Millie & Suzy

Follow our walking adventures around the Cotswolds & beyond


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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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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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