For this walk we used: Walking the South Gloucestershire Cotswolds, by Barry Hill (Published: 1992) Walk 15: Nailsworth and Horsley Stream. Distance: 5 miles.
We bought Barry Hill’s book ‘ Walking the South Gloucestershire Cotswolds’ because it is the only publication we could find which describes the Stroud Five Valleys Circuit in detail. This is a circular route of 20 miles, which links the major Stroud valleys. Every year many people do this walk for charity in a single day, but we plan to divide it up into a series of more leisurely sections. The book, which I found on Amazon marketplace, was published in 1992, but the footpaths should still be much the same as they were 25 years ago. Flicking through it, I found some other very interesting walks which I haven’t seen in any other more recent guidebooks. So we decided to try this walk from Nailsworth, partly as an experiment to see if the directions are still valid. We took the OS Explorer map 168 along too.
Car parks in Nailsworth seem to be limited to 2 hours maximum, which isn’t long enough for us to complete a 5 mile walk. Apparently there is a long stay car park, but we couldn’t find it, so in the end we parked outside a house in New Market Road, and hoped for the best. There didn’t appear to be any restrictions such as a time limit or residents only, but we asked a couple of passers-by who looked at us like we were absolutely crazy wanting to visit Nailsworth for more than 2 hours!
We followed the directions through Gunbarrel Alley, into a residential area, and along a footpath which joined up with the public bridleway. Once part of the original route from Nailsworth to Avening, the wheels of wagons and the tread of animals in centuries gone by have lowered this old road, which is why these tracks often appear sunken. We climbed the hill, with Nailsworth valley behind us, stopping to look at the view from the top, and to eat a roasted tomato hummus roll.
Using the OS map as well, we found our way easily. An old stone stile which was described in the book as overgrown and very hard to see was well kept, and the right of way clearly signposted. Perhaps this is an example of the important work carried out by Ramblers volunteers who in the last year alone, have safeguarded 140,000 miles of public path and prevented over 800 paths from being blocked, closed or badly diverted.
A muddy farm track led us to the hamlet of Upper Barton End, where we were greeted by the unexpected sight of two magnificent Peacocks strutting along the road. It began to rain, just a few drops, and rain wasn’t forecast until later that evening, so I thought it was just an inconsequential passing cloud. We climbed a stone slab stile and entered a long field, before deciding to munch on another roll. The wind was picking up, so we moved on before long to avoid getting cold. Half way across a ploughed field, the heavens burst open, the wind fiercely lashing around us. There was nothing we could do but carry on, our boots like huge Yeti feet, completely caked in mud. Without waterproof trousers we started to get cold. Hurrying across the field and along a track we found some shelter from the elements next to a hedge, and quickly put our waterproofs on over soaked trousers. We kept walking, and after crossing the A46, the tarmacked Hay Lane became sheltered and the sun kindly peeked out from behind the cloud.
Park Wood is described in the book as “a lovely wood, sufficiently open to allow a blue and white carpet of bluebells and ramsons in the spring.” We could see wild garlic shoots just beginning to poke up through the forest floor. A solid pathway and wooden steps had been carved out through the wood, so we followed this down to the pond and Horsley stream, soon passing the willow beds created for Ruskin Mill’s basket weaving. In the early 90’s this must have just been a “damp meadow” as the book states. While pausing to look at a map of the grounds of Ruskin Mill on a wooden board, a couple of men on horseback asked us if we knew the way, and confirmed that we were to follow the footpath alongside the stream to reach Nailsworth. The path along the little valley was so peaceful. The stream bubbled and gurgled along its banks, while birds tweeted contentedly. Smoke rose sleepily from the chimney tops of old cottages in the small settlement of Washpool. A clear spring trickled out of the hedgerow, no doubt an important water source not so long ago. It was surrounded by a small circular stone wall, almost like its crown. In a place this pure, the water from this spring must have magical healing properties.
It would seem that the pathway took us in. We were so busy admiring the wonder of it all that we completely forgot that we were meant to leave this path even before reaching the fishery. So we missed the stile, and wandered on oblivious through the grounds of Ruskin Mill. Both of us are pretty psychic, but it has such a special feel here that it would be impossible for anybody not to notice. To me it feels like a melting pot of ideas, and leading edge thoughts. A model for the future, for sustainability, the care of our planet, and 5th dimensional living. Along the path are several benches dedicated to people who ‘loved this place’. It is simply bursting with that love and a sense of inspiration, hope and endless possibilities. We reached Ruskin Mill at the very end of the path, before we realised we had gone too far. I wanted to go in the café, but as so often happens we were too filthy with mud. I don’t know how we manage to get in such a mess. We passed a group of walkers who looked as clean as anything, obviously too smart to get caught out in a storm in the middle of a muddy field.
Having checked the map, we retraced our steps a short distance back to another footpath which led into woods on the opposite side of the mill pond. From here it was easy to re-join the route, soon continuing along pavements to return to the starting point.
Although we accidentally missed the end of the author’s intended route, I was glad to have walked through the grounds of Ruskin Mill. We will definitely go back to do the official end of the walk again, if not the whole thing. Meanwhile if I find a version of this walk in a modern guidebook I will update this blog with the details (please let me know if you think you have seen it). Currently you can still buy a used copy of Barry Hill’s book. I suggest you do, it would be a shame if walks like these were forgotten.
Our Rating: 5/5