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