For this walk we used: Walking the South Gloucestershire Cotswolds, by Barry Hill (Published: 1992) Walk 14: Horsley and Kingscote. Distance: 4.75 miles.
This is an attractive walk through a landscape of steep wooded valleys, and rugged hillsides dotted with farms. It begins in a lesser known area of the Cotswolds, near Nailsworth, at Horsley village which overlooks the narrow Horsley stream valley.
There is free long stay car parking at the start. Suzy had prepared us hot flasks of spinach, chickpea and potato soup to eat at the end of our walk, but we were already feeling hungry so we decided have lunch before setting off. The weather was turning colder, so I felt much better prepared with some warm food in my stomach.
We were a bit puzzled at the start of the walk. We assumed that although the pub had changed names it was probably in the same place, but the post office had long gone, perhaps it was once the house next to the car park. I led us along a residential road, where we picked up a footpath on the right, passed the community shop and went through a gate on to a playing field behind the church. It didn’t seem right. I checked the map again, and realised I didn’t even have my compass, it was in my other jacket pocket. Retracing our steps we tried again. This time going for a little way down the road leading towards Hay Lane, but turning almost immediately right. Suzy spotted the bridleway sign, old and worn and somewhat hidden behind a hand written notice. At last we had found the start of the walk. It sounds silly, but often that is the hardest bit.
A few spots of rain were in the air, so we stopped to put on waterproof trousers. There was a distinct chill, and we didn’t want to get caught out like last time. The pretty valley beneath us was just visible through the trees. The hillside houses had balconies. What a beautiful place to be able to sit and admire the view. Wood smoke drifted from the chimney tops, and made this place seem like home.
The track continued through Kingscote Wood, a little muddy in places, but we could hardly complain after the torrential rainfall the day before. Natural springs burst from the ferny forest banks, while star like wood Anemones glistened among wild garlic. The cry of a Buzzard echoed through the trees, it’s sharp call cutting through the noisy cascades.
Just before the path narrowed at the end of the wood, we stopped at a metal gate to eat some banana bread. It was warm and sheltered between the trees, quite a contrast to the exposed hills which were to follow. I often find it’s when you’re in the middle of a field that a storm decides to do its worst. Nature tests you, there is no where to hide, she sees exactly what you are made of. As the wind whipped around us, black clouds quickly formed overhead. Hailstones tumbled from the sky, the icy pellets stinging our faces, showing no mercy. Nature is an incredible force, and can easily make a fool of you if you are not prepared for weather which can turn wild in an instant. This would have struck fear into us a few years ago. Inside a house you don’t notice storms as much, we become so insulated from nature that it takes time to become accustomed to it. As quickly as the storm began, it ended, and as we climbed the hill the sun shone across the whole valley.
In the book, the author passes along the lane through the farm buildings of Hill Barn, but we realised this is a private road. The public right of way is along a waymarked footpath behind the farm. It wasn’t too muddy as we kept to the grass verge at the edge of the field before emerging once again onto the lane leading to Kingscote. On either side were fields of turnips and rapeseed. I suddenly knew that growing vegetables on our allotment is part of my life’s purpose and something that my spirit loves to do. I stopped for a while to enjoy the deliciousness of the moment, as happy tears rolled down my cheeks. Things like this often happen to us, no need to worry! 🙂
Kingscote is an ancient settlement site but has remained tiny, hidden amongst the rural by-ways of southern Gloucestershire. We took a short detour to look at the church where Edward Jenner, the discoverer of the smallpox vaccination, was married in 1788. After which it was easy walking along a quiet tarmacked road for 3/4 mile. After crossing a large sheep field along a clearly defined track, I realised that the pond described in the book should be very close by. The path was a left turn through a metal gate which could have easily been missed as there was no yellow arrow to indicate that it was a public footpath from the top of the field. The pond was difficult to spot as its muddy brown water was camouflaged in amongst trees so I was pleased with myself for not missing the way. Ducks grazed in the bright green grass, but we startled them and they took flight, squawking as they went.
Soon we entered Kingscote Wood again. A Bobcat had been hard at work felling unfortunate Ash trees riddled with fungus, but for today forestry operations had ceased. We could hear the faint sound of horse hooves in the distance, their riders talking and laughing as they travelled along the bridleway. As we neared Horsley we passed a couple of ladies. They smiled, but would not return my cheery “Hello”. Miniature ponies were blocking the path ahead, but our route was to be through the marshy field to the left, where we found a stile in the far hedge leading onto the lane at Hartley Bridge.
It was tempting to follow the path alongside Horsley stream to Ruskin Mill, but we were both a bit tired and decided it was best to call it a day, so we climbed the steep lane to return to the car.
On our way home, we stopped at Morrison’s supermarket in Nailsworth to pick up some deli salads, vegetable crisps and strawberries for a car picnic on Minchinhampton common. It was a lovely end to the day, which also happened to be our 8th wedding anniversary.
Our Rating: 5/5