the 82 mile Dales Way (in blue), then completed our main 192 mile Coast to Coast Walk across the country (in yellow). Tomorrow we start our “cool down” hike, the 102 mile Cotswold Way (in green).

Different part of the country. The accent is definitely different.

The roofs on the buildings in Chipping Campden look different. Some slate…

…some thatch, with a hedge to match!

We ate dinner at a restaurant next to a pub stuffed with every red-blooded British male for miles around, helping their English football (soccer) team by belting out God Save the Queen and drinking as much as possible. When the Brits scored the first goal the roar was deafening! Unfortunately, the rest of the game was kind of quiet. Best of luck to Croatia as they move to the World Cup final – it was fun being here while England was on their winning streak!

Another Day in York

July 10 – Today is our rest day, but there is so much to see! We are going to visit York Minster Cathedral, the largest Gothic cathedral in northern Europe, built on the ruins of two prior churches starting in the 1200s. Gorgeous blue sky today.

Very light and airy inside, very simple main altar, with lots of medieval stained glass, so intricate that it’s hard to see the designs in the glass.

A serenely beautiful ceiling in the Chapter House.

An old dead guy, and a much jauntier dead guy.

The cathedral was stripped of all its Catholic saints, gold, frills and frippery when Henry VIII shut down his opposition in the 1500s, but they kept one saint on hand so that the cathedral would be a pilgrimage site. St. William of York is interred here. When the local bridge collapsed in 1153, nobody died, so he became a saint.

Rose window.

The Doomsday Stone, preserved from the earlier Norman cathedral. Toads and goblins.

I really like stained glass.

Then we were off to the Castle Museum, a misnomer as the castle no longer exists. The building was actually a prison, built on the site where the castle once stood. This tower is the only part of the castle that remains.

The museum has a carousel.

Inside was a strange collection of artifacts donated by Dr. Kirk, who used to accept interesting trinkets in lieu of payment for his medical services. The artifacts were arranged as Victorian street shops and rooms.

The museum had a room that commemorated the Sixties. We don’t need to remember that era – we lived it!

Old toys, bicycles and Punch and Judy puppets.

The Bear Arms. Ha!

Enough excitement for one rest day. Tomorrow we’re on the road again!

A Trip to York

The Grand old Duke of York he had ten thousand men

He marched them up to the top of the hill

And he marched them down again.

When they were up, they were up

And when they were down, they were down

And when they were only halfway up

They were neither up nor down.

July 9 – We took a bus from Robin Hood’s Bay to Scarborough, then hopped on a southbound train for the hour’s ride to York, an historic city if ever there was one. The nursery rhyme above refers to the defeat of York troops to the Lancasterians during the War of the Roses in 1460. This is a city that still has its wall.

Beautiful front gardens – the hydrangea are in bloom!

We were so enamored of the steam engines back in Grosmont that we checked out the National Railway Museum attached to the train station. They had trains from every era, including old cars from the 1600s, the Queen’s fancy saloon, and the Eurostar.

You could look at the engine controls, and also walk underneath to see the underbelly of the engines:

They also had a huge warehouse of train-related stuff that you could spend weeks examining.

If you are a train aficionado, let me know and I’ll send you a hundred more pix!

We walked to the city center, crossing over the River Ouse.

Lovely buildings and an umbrella street!

Can’t you imagine Mary Poppins and Bert dancing around those chimneys?We strolled down an old street of shops called The Shambles, which used to be the part of the open market where the butchers hung their meat back in the 1000s. The current street dates from the 1400s.

Now the shops are more for souvenirs, baked goods, chocolate, and Harry Potter themed items.

This man was collecting donations for victims of the Grenfell Fire. He has pledged to sit on the bike for 72 days, one day for each person who perished.

Constantine was proclaimed Roman Emperor here in the year 306.

And what could be more appropriate in York? Yorkies!

More tomorrow.

Coast to Coast – Littlebeck to Robin Hood’s Bay

July 8 – Well, today is the day! The last day of our Coast to Coast Walk across England. We took our trusty taxi back to Littlebeck, and started walking right where we left off yesterday. It was cool walking through the shady woods in the early morning.

We passed a cave where they used to mine alum, used in the past for tanning hides and dying cloth and wool.

Then we passed a hermitage. Another hiker snapped our pic.

A waterfall at Littlebeck, and a fairy on a tree.

We had to hop across the pond at Maybeck.

A bit of road and path walking. The track is getting boggier – we must be nearing the sea.

Our first sign for Robin Hood’s Bay. Wouldn’t you like to visit Sneaton Thorpe? I just love the names of some of these little towns.

A bit of crashing through the brush and rocky stream bed.

Then…. the sea!

Although we could have gotten to town in three miles by road, our path was double, as we hugged the cliffs and crags of the coast.

And then, there was Robin Hood’s Bay! Cue the Merry Men!

A touristy town on a Sunday afternoon. Lots of inns, pubs and gardens.

Our place was right on the water. The view from our window.

We walked down to the water’s edge, so we could put our boots in the North Sea. It was dead low tide, so that’s about as wet as you could get!

So, our 192 mile trek is done. Unlike Santiago, most of the tourists were not here for the walk, and unaware that there even WAS a Coast to Coast Walk. We couldn’t even find a commemorative plate to celebrate our success. So we settled for a photo and a picture of a commemorative tea towel.

Off to the next adventure!

Coast to Coast – Blakey Ridge to Glaisdale to Littlebeck

July 6 – Our B&B host (who had a gorgeous garden filled with feeders and birds of all sorts for our breakfast watching pleasure) ferried us back to Blakey Ridge. The trail started with several miles of highway walking, so he did us the favor of dropping us off at the end of the highway where the soft track began. A shepherd’s hut dated 1801.

Pretty heather.

We continue to scratch our heads at some of the instructions on our guidebook maps. This morning it said we would be walking along a “metalled” road. We saw tarmac and dirt track, but no metal. A mystery. (A Google search afterward informed us that in Britain a paved road is sometimes called a metalled road.)

Yesterday we were told to look for “grouse butts.” Huh? Little bird heinies? Today we came across several camouflaged stone structures as we walked. Perhaps hunters hide behind them when they wish to be concealed from the grouse? Like a duck blind or a deer stand? Grouse butts.

Before we knew it, we had reached the little town of Glaisdale. There’s an old church here, with a wooden baptismal font cover that dates from the sixteenth century. I especially liked one of the stained glass windows. There is a portrait of Tom Ferries here.

The Beggar’s Bridge is here. The legend says that in the early 1600s, Tom Ferries, a pauper lad, fell in love with the daughter of a wealthy local squire, but the swollen River Esk kept him from visiting his true love. He went to sea, made his fortune, returned to town, became mayor, built a bridge across the river and married his true love.

Our travel brokers arranged for a taxi to take us to the next town, Egton Bridge, where we are booked in the same hotel for two nights. We thought this would be a treat, but it is the saddest accommodation we’ve had on this trip – a bit run down, poorly managed by two overworked young girls, and most importantly, no WiFi! Once again, we were assigned a time to eat supper in the hotel’s overpriced restaurant, (no other options nearby) and we dare not be late! This too shall pass.

July 7 – A good breakfast this morning, and as we made our plans for the day, we realized that the trail was just down the road. Why were we instructed to take a taxi? We ended up just canceling the taxi and walking on from where we were. The RC church of St. Hedda is here. I liked the windy steps up to the organ loft.

We walked along a toll road. We weren’t charged.

A short hike got us to the pretty little town of Grosmont, very touristy, and the home of the last coal fired steam engines in England. Although these beauties were retired from service 50 years ago, they run one train between Grosmont and Pickering for the tourists to ride. These are the very engines seen in the Harry Potter films as the students steam their way to Hogwarts each year.

From the engine yard, the road went up, and up, and up some more, reminiscent of the streets of San Francisco.

We huffed our way higher and higher until it seemed we were looking down from an airplane. At the summit of the hill, high above the tree line, it was perfectly quiet. Nothing grew more than a few inches tall. It felt like we were walking on the moon.

Down the other side of the hill, across a field, and we approached the town of Littlebeck.

This is where our trail will end for the day. A taxi has been arranged to shuttle us back to Egton Bridge. We waited for it in front of a little Methodist chapel, which welcomed hikers and provided hot chocolate and tea. Nice People of England.