For this walk we used: Pathfinder Guides – More Cotswolds (Published 2015) Walk 3: Coates and the source of the Thames. Distance: 3 miles.
This short 3 mile walk began at the village of Coates not far from our home town Cirencester. We started off across farm fields, eventually emerging on to and crossing a railway line. The direction of the footpath across the field was not immediately obvious and required some detective work.
We passed the Tunnel House, a traditional Cotswold Inn. It was originally built in the 1780’s for the navvies working on the 2 mile long canal tunnel. We descended the steps to join the towpath of the abandoned Thames and Severn Canal. The entrance to Sapperton Tunnel is here, it was the longest canal tunnel in the country when it was built.
Continuing along the towpath we saw an old roundhouse, built for use by lock-keepers. It was in ruins, but many of them have been restored and are lived in.
We were able to glance inside and see the old fireplaces and metal railings where the staircase would have been.
This section of the canal is so pretty, but fly tipping slightly spoiled the place. Huge bundles of plastic sheeting and an aluminium kitchen sink were among the rubbish. It is incredible to think that nature eventually reclaims everything, but plastic takes 450 – 1000 years to degrade. The old discarded farm machinery seemed more acceptable, the rusty metal made it more camouflaged.
We left the towpath, and taking the optional route, began walking down the track towards the source of the River Thames. It was hard to spot at first. The guide book said the marker stone was beneath an Ash tree, which I think is now just a hollow piece of trunk in the corner of the cow field. There is a speckled stone plaque and a wooden marker post pointing out the direction of the Thames Path and the Thames Barrier in London which is 184 miles away. The spring is seasonal, so at this time of year it was dry.
I saw what looked like a plastic lunch box inside the base of the hollowed out tree. I thought a kid had probably left it there like buried treasure for someone to find. No doubt I’d have done something like that when I was younger. You don’t think of it as litter or disrespectful, just as fun. Seeing as it was more manageable than the rubbish heaps in the canal, I thought I’d better do the right thing – hook it out, and bin it. Fortunately, I had a quick look at the contents and realised it was something to do with Geocaching. Good job I didn’t throw it away! They should write “Geocaching” on the box if the game involves Tupperware boxes with what appears to be rubbish inside. I wonder how many go missing 😮
The walk back to Coates was lovely. We strolled through beautiful countryside, and came across quite a few old Cotswold stone stiles. They would have been built into the dry stone walls hundreds of years ago.
The fields of almost ripened crops were swaying wildly in the wind, and it looked as though storm clouds were approaching, but we easily made it back to the car before the rain.
It’s a shame about the mindless fly tipping, but the walk was still beautiful, with plenty to see of great interest.
Our rating: 4/5