For this walk we used: Trailblazer Guides – Cotswold Way (Published 2009) Map 23 & 24: Selsley Common Circuit. Distance: 4.5 miles.
We began the walk at Selsley Common, which is a large open expanse of grassland, and a rich habitat for rare flora and fauna in the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The views from the edge of the common across the valley below are really beautiful, with soft rolling hills and green pastures.
Although this walk is only 4.5 miles long we expected it to take a while as the climb back up to Selsley Common is pretty steep and we were once again in training with our backpacks. I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that we only seem to average about 1 mile an hour. The terrain is not very difficult, but the paths can be slippery if it has rained, and carrying the extra weight seems to slow us down to a snail’s pace.
The walk through Pen Wood was lovely, it has a really ancient feel, the lush green ferns sprouting out of the banks remind me of scenes from Jurassic Park. Between Middleyard and Kings Stanley we accidentally took the wrong path. We got distracted by a wonky stile, and I stood in dog poo, so we failed to notice we were no longer on the Cotswold Way. We hadn’t strayed far off route, but a local man noticed us scratching our heads and looking at our Trailblazer guidebook and helpfully suggested we go through the Maize field to rejoin the route. My gut feeling told me to retrace our steps 200 paces, but I felt bad about not taking the man’s advice, so we made our way slowly along the edge of the field as he had instructed. The trouble was that by doing so we bypassed Kings Stanley, and we intended to visit Court Farm to see if they still accept campers as we are backpacking the trail in a week’s time. By coincidence we bumped into a lady who is in my Gloucestershire walking group, and she had an OS map and helped us on our way. I felt like a bit of a fool. How on earth are we going to navigate this National Trail if we can’t find our way across a couple of fields? About an hour later, we were back on route having found the farm. It has been sold, so we can’t camp there. I’m glad we checked!
The walk continued along the Stroudwater Canal towards Ebley Mill. The sun was shining and it was a pleasant stroll along the tow path. We passed a lock and came to Oil Mills Bridge (now called the Snow Mill – they manufacture snow for film sets) This was the point at which we had to leave the canal, but the map showed a stone footbridge crossing the River Frome, and it was nowhere in sight. We were stumped, and didn’t really know what to do next. There were no Cotswold Way marker posts at all along here. After a good hour or so, we eventually realised there was a footpath alongside the Snow Mill building, leading to a concrete footbridge. It was also pretty difficult to find the next landmark – a disused railway embankment bridge, which was was well hidden in the undergrowth. I reckon the cow fields here would be impassable in winter after a lot of rain, it was pretty boggy and churned up even at this time of year. It seems a strange and somewhat confusing route for the Cotswold Way, and I suspect that most people take the shortcut to Kings Stanley rather than this scenic route across Selsley common. It is not a well worn path!
This walk was challenging as we didn’t have a detailed OS map for this area and were trying to rely on our guide book. However, we did have the Cotswold Way Harvey map and it was still difficult to navigate between Stroudwater canal and Selsley. Apart from our navigation issues though, we loved it. The views were particularly magical as the sun began to set, and the grass looked as though it had been spun from gold.
Our rating: 5/5