For this walk we used: Pathfinder Guides – The Cotswolds (Published 2009) Walk 21: Laurie Lee Country. Distance: 7 miles.
Slad and the surrounding valleys are closely identified with the author Laurie Lee; he lived in this area and his classic book Cider with Rosie is set here. There are many beautiful hidden valleys in the western Cotswolds, and this walk leads to one, concealed by hills and dense woods.
We found the start of the walk easily, always a good sign! 🙂 and set off down Steanbridge Lane. It quickly became apparent that this would be a beautiful walk but with some very steep, wet and muddy tracks. Some of the tracks had become gullies with streams running down them and were tricky to descend. We had only travelled a few miles by the time we were ready for a rest. We found a sheltered, sunny spot at the edge of a lovely woodland, to eat our sandwiches.
As we were about to cross over the stile which led into a valley on the way to Down Barn Farm, we spotted a small herd of Roe Deer grazing in the far field. A wonderful sight. We stood and watched them for some time until they noticed us and moved away. At this point we couldn’t see the pair of gateposts described in the book and didn’t want to set off in the wrong direction as there was a bull and some cows with a young calf. They seemed docile, but can be very protective of their young. Eventually, I saw the next woodland stile on the opposite side of the valley and we headed for it through boggy ground, giving the cows a wide berth.
At the top of the woodland I thought someone had carelessly dumped a load of pieces of orange and black plastic everywhere, until I realised they were broken discs from clay pigeon shooting. It was pretty unsightly, and I definitely wouldn’t want to walk there on the day of a shoot.
It began to rain heavily as we walked through Downwood North Bank, and we missed the right hand turn, as there is no longer a small stone stile on the left, or a wooden stile to the right of the track. There is a gap in the stone wall to the left, with a Laurie Lee marker post and a lovely view across the fields. We quickly realised our mistake as the book does state “if you emerge onto open ground you’ve gone 100 yards too far.”
We were pretty tired by the time we arrived back in Slad, and glad to be back at the car, but felt exhilarated with all of the fresh air in our lungs.
The gradients of this walk were severe, and the going was tough, but we loved the magnificent views and the feeling of being off the beaten track.