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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Horsley and Kingscote – Walking in the Cotswolds

 

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Binley Farm near Kingscote, Gloucestershire – March 2017

 

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

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Nailsworth and Horsley Stream – Walking in the Cotswolds

 

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The grounds of Ruskin Mill – February 2017

 

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

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