Millie & Suzy

Follow our walking adventures around the Cotswolds & beyond


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Toadsmoor Valley – Walking in the Cotswolds

 

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Fungi in Toadsmoor Woods – April 2017

 

For this walk we used: Walking the South Gloucestershire Cotswolds, by Barry Hill (Published: 1992) Walk 11: Toadsmoor Valley. Distance: 4.75 miles.

This guide book isn’t one of the modern ones, which is exactly why we have come to love it so much. Its pages contain some beautiful walks which would otherwise perhaps be forgotten. This one began in Bisley, an attractive Cotswold village full of character and old-world charm. Originally located at the crossing-point of two important medieval trading routes, it has long since become bypassed by modern road developments.

Having parked in George Street near to the Bear Inn, we set off in the direction of the school where the public right of way crosses the school yard. As this is quite unusual, we hesitated at the gate, but a teacher on playground duty assured us it was ok for us to go through (as long as we didn’t take any photographs!). We hurried across to a gate at the other side which led into the churchyard, and down some steep steps to the road.

Some workmen were resurfacing the lanes which were full of weathered cracks and potholes. We paused to study the directions, and one of them kindly offered to help. “Where are you heading?” he asked. I was slightly embarrassed as I tried to explain that we were following some instructions in a book and didn’t actually know. I hate appearing incompetent, especially as a female, and I could have kicked myself for not just having said “Toadsmoor Valley”. Sometimes though, the well meaning person knows a shortcut, and they don’t understand that we are walking a particular route for the fun of it, not just to get from A to B as quickly as possible. So they cheerily point us in the direction of the speediest route, perhaps along a busy road, and we feel obliged to take their advice, or risk appearing rude. So for that reason we always try not to look at the map or directions anywhere near other people, as it is usually better for us to work it out on our own. Unfortunately, sometimes this scenario is unavoidable. There were two tracks to the right, I figured that it was the second one as the first looked more like a driveway. The workman said the track led up to a field, so it seemed right and we hurried on. Luckily, it was!

The spring sunshine was surprisingly hot as we made our way along the sheltered path, so we stopped to remove a few outer layers of clothing and drink some water. Suzy was hungry so we ate some of our sandwiches. As the beautiful scene of Toadsmoor Valley came into view I spotted an old overgrown stile, and we left the main pathway to enter a large grazing field, although I think we would have been ok continuing along the path. There were several ways to enter Hawkley Wood, but we tried to choose the entrance we thought the author intended. The public paths are not well marked here. Wooden marker posts are either hidden in undergrowth or have long collapsed and rotted away.

The track descended to the valley floor before continuing through woods alongside a pretty stream. Wild garlic carpeted the steep banks as far as the eye could see. We were admiring the scene, when black clouds appeared out of nowhere, and the warm sunshine turned to snowflakes. An icy wind blew through the trees, and we pulled on our waterproof trousers in case snowfall turned to rain.

We hurried onwards, passing Toadsmoor pond and winding our way up the hillside to the other side of the valley, before crossing meadows towards Eastcombe. In the 18th century, Eastcombe developed as a settlement of weaver’s cottages, among a maze of paths and alleys. As we climbed its narrow streets, the scorching sun came out once again and I had to stop on the roadside to remove my now unbearably sticky waterproofs. We sat down on a wooden bench high above the village. For such a small place, there were so many people out walking their dogs. We hadn’t expected to see a single soul.

After passing through more meadows we arrived at a group of cottages at Nashend, and from there it was a short distance back to Bisley. The route returned us to the lanes, where we saw the workmen packing up for the day. On the way to the High Street we arrived at Bisley’s famous wells which I have never seen before. The unusual stone structure contains seven carved water spouts, with large troughs that would have once served to water the animals.

Our Rating: 4/5

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Newington Bagpath and Ozleworth – Cotswold Walks

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Ozleworth Bottom – April 2017

For this walk we used: Walking the South Gloucestershire Cotswolds, by Barry Hill (Published: 1992) Walk 20: Newington Bagpath and Ozleworth. Distance: 7 miles.

This walk took us into some of Gloucestershire’s beautiful hidden countryside, into an area with rich and varied wildlife.

We began at the Hunter’s Hall Inn, Kingscote. We couldn’t see anywhere suitable to park on the roadside, so we used the Inn’s large carpark. It would be really fun to do this walk and then stay a night here. They even have some vegan options on their menu.

We headed off along the edge of a field and down a grassy track through a valley. Although it was sunny the wind was chilly so we stopped to put on some extra clothing.  A pleasant walk through delightful woodland led us up to the top of the hill over looking the tiny hamlet of Newton Bagpath. Here we could see the mound of grass where a castle once stood.

This stretch of valley was big for such a small stream. We made our way along it, admiring the manor house in the distance, before descending downhill past Lasborough Park. The path curved towards the wooded valley of Ozleworth Bottom. These ancient woods are very pretty. Crystal clear springs trickled down through banks of wild garlic. We stopped for a while to take it all in, and much to our delight a weasel hopped across the pathway. His bright red coat glistened in the sunshine.

We climbed up the valley once more towards Ozleworth, where the public right of way takes you through a grazing field alongside the driveway of a large Georgian house. The pathway ran behind the hedge and led to an interesting old church. After this point the public right of way has been re-routed so that you no longer go through the stable yard’s archway, but around the outside of the buildings.

The track wound its way back down to the valley bottom, where the original old bridge can no longer be crossed as it is unsafe so we continued along the track, crossing the stream a bit further along. After a while the grass became quite boggy with springs, and I think it would be impassable in winter after heavy rain. We soon came across a large field divided up with wire and electric fencing into horse paddocks. The footpath wasn’t marked, so we picked our way over various tumbled down stiles and ducked under fences, making our way up the hillside towards Bagpath. We then managed to find the steep path leading up to the road.

We walked along peaceful lanes listening to the sound of sheep calling their lambs. A bright yellow field of Rapeseed shone in the sunlight, and we stood for a while to admire its beauty. One last descent took us through fields of swaying grasses, where we picked up the start of the route once more back to the car.

At times this walk was a bit challenging direction wise, as many of the paths are unused and are no longer signposted, but as long as you have an OS map your efforts will be rewarded.

Our Rating: 5/5

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Edgeworth and Sudgrove – Walking in the Cotswolds

 

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Little black sheep – Edgeworth – March 2017

 

For this walk we used: Walking the South Gloucestershire Cotswolds, by Barry Hill (Published: 1992) Walk 17: Edgeworth and Sudgrove. Distance: 5.25 miles.

Edgeworth and Sudgrove are small, little known Cotswold settlements, Their isolation and peaceful setting in areas of unspoilt beauty give them a unique charm and character. Much of this walk in inaccessible to all but those on foot. Pathways lead through the remote wooded upper valley of the river Frome, and over the hill to Sudgrove looking down over the hidden valley of Holy Brook.

We set out past the picturesque old church which has late Saxon origins, in the church yard stands a 15th century carved stone cross. The footpath turns right just before Edgeworth manor house, crossing the private gardens carpeted with daffodils. The track wound its way down to an old stone bridge. Here the guide book mentions the recess where the gatekeeper would have stood aside to let the carriage through. I could imagine the old horse drawn carriages arriving at the gate which was once the main driveway for the house.

Continuing on through woodland we climbed up the narrow rutted track before reaching a lane. The book says to turn left and go downhill, so I have no idea why we turned right and went uphill. Eventually we realised our mistake and had to turn back. A cycle event was on, and every now and then lycra clad cyclists whizzed past. The lane crossed the river before rising steeply uphill, giving the racers no choice but to dismount and push their bikes. We turned off along a tarmacked farm drive where the hillside was dotted with little black sheep. We stopped to take a photo which caused quite a commotion. One sheep spotted us and raised the alarm which in turn set the whole flock off. They were running around like crazy to re-group, and the decibels were rising, so we quickly made our getaway to restore peace to the countryside.

Soon the arrows directed us off the main driveway through a gate on the right, where we continued along the grassy slope until we found a suitable spot for a picnic. It was Suzy’s birthday, and there is nothing that she loves more than picnics in riverside meadows. We laid our jackets out on the grass, and got out our sandwiches and crisps, and a homemade (vegan) chocolate cake for dessert. It was a beautiful day with a bright blue sky, so we were in no hurry. We watched a couple of Herons fishing in the river. They were startled as some walkers entered the meadow and flew overhead, their giant wings like pterodactyl dinosaurs from a Jurassic world. Our peaceful picnic came to an abrupt end as dogs ran by, and we said our hellos to an endless stream of rosy faces. One lady commented on how busy it was, she said they had been walking there for years and have never seen another soul.

As the crowds disappeared once again, everything fell silent except for the twitter of birds, and we pressed on deeper into the higher reaches of the Frome. We scrambled up narrow woodland paths thickly populated with rabbits and badgers, and out across open farm fields glancing back at a magnificent view. The wind picked up a little so we hurried on towards Sudgrove.

The footpath continued through the grounds of Sudgrove house. At first it was fairly easy to find the way, but after a while we went through a couple of wrong gates into the woodland which led to a little pond and a dead end. Retracing our steps we found the correct gateway, which looked unused as it was quite overgrown. We found the way on to a broad forest track through Fox Wood and then returned to Edgeworth across fields.

This was a lovely walk, and if you can get hold of a copy of Barry Hill’s book (try Amazon marketplace), we highly recommended it.

Our Rating: 5/5

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