Cotswold Round 2009

Author: George Tod

This walk is illustrated with photographs. Click on small photo to enlarge in situ, or click caption to enlarge into new window.
Part 8 - Winchcombe to Shenington


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Day 12 - Friday 19th June - GPS 18.9 miles

Winchcombe to Chipping Campden (Lift to my Daughter's House)

I went for breakfast at 8.00. This was one of the least generous ones of the walk with a small portion of muesli followed by bacon, sausage and egg with toast but no marmalade or jam and a small pot of tea. I could probably have asked for more, but it was adequate so I didnít bother. By the time I had eaten breakfast, got myself ready and called at the Co-op for a few things for lunch it was 9.00 before I set off from Winchcombe.

The blisters on my heels were rather painful, as might be expected, but I tightened up my laces a little to stop my heels from rubbing up and down and also shortened my stride to keep my feet in a more constant position within my boots. Before long I had managed to achieve a relatively painless mode of walking that was not much slower than when I was striding out more. The bright start to the day once again gave way to cloud, but there were still a few bright spells as I made my way to Hailes with its little church and ruins of an abbey. The track up through Hailes Wood had signs warning of erosion caused by flooding. I had already seen signs of this yesterday on my way up to the disused quarry where the path had been eroded to a depth of a foot or more in places. This I assumed had happened last Wednesday when I was caught in heavy rain myself and there were distant thunderstorms indicating even heavier rain in other places.

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Hailes Church
Hailes Church
Monument near Beckbury Camp Hill Fort
Monument near Beckbury Camp
Route down to Wood Stanway
Route to Wood Stanway

At the top of the hill was a monument, though I couldnít work out to what or to whom it was dedicated. There was also and old hill fort, Beckbury Camp, with good views of the surrounding hills. Dropping down the steep hillside on the way to Wood Stanway, I met a couple of Cotswold Way walkers - Dutch I think. I hadnít expected to meet anyone this early in the day, as anyone setting off from Chipping Campden would have met me in the middle of the day, so I presumed that they must have only done a short walk from the start yesterday. Further on at Stanway, I found a nice little spot for a rest at 11.15, having done about six and a half miles, so my steady plodding wasnít doing badly. However, just as I had had a bonus yesterday with less mileage than I had previously calculated, it worked the other way today with my guidebook showing a mile more today, making it 18 rather than 17 miles.

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Stanway House and Church
Stanway House and Church
Mature trees in pasture near Stanway
Near Stanway
Picturesque village of Stanton
Stanton

I had arranged for my daughter to pick me up at about 17.30 to 17.45, so I would need to keep an eye on progress to avoid being late. I was off again at 11.45, passing through the village of Stanway with its fine looking Stanway House next to the church. The buildings around here tend to have a much richer coloured stone than in other parts of the Cotswolds, making them even more attractive. From Stanway, the path runs through what looks very much like parkland with mature trees along the way. In fact I thought it was parkland until I saw a comment in the guidebook pointing out that it was not. The next village of Stanton was also very picturesque, again being built with the deeper coloured stone.

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Looking back towards Stanton from Shenberrow Hill
Down Shenberrow Hill
Large Pyramidal Orchid on verge of farm track
Pyramidal Orchid

A long climb then led up to the top of a hill giving some wider views over to the west but they were then lost for a while behind trees. Even so, the walking was enjoyable and easy going with views opening up from time to time. As I was walking along a wide track, I spotted a most magnificent orchid on the verge. It was larger than any of the spotted or pyramidal orchids I had ever seen. I could see no others around that area and it seemed to have grown in the most unlikely of places. From the photograph that I took, the nearest match I could find on the Internet was a pyramidal orchid, though all the ones I have ever seen have been much smaller. However, it appears that there are wide variations in shape and size within the various orchid types.

Further along, the track had a horrible surface for walking on. It had recently been spread with stone that had not yet been compacted down making it very bad for my feet, which were still in a rather delicate condition. Eventually though the surface did improve making me heartily glad. Broadway Tower, probably the most famous landmark of the Cotswold Way, was now in view on the hillside opposite and, as I started to drop down, Broadway itself came into sight down below with its fine church and stone buildings.

About half a mile before reaching Broadway I stopped at 14.00 for a half-hour lunch break overlooking Broadway. I now had about six and a half miles to walk to reach Chipping Campden, which meant that I should be able to get there on schedule without much of a problem. There were a number of walkers now coming the other way, presumably having started the Cotswold Way at Chipping Campden this morning. Since I had joined the Cotswold Way, in many ways I had been looking at Chipping Campden as an end point. It marked the end of the walk in this guidebook, though, as I had been doing the Cotswold Way in the opposite direction, I was now nearing the start of the book and counting down the map numbers as I walked along. It also seemed like the end of the walk in that I would no longer be staying in B&Bs but staying with my daughterís family and completing the Cotswold Round with two more day-walks using Shutford as a base and carrying a much lighter pack.

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Overlooking Broadway
Overlooking Broadway
Broadway High Street
Broadway High Street
View from near Broadway Tower
Near Broadway Tower

Broadway itself is a very up-market tourist trap with many expensive shops, hotels and restaurants. It is very picturesque with its fine old buildings of the local stone lining the very long main street, but it is not the ideal place for a Cotswold Way walker on a budget. In any case, I seldom stop off anywhere during the day, so it didnít really matter to me whether it were expensive or not, and I carried on walking up through the town until I reached the path towards Broadway Tower. This is a folly that was built in 1799 for Lady Coventry by the 6th Earl of Coventry and is sited on Beacon Hill, which is the second highest point in the Cotswolds at 1024 ft (312m). Regardless of the reason for its construction, it is still a fine feature on the landscape offering wide, panoramic views of the Cotswolds from the top.

The climb up Beacon Hill is fairly steep at first followed by a small, steeper ridge, then a more gradual climb to the tower at the top. There are good views of the town below from part way up, but these are lost further on due to the contour of the hill. The views to the west are extensive, though there are not many hills to be seen, most of them having been passed further south. The tower is open to the public for a charge allowing the full panorama to be seen, but I didnít have a lot of spare time, so just called in the gift shop for a couple of little things to take back for the grandchildren.

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Broadway Tower
Broadway Tower
Route northwards along Broadway Hill
Along Broadway Hill

I made my way along the ridge from Broadway Tower towards the picnic site at Fish Hill, where there is a toposcope. The only problem is that most of the view from there is obscured by trees. Whoever decided to put it there must have overlooked the fact that trees keep growing taller. No doubt in winter time, when the leaves have fallen, there will be more to see, but now there was not much of a view at all. There followed a walk through fields for a while, with views opening up towards the east for a change. Most views from the Cotswold Way are to the west of the escarpment rather than plateau to the east, but now the more undulating Oxfordshire countryside made the views eastwards more interesting. After passing through some fields planted with crops, there was a walk through a long, narrow swathe of mown grass with trees to one side and a hedge to the other, which made it seem like walking to the end of a mile-long lawn.

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Dover's Hill near Chipping Campden
Dover's Hill
High Street, Chipping Campden - End of the Cotswold Way
High Street, Chipping Campden

Just when I was starting to think I had come to the end of any good views for the day, the route made its way to Doverís Hill, owned by the National Trust, with more fine views to the west and a lovely bit of open walking along the ridge to finish off the Cotswold Way. Now it was just a matter of dropping down into Chipping Campden, which was visible down in the valley to the east. It was quite busy in the town with all sorts of things going on. There were vintage cars, stretched limos, horse drawn carriages and floats of various kinds making me wonder what it was all about. My daughter picked me up from there and we soon got stuck in a traffic jam caused by all these vehicles. Eventually, we reached Chipping Campden School where all of the vehicles were heading and it became clear that this was a prom for all the school leavers. I wasnít aware of it, but it is becoming more commonplace nowadays to have an extravaganza like this as a leaving party. It was frightening to think how much money had been spent by parents to pay for all this, though there was obviously no shortage of money around here, recession or no recession.


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Day 13 - Saturday 20th June - GPS 19.9 miles

Chipping Campden to Shenington (Lift to my Daughter's House)

After breakfast with the family, I was dropped off in Chipping Campden by my son-in-law Steve at about 9.45. I hadnít gone more than 100 yards when I came to take a photograph and found that I had forgotten to put the battery back in my camera after recharging it. Normally, it is quite easy not to forget things, as it is just a matter of making sure that nothing has been left in the bedroom. However, now that I was using my daughterís house as a base for the last two days of the walk, I was just carrying a few essentials each day, leaving most of my things in the house, so it was far easier to forget something. It was too late to do anything about it now, so I would just have to have a day without photographs. At least I would only be without the use of a camera for one day and the weather was not particularly good, though I do like to have as much of a record as I can of the whole route, even if conditions are not ideal.

Todayís walk and part of tomorrowís walk was on the Cotswold Link, joining the northern end of the Cotswold Way to the start of the Cross Cotswold Pathway at Banbury. This meant that I was now following a guidebook written in a similar style to the Cross Cotswold Pathway, with its reliance on a detailed route description but extremely sketchy maps that were very short on detail. Whereas the Cross Cotswold Pathway had been quite well waymarked for most of the way where it followed the Macmillan Way, there were no such waymarking on the Cotswold Link. The waymarking had helped a great deal earlier on in that it helped to avoid any confusion caused by lack of detail on the maps and gave reassurance that I was following the correct route. All I had to help me now were normal footpath and bridleway signs with no confirmation that they were the ones I should be on.

Picking up the route out of Chipping Campden towards Hidcote Boyce, there was some good, open walking with fine views of the rolling countryside in places. Some of the paths were a little overgrown, being less well walked than those of the Cotswold Way, and my legs and socks were starting to get a bit wet, as the grass was still wet from earlier rain. There is a National Trust garden at Hidcote Manor, but I didnít have a lot of time to spare having had a fairly late start, so I carried on past through the picturesque village and over the hill, which gave more fine views.

Towards Darlingscott I started to have problems with the route. Things didnít properly match up with the route description and I wasnít sure whether it was because the guidebook was out-of-date or whether I was on the wrong path. Eventually, after going around in circles for a while, I had no option but to join the nearby road and follow that into Darlingscott. What made matters worse was that the mileage markings on the sketch maps were hopelessly inaccurate and were passing very slowly. At Darlingscott the guidebook showed 5 miles but my GPS showed 8.5 miles. I may well have wasted about a mile, but there was still a big discrepancy. If this were going to be the same all the way I would have a lot more miles to cover than I had bargained for. I took a short break for lunch and then pressed on. The whole thing had now become a matter of whether I could complete the dayís walk in time so that I wouldnít be too late back causing a delay to dinner with the grandchildren, as we were supposed to be having a barbeque. One option that would help matters is that I could be picked up from Shenington to save the 2 miles off-route to get to Shutford, so I could bear that in mind if I were running late. Once a walk turns into a race against time, the whole thing is spoiled as there is no longer any interest in the walking, only in the amount of progress being made and the amount of time left. In any case, the scenery got less interesting and the walking was flatter just following the edges of fields.

Past Honington, the route joined the Centenary Way, which was well signposted, making route finding easier. All was going well as I went through field after field until I failed to see any signs for quite a while. I followed what seemed to be the main path but that eventually headed off in the wrong direction. Faced with the prospect of having to backtrack for quite a way until I found where I had gone wrong, I decided to head in the general direction of my final destination of Shenington, which was more or less due east, and see where I ended up. This meant following the edges of a few large fields without proper footpaths, so it involved uneven ground, long grass, thistles and various other impediments, but I carried on until I reached a road and was able to find a sign to Tysoe, having presumably bypassed Whatcote on my way.

After a long stretch of road walking, I picked up the route again in Tysoe, where I stopped for a short rest. The weather had been rather changeable throughout the day with one or two light showers earlier and now a slightly heavier one, as I sat on a seat near the church. I could have taken a shorter route to Shenington via the road, but I determined to follow the route again, as the countryside was getting a little more interesting and I would be able to get back in reasonable time if I had a lift from Shenington. The walking wasnít all that easy with my feet getting sore from lack of rest as well as the ever-present discomfort from my blisters. The uneven ground in places just aggravated the problem and tended to slow my progress, though I was doing my best to press on. The final obstacle of the day came as I left the route to enter Shenington village and had patches of nettles to negotiate to reach the road. This is never easy in shorts and inevitably results in a few stings in getting through.

Eventually, I reached Shenington at 18.00 having clocked up almost 20 miles on my GPS on what should have been a 15-mile walk according to the guidebook. It is hard to say exactly how much extra distance I covered because of the errors in my route finding, but it certainly didnít account for nearly 5 miles and much of it must have been due to inaccuracies in the guidebook. By the end of the walk, my feet were feeling very sore and I was glad to get back and sit down. The planned barbeque was cancelled because of the poor weather, so we ate indoors instead.


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