This was our first National Trail, so we are amateurs and it showed. Our backpacks weighed 7.kg base weight. With 1L of water and food this weight increased to about 9.kg, which after only a couple of days felt too heavy. We had trained with this weight, but weren’t prepared for it day after day. My knees and feet didn’t thank me at all, and Suzy developed sores on her collar bones which we taped up. We didn’t meet any other backpackers en-route. Other hikers were mostly staying at B&B’s, and using a Sherpa service to transport their luggage. Our plan was to pitch up when there were campsites within 1.5 miles of the trail, otherwise staying in B&B’s or pubs. This worked out as 6 nights camping, and 4 nights in accommodation.
However, the main problem wasn’t the weight of our bags, or the challenges of camping, and walking each day. It was food. We had no idea just how hungry we would be, and it was difficult to find suitable food from the limited selection of shops along the way. At Broadway there was a Budgens, but after that the village shops didn’t stock anything useful. We ate sandwiches & pork pies, but it was tricky getting things that would keep for several days without being in a fridge. We started out with two big bags of beef jerky, but couldn’t buy that anywhere. So we swapped jerky for Pepperami sticks, and Babybel cheese which we figured would probably be ok as they’re sealed in wax. I had flap jacks but Suzy can’t eat oats, chocolate, nuts, Jaffa cakes, Tuc cheese biscuits, crisps. Basically snacks to keep us going. On day 4 we arrived at the “Hungry Horse” pub at Seven Springs and I actually cried because I was so grateful for the meal – fish and chips. It seems silly now that I’m at home with food in the cupboard, but I will never forget that day.
The next morning we followed the Cotswold Way National Trail across Crickley Hill arriving at the Air Balloon pub at 10.00 for breakfast. Suzy had phoned the night before to double check that they were serving breakfast, but they looked closed 😮 We waited for 15 minutes before realising they were open but Suzy had tried the wrong door. The girl then told us that they don’t do breakfast until 11.00??
We couldn’t wait any longer as we had a hilly walk to Painswick that day. She said it was 5 minutes walk to the Royal George Hotel at Birdlip where they would be serving food. An hour later we arrived at the Royal George! The breakfast was excellent there, and we were very glad of it, but it was a bit of a way off the trail and it cost us quite a bit of time with all that faffing about. We did get a large takeaway sandwich for our lunch though 😉
We looked forward to a full English breakfast at our B&B in Painswick, but we were disappointingly hungry after a very small offering of one fried egg, 2 skinny chipolatas and some extraordinarily thin bacon. I think we probably picked the only B&B in the town that doesn’t cater for a walker’s appetite. That was the final straw, so after approx 50 miles we decided to have a few days of unplanned recovery time. We went home, ate heaps of warming food, and returned to the trail better prepared and with bigger tummies but much lighter bags! For one thing we ditched all of our cooking equipment, which we hadn’t used once. Partly because we hadn’t been able to get any of the food items we were planning to cook (which was mainly Smash instant potato).
Once out hiking the trail again, we got lucky with some fantastic breakfasts including my favourite at The Edge cafe in the main street of Wotton-under-Edge. What a lovely town with such friendly, helpful people too. It is true that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and as long as we filled up nicely to start off we were almost fine.
I asked some other hikers if they were managing to find enough food along the trail. I think they thought it was a very odd question. Obviously a comfy bed in a warm B&B, a hearty breakfast each morning, and a taxi to a restaurant for dinner was the solution. I felt secretly foolish that we had suffered so much. I knew there wouldn’t be tearooms at every corner, but quite honestly the Cotswolds aren’t wilderness. Thank goodness we didn’t choose to go backpacking somewhere remote!
I wondered what food I would crave the most while walking. Many people say that for them it is burgers, but I found out that mine is pizza. Suzy reports that she was mostly too hungry to even think.