Our first day of walking was just 6 miles from Chipping Campden to Broadway. I was looking forward to the views from Broadway Tower, but it poured with rain all day and when we got to the top of the hill the view was a total white-out. We decided to have a cream tea in the cafe before continuing on to Broadway village.
There were no campsites in the area so that night we stayed at the Horse and Hound Inn, a beautiful old pub with plenty of character. We spent hours unpacking our backpacks and making sure our equipment and clothing was dry. It wasn’t exactly the easy start we had anticipated.
The following day the weather was looking better. We enjoyed the walk through the stunning Cotswold landscape, and made it to our campsite at Hayles Fruit Farm before the farm shop closed at 5pm. The afternoon sun had been almost too hot, and I was craving a bottle of their chilled apple juice. We were tired and we’d only walked for 16 miles, I wondered how on earth we were going to manage 102 miles.
In the morning we woke up bright and early, but it took 3 hours to pack up. I had packed our bags originally as Suzy was working, and as a result she wasn’t familiar enough with how to pack things away, or where things needed to go to fit into our relatively small 36L bags. It was a bit of a disaster actually, as we didn’t leave Winchcombe until 12.30, and only just made it to our campsite near Dowdeswell before dark. We went to the Co-op supermarket in Winchcombe to pick up some supplies, and they didn’t stock any of the things we had planned to buy. What didn’t make matters easier was that the aisles were so narrow we could barely walk up and down them with our backpacks on. In the end, Suzy waited with our bags while I desperately tried to search for suitable backpacking food for several days as the next shop along the trail wouldn’t be until Painswick. I was getting really fed up and I bought sparkling water by mistake, so we had to go back to get still water.
Later on that afternoon we were walking on Cleeve Hill near Cheltenham, and the weather began to look pretty dark and stormy. It was a bit scary, but we were tired and already hungry, and that can play tricks with your mind. Suzy panicked and started crying. OMG this was ridiculous, we were only on day 3, and not far from home! We ate some M&M’s and beef jerky, and I tried to be reassuring. I was scared too, but I pretended to think it would all be fine. We went the wrong way at a disused quarry because someone had turned the metal finger post so that it pointed in the wrong direction, so it was another 2 hours before we made it to Colgate Farm. We pitched the tent just in time before the rain started. It was a relief that there were some other people staying there: a Dutch lady who was doing some circular walks from her car, and two Irish lads who had walked from Bath to Dursley and then given up. They’d travelled by bus to Cheltenham instead. We were relieved that it wasn’t just us finding it difficult.
It took longer than we thought it would to reach Seven Springs where we were able to get a hot meal at the “Hungry Horse” pub. As we approached I saw the Cheltenham to Cirencester bus, and I wanted to give up and go home. We felt better after eating, so we decided to carry on.
That night we stayed in a wooden camping pod at Ullenwood, which saved us from having to pitch the tent. The pods are located on the grounds of the National Star college, which helps people with disabilities. The place had a special feel about it, very modern and leading edge. We enjoyed our stay there.
It was day 5 and my heels were getting sore so I applied duct tape, and we set off for Painswick. The walk that day was beautiful through ancient woodland, but very hilly. We rested at the top of Cooper’s Hill the site of the annual cheese rolling event. Some American hikers were worried about whether or not they would make it to Painswick before dark, but they were reassured when we said we were staying there too.
Painswick is at the half way point of the Cotswold Way National Trail. It is a lovely town, with interesting little streets and restaurants. For the first time we felt as though we were on holiday instead of a gruelling SAS exercise. However, the next day we decided we needed an unplanned break. The decision was final when the small breakfast offering arrived at our B&B, and I knew we would be in for another day of hunger.
We got a bus home to Cirencester and rested for a few days before returning to the trail. We considered giving up, but this was something we really wanted to achieve and we weren’t going to be beaten that easily.