Millie & Suzy

Follow our walking adventures around the Cotswolds & beyond


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The Windrush Way – 13.5 miles – Cotswold Walking Trail

 

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The Windrush Way – February 2017

 

For this walk we used: Ordnance Survey Explorer Map OL45 and the windrush-way leaflet. Distance: 13.5 miles.

I wanted my 40th birthday to be memorable, and a bit of an adventure. A mild weather forecast meant it was the perfect opportunity to finish walking the Windrush and the Warden’s Way in the Cotswolds. We had already walked along these trails between Naunton and Bourton-on-the-Water (5.5 miles), which you can read about here.

Having walked to Winchcombe along the Warden’s Way we stayed overnight at a traditional Cotswold inn, the White Hart. It was full of character and atmosphere, and I loved it. We had dinner next to the log fire, and found plenty of vegan things we could eat, including a selection of olives and bread, tomato and red pepper soup, rocket salad and triple-cooked chips.

The following day, after a satisfying vegetarian breakfast minus the eggs, we set off along the Windrush Way. It was a beautiful morning, and once again we passed Sudley castle which looked like a scene from a fairytale. We strode out across grassy fields, making good progress, until we were stopped in our tracks by the muddiest of mud patches I have ever seen. We were puzzled about what to do, wading through wasn’t really an option. We attempted to make a bridge with an old piece of fence post, but that didn’t work. Realising we would have to find an alternative route, we scoured the hedges for any gaps. I found one, but it was still impassable. Suzy found another, and we squeezed through the brambles and jumped across the stream. I was a bit concerned about what might lie ahead. Sure enough there was another huge mud patch at the far side of the field, but luckily we managed to wade through, and those were the two most difficult parts of the whole walk.

Heading up and away, with Winchcombe now far behind us, the wind started to pick up while low cloud rolled in and filled the valley with rain. I sat on a log to change my already damp socks, Goretex lined boots are too hot! We were hungry, but the wind was so cold that it was not the place to stop for long. We pushed on up the hill, in search of somewhere more sheltered for lunch. A few fields later, we came across a pile of stones. A farmer was rebuilding a stone wall, and had made two seats from the rubble. They were perfect, sheltered from the wind, and with a beautiful view. We sat down to eat our peanut butter rolls.

In the woodland after ‘Tally Ho’ house we hit a metaphorical wall. We stopped to rest again, and nibble at some crisps and olives, but our spirits were low. I was wondering how on earth I was going to make it back to the car as my feet were sore, and both of us were feeling so tired. But we had been in that frame of mind many times before, and knew to be positive, and complete the journey one step at a time. After a while we remembered we hadn’t eaten that day’s chunk of banana bread! It provided us with a much needed boost of energy, and we felt so much better after that.

We kept walking for what seemed like an eternity, and eventually came to the end of a sandy track where there was a clay Pigeon shoot. I was glad it wasn’t on. After crossing more fields, we wandered into the pretty village of Aylworth, and I knew it wasn’t too much further. It would have been easy to miss the left turn up a steep hill towards Naunton, but fortunately we didn’t. This was where our journey along the Windrush Way ended, as we joined the Diamond Way (not marked) and after the golf course Naunton’s rooftops came into sight.

We were surprised that we didn’t enjoy this part of the Windrush Way quite as much as the Warden’s Way, but it is still a very interesting walk and well worth doing.

Our Rating: 4/5

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The Warden’s Way – 13.5 miles – Cotswold Walking Trail

 

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Above Winchcombe in Gloucestershire – February 2017

 

For this walk we used: Ordnance Survey Explorer Map OL45 and the wardens-way leaflet. Distance: 13.5 miles.

I wanted my 40th birthday to be memorable, and a bit of an adventure. A mild weather forecast meant it was the perfect opportunity to finish walking the Warden’s and Windrush Way in the Cotswolds. We had already walked along these trails between Bourton-on-the-Water and Naunton (5.5 miles), which you can read about here.

First I researched hotels in Winchcombe, and booked a room at the White Hart Inn. Then we planned what items we would need. Food is a main factor in anything we do, and more so now that we are vegan. We decided to take food for 2 days, rather than picking up supplies from Winchcombe, but another time I wouldn’t do that.

Our check list looked like this:

  • Food
  • Water (1 litre each)
  • Trekking poles
  • Map with waterproof cover & pdf guides
  • Compass & watch
  • Phones & charger
  • Cash & debit card
  • Waterproof jackets, gloves, and hats
  • Thermal base layers
  • Spare socks & underwear
  • Lightweight trainers
  • Torches
  • Folding knife & sporks
  • Paracord & tape
  • Basic first aid kit
  • Shewee, toilet paper, bin bags
  • Toothbrushes & toothpaste

Not knowing how muddy the trails would be, we wanted to give ourselves plenty of hours of daylight so we set off from home just after sunrise at 07.30. We parked the car near the telephone box in Naunton, before making our way down the track to the dovecote. There was a metal gate at the bottom, which we struggled to open. It was pretty funny, there we were with all the gear, and we couldn’t open the first gate.

We had also walked some other sections of the Warden’s Way before through Guiting Power and Guiting Wood. It was nice to be able to join up the dots on the map, and it always feels comforting to be in familiar territory.

We stopped for lunch on a log at the far side of Guiting Wood to eat our hummus, carrot and falafel sandwiches, when suddenly the whole place came alive with people. There were several walking groups of at least 20 people, and a couple who looked a bit lost. We said hello cheerily through mouthfuls of food. As we were packing up to leave, the lost couple approached us. “Is this the way to the quarry?”, asked the man. Realising there are a lot of disused quarries in the area, I answered “You’d better come and have a look at the map”. He was holding a copy of Pathfinder’s Cotswold Walks, so I knew they had gone off track as we know that book pretty well. Glad to help, but trying not to sound like a know it all, I pointed them in the right direction. That was us not so long ago, I thought to myself. Now we always take a map and compass, and even so, it still isn’t always easy.

Before long we saw Winchcombe in the distance, and followed the track down the steep valley. We rested again on a bench and admired the view. A group of mountain bikers sped down the hill, waving to us as they passed.

The route became familiar once again as we made our way through fields and passed Sudley Castle on the way into Winchcombe. The White Hart Inn was very busy when we arrived, and we were half an hour too early for check-in. It was a bit of a shock after having been surrounded by peaceful countryside all day, and we took a while to adjust to the sudden noise. We ordered a couple of drinks, and found a quieter room to sit in. A log fire was gently smouldering away, and we began to relax into our new home for the night.

The Warden’s Way is a beautiful walk, well signposted and highly recommended!

Our Rating: 5/5

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Easy Vegan Hiking and Camping Food

 

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In December 2016 we decided to become vegan after watching too many Netflix food documentaries! Whether the health benefits are true or not, there is no doubt that it is a more compassionate and sustainable way of life for those of us who are fortunate enough to be able to choose what we eat. So we needed to come up with some ideas for vegan/ plant-based foods which are suitable for hiking. I will add more to this list as I think of things, and of course some items keep for longer than others. Please let me know if you have any suggestions.

  • Sandwiches with substantial fillings such as hummus and falafels
  • Potato, bean or pasta based salads
  • Wholemeal bread rolls, wraps or pittas
  • Peanut butter – you can also get dehydrated peanut butter in health stores.
  • Baked beans – on the heavy side to carry, but ‘snap pots’ are lighter than tins.
  • Homemade banana bread with nuts & seeds – filling, delicious, and keeps well. Alternatively, you could take store bought banana bread such as ‘Soreen’.
  • Fresh vegetables and fruit – bananas are great for energy. I find they store best individually wrapped in sealed plastic food bags, near the top of your pack.
  • Olives
  • Potato or root vegetable crisps
  • Ritz original crackers
  • Rice crackers
  • Popcorn
  • Nakd bars, granola, cereal bars
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Dried fruit
  • Biscuits eg. Oreos (Original or Mint), Lotus, Digestives
  • Dark chocolate – my favourite is dark chocolate with mint fondant filling

Earlier this week, we went walking for a couple of days, staying overnight at an inn. We weren’t sure if we would be able to get anything for breakfast so we came up with a simple idea that we could make using the in-room kettle. We bought some freezer pouches, usually called ‘pour and store’ or ‘zip and pour’, but you could use any food/ freezer bags which are strong enough to hold almost boiling liquid. I found an 8 pack for 79p in Home Bargains. To one pouch, we added 3 crushed Weetabix, 30g of coconut powder, and 15g sugar. Then it was simply a matter of boiling the kettle, adding 300 – 400ml of hot water to the bag, and giving it all a good stir. You could use other cereals for example instant oats. For a small pouch weighing 100g, it was definitely worth taking, although in the end we were able to have a delicious vegetarian breakfast minus the eggs!

Similarly, if you are camping, you’ll mostly likely want some hot food. I love the idea of #FBC – freezer bag cooking as it’s so simple and mess free. The good news is that there are still plenty of vegan options. Add the dry ingredients to the freezer bag, and when you are ready to eat, pour in hot water, stir, zip up the bag, and leave it for up to 10 minutes to re-hydrate. The length of time depends on what you are preparing: noodles take longer, whereas potato is instant. Use your hat as a pot cosy to keep it warm, and hey presto you have a delicious and quick meal with virtually no fuss and no washing up. The dry ingredients can be measured out into the pouches before you set off on your trip. It helps if you mark the bag with the contents and how much water to add. The great thing about pour and store bags is that unlike Ziplock bags they have the liquid measurements marked on the side.

Some freezer bag cooking ideas:

  • Instant mashed potato
  • Instant polenta (cornmeal)
  • Couscous
  • Vermicelli noodles
  • Nori seaweed sheets
  • Sun dried tomatoes
  • Dried onions
  • Nuts & seeds
  • Seasoning such as stock cubes and salt & pepper
  • Mixed herbs & spices eg. dried mustard powder, smoked paprika
  • Nutritional yeast flakes
  • Dried peanut butter, coconut powder, salt & chilli flakes = satay sauce
  • Instant custard with coconut powder
  • Cereal with coconut powder

A food dehydrator would be a great investment, as you could add all sorts of dried vegetables, or just dehydrate your favourite pre-cooked meals.

 

 


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Best Hiking Food Vegan Banana Bread

 

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I have to share this brilliant recipe with you. It’s the best banana bread I have ever tasted, and it’s vegan too. Even if you’re not vegan, I think you’ll find this pretty delicious, and it happens to be great hiking food. The bananas, raisins, nuts and seeds give you a real energy boost.

If you have little or no baking experience it is easy to make. It keeps well, and the flavour improves with time. Once cooled, you can cut it into slices, but I usually cut it into generous chunks to make it easier to eat while out walking the trail.

Ingredients:

(Makes a 450g / 1lb loaf tin)

175g plain flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1 tsp ground cinnamon (optional)

50g chopped nuts & seeds (eg. pecans, sunflower & pumpkin seeds)

25g raisins

150g mashed very ripe banana

100g sugar

60ml olive oil (or 60g apple puree)

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180C

In a bowl combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nuts, seeds and raisins.

In a separate bowl mash the ripe banana with the sugar and olive oil. Then pour the mixture into the bowl of flour.

Stir just enough that the mixture is moist.

Spoon into a greased loaf tin.

Bake in the middle of the oven, for approximately 45 minutes.

Tips:

Avoid stirring the mixture too much, it can make it tough.

Get it into the oven as quickly as possible, and don’t reopen the door until you think it is baked to ensure a good rise.

To check it is done, insert a skewer in the middle. If it comes out clean it is cooked.

If it browns too much on top, try covering it with greaseproof paper.

 

I find that this recipe is surprisingly forgiving for a cake recipe, and in particular a vegan cake recipe!! I hope you will give it a go, and please let me know how you get on in the comments.


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Walking in the Cotswolds: Edgeworth and the River Frome

 

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The Frome Valley – November 2016

 

For this walk we used: Collins Short Walks in The Cotswolds (Published: 2014) Walk 6: Edgeworth. Distance: 2.5 miles.

We parked near the village hall in a small layby on the outskirts of Edgeworth village. The rain was just beginning again, but we were determined not to be put off by the weather. Sometimes on a day like this it is hard to get going as I always think I’d rather be curled up by a warm fire, but I soon realise how glad I am to be outdoors. As long as you wear the right clothing to protect you from the elements, it can be quite refreshing and I love the sound of raindrops on waterproofs.

We made our way down the lane and across some fields towards Edgeworth’s medieval church with it’s pretty lych-gate. I hadn’t studied the map in much detail and somehow I was expecting part of the route to be the way we had walked before, it’s funny how we are creatures of habit. We turned away from the church, heading down towards a stile. Here the guide book said “go over the stile and head downhill turning right at the iron fence”. We paused for a while and wondered if it could possibly mean down the steep embankment, but the sign indicated that the footpath was downhill to the right through some woodland. We decided to follow the yellow footpath arrow, which was of course the wrong way. We soon lost sight of the trail as it wasn’t well trodden, but kept going until we came to a wire fence with some overhanging trees which made a perfect natural shelter. We opened the Thermos flask of steaming hot coffee, and enjoyed a small cup each with a square of dark chocolate. The narrow river Frome was flowing rapidly with all the rain, crashing against its banks. In the distance we spotted a large herd of deer running out of the woodland and along the valley.

Reading over the guide book directions again, we realised we were meant to cross a stream before walking along the flat valley floor. We followed the winding river back upstream to investigate, and before long saw the yellow arrows indicating the place where we were meant to jump across a smaller stream, with a wooden footbridge ahead. These narrow valleys can be quite disorientating. You think you are on the right path, and before long you are heading in completely the opposite direction. Way marked footpaths which don’t exist on the map are there to make it more confusing, while footpaths on the map sometimes don’t visibly exist on the ground. Note to self: it’s always worth taking a compass reading to get an idea of the general direction we want to be walking in!

Happy that we were now on our way at last, we came out on the road and went through a gate along the bridleway towards Edgeworth Mill Farm. The farm dwellings were quite beautiful, and what a stunning riverside location. We crossed the river Frome once again on an old wooden bridge, and climbed uphill past an orchard and some allotments. I thought how I would love to live here and grow fruit and vegetables, and tend to the black sheep on the hillside. A thin pathway snaked its way through woodland, where we tried to avoid ripping our trousers on brambles as our feet squelched and slid about in the mud. I skidded once on the descent towards Valley Farm, almost falling over. After the next wooden footbridge, we stopped again by the river for some bites of our Cornish pasties and another cup of coffee.

From here onwards the fields were very boggy, our boots were often submerged under water. With any more rain I think it would be too flooded, and we would have had to take an alternative footpath higher up the valley back to Edgeworth. Soon however, we were on Valley Farm’s tarmacked driveway which led out to the public road. We made our way uphill along the narrow road, stopping occasionally at field gateways to admire the view. I thought it might be nicer to walk along a footpath across fields back to the village hall rather than sticking to the road. We climbed a stile and walked in the direction of the wooden marker post to the next field boundary, where, as often happens, all traces of the path suddenly disappeared. A huge tree had fallen in a storm, crushing the iron fence beneath it. We carefully inspected the twisted metal for any signs of what might have once been a gate or stile. There were some remains of what looked like a gate, but it was wrapped in barbed wire, and there was no public right of way arrow. I stumbled down the steep hillside with it’s grassy mounds, to see if there were any signs elsewhere, but masses of overgrown brambles made it difficult to be sure.

The light was beginning to fade, so we decided it was best to retrace our steps back to the road and continue that way back to the car.

This was quite a tricky walk considering it was only meant to be 2.5 miles long, but we loved it and would definitely do this again. I suppose it might be easier next time now that we know the way, and dare I say, I’m interested to explore some of the other footpaths on the OS map in this area. I’m guessing that might take a while though!

Our Rating: 5/5

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