Category Archives: Hiking

The Cotswold Way – Cold Ashton to Bath

July 21 – This is it! Last Cotswold walking day! I must say, I was eager to move on from that shepherds hut this morning. Jim made us a lovely breakfast with the meager provisions provided by our host, with me staying in bed to keep out of his way.

Then Jim moved outside so I could wash the dishes! (Yes, there is a tiny cold water sink behind the stove.) I know tiny houses are the rage these days, but I don’t think I’m a suitable candidate for one…

Nine miles gets us into the city today. A hill to climb, some woods, some farmer’s fields. Here is the ultimate cow.

We walked through the battlefield of the Battle of Lansdown 1643. The Royalists beat the Parliamentarians as far as we could tell.

The ultimate golf course. Have I mentioned that everyone walks with their own cat here? We haven’t seen electric carts at any of the courses.

Ready for one last word? On our maps, areas of “tumuli” are indicated. We thought it was some kind of plant that we had never heard of. Turns out, it’s another word for burial mounds or barrows. Tumuli, (TOOM you lee) plural of tumulus. I learn something new every day.

Before we knew it, there was Bath below!

We walked to Bath Abbey, the official end of the 102 mile Cotswold Way. More about Bath tomorrow!

The Cotswold Way – Chipping Sodbury to Cold Ashton

July 20 – Didn’t want to leave our cool and spacious room over the gastro-pub this morning. We lingered over a fantastic breakfast chatting with the chef before beginning our penultimate hiking day. The chef spends his summers here, then travels to Japan in the winter to teach snowboarding. He reminded us of Christopher. Nice life! Eleven miles today, still sunny and warm.

We stopped into the church of St. Mary Magdalene, and I was thrilled to see memorial poems on the walls. Usually, I love finding interesting tombstones, but with the sandstone used universally here, any writing over a hundred years or so is no longer legible.

The church had a sign about the Ceysell Brass from 1493, and we looked high and low but could not find it.

I looked down and lifted a corner of the rug and voila! There it was!

We approached another little town at lunchtime, that had a similar church, St. Peters, and a similar brass. This one was open for all to see.

We ate our lunch in the church cemetery – cool and shady. There were formal gardens below, with lots of tourists strolling about.

I promised myself to stop showing hillsides and pastorals, but this is our penultimate day, so here are some penultimate cows.

By mid afternoon we arrived at Hill Farm B&B, where we had been warned by our travel agent that there were no rooms available, so we would be sleeping in “the shepherd’s hut.” It sounded quaint, but turned out to be a teeny tiny trailer with a corrugated metal roof out in the hot sun. It was REALLY hot inside, with no fan or way to make a cross-breeze. The host was not home, but left us a note to make ourselves comfortable. Ha!

We showered in the tiny bathroom, but started to sweat as soon as we emerged. Our host had left us one bottle of water, with instructions not to drink the water that came from the tap. We were dehydrated and overheated. We’re gonna die!

I went outside looking for any shady place, and found a lovely covered patio with a cool breeze at the top of the hill. We retired there with our books and waited for our host to return. When she did, she assured us that the hut would cool down in the evening, and she was right. This is a self catering B&B, so we heated our lasagna dinners in our tiny microwave, and ate outside at our tiny table.

Here’s to the Cotswold Way!

The Cotswold Way – Wotton-under-Edge to Chipping Sodbury

July 19 – I’m really not making up the names of these places. Walked out of Wotton (pronounced Wooton) this morning without ever learning what it was under the edge of! 13 miles planned for today.

At breakfast this morning, we overheard two ladies discussing their walk, complaining that the architecture here just wasn’t as quaint as they expected. We agree. The cool houses were back in Chipping Campden, but the flowers here are still are very nice.

Every town should have a Pansy Appreciation Club, don’t you think?

Here’s a company that’s adapted to local tastes:

What kind of a headstone is that?

A sign we haven’t seen before:

Oh, that explains it!

Into the woods again. A little waterfall.

A tree with a French braid.

Passing through a little town with ducks and geese.

Who wants to guess what this is? A shaggy dog? A bear?

Nope, guess it’s some kind of bovine.

Another monument – didn’t we climb that yesterday?

This one was for General Lord Somerset for whatever he did at the Battle of Waterloo. And no, we didn’t climb this one.

A little folly, built to encourage endangered birds to nest in safety:

And now we are in Chipping Sodbury, in a room over a really nice gastro-pub with gourmet food. Looking forward to a relaxing evening. No crises today!

The Cotswold Way – King’s Stanley to Wotton-under-Edge

July 18 – Although I don’t usually talk much about our B&B hosts, today is my exception. Rosie Reeves has been running her B&B for thirty years, named one of the best hosts in England, honored at a tea with the Queen, and participated on the English reality show Three in a Bed, where B&B hosts vie for top hospitality honors by critiquing one another’s establishments (she was first runner up). She is full of life and energy, despite recently breaking a leg and hip. She also serves an excellent Full English breakfast. It was a pleasure to meet her.

As part of her service, Rosie drove us to the edge of town, shaving a mile off our 15 mile day. Great start! Up the hill…

…and into the woods.

At the top of Coaley Peak, there is Nympsfield Long Barrow, a Neolithic tomb built over 5500 years ago. Remains of 20 men, women and children were found in the tomb.

View from Coaley Peak.

At lunchtime we reached the town of Dursley, where I expected to see Muggles everywhere, (Harry Potter’s Muggle relatives were the Dursleys) but it was just a town.

I do like a butcher who thinks very very large is just right. Not sure what home made faggots are?

Up another hill, and before too long we could see the Tyndale Memorial Tower, erected for William Tyndale, who first translated the Bible into English in the early 1500s.

Do you think we climbed the tower? Of course we did!

Now all we had to do was get to Wotton-under-Edge. As we walked through the forest, we encountered two signposts that had been ripped out. Uh oh! Which way do we go? There was no clear path. Just at that moment, my phone signaled low battery. Soon we would have no back up navigation. We kept walking, getting deeper into the forest and not seeing any more trail signs. I started walking faster and breathing harder. This might be what they call a panic attack.

What did Jim do? He spoke calmly, gave me a Snicker bar and assured me that all would be well. Of course he was right – the phone lasted long enough to get us back on the trail, and died just as we reached the town. From that point, we just kept asking for the Swan Hotel until it came into view. Jim is my hero!

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 – 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 traveled southwest on two buses and three trains, leaving Yorkshire and entering Gloucestershire, where tomorrow we will begin the 102 mile Cotswold Way. No pictures en route. Weather remains sunny and warm. As we traveled, 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!

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 that, 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!