Cotswold Round 2009

Author: George Tod

This walk is illustrated with photographs. Click on small photo to enlarge in situ, or click caption to enlarge into new window.
Part 2 - Home to Shutford then Maugersbury

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Day 0 - Sunday 7th June

Home to Shutford (My Daughter's House)

The time had finally arrived for me to break off from building renovations in one place and another and embark on this year’s walk – The Cotswold Round. I packed all my things in the car, taking care not to let Oscar our dog see me doing so, as he would have been very upset at not being able to come with me. Normally, if he sees anything associated with walking – a rucksack, walking boots, map – he assumes that I am taking him for a long walk in the hills and mountains, so gets very excited, so when I set off on my annual long distance walk, I try to avoid him seeing any of these things to spare his disappointment.

On the way down from North Wales to Shutford, I went through some awful weather with heavy rain and temperatures dropping as low as six degrees Celsius. This was only a week after we had been basking in sunshine with temperatures of 25 degrees, which just goes to show the vagaries of the British climate. Fortunately, the huge band of rain was predicted to move away, which was the case later in the day, though the temperature still remained quite low.

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Day 1 - Monday 8th June - GPS 21.3 miles

The GPS mileage figure is what I recorded from accommodation to accommodation, and includes any small detours, meandering around, and errors in route finding. In general this is about 5% to 10% greater than the mileage calculated from a map, depending upon the type of terrain.

Shutford to Maugersbury (B&B)

I arose at 7.00, as the family still had to be off to work and school at about 8.00. Most of my things were still packed, so it was just a matter of making sure that I left nothing behind that would be needed on my walk. After saying my goodbyes to everyone, I headed out of the village to join up with the Cross Cotswold Pathway part of the route about five miles from its start in Banbury. I met it on the old Roman Road near Madmarston Hill, about a mile from Shutford – I would be walking the section from Banbury at the end of my walk in two weeks’ time.

The weather was cool and overcast, with the grass still a little wet from yesterday’s rain, as I headed up over Barton Hill, past the stud farm, and down to the Roman Road where I joined the way. My boots got a bit wet from the grass, but not much as it had already dried out considerably by now. As I had done a few walks around here previously, the route was familiar for the first couple of miles as the Roman Road climbed gently up and down the rolling Oxfordshire countryside. Although there were no steep climbs, there was still a bit of effort involved in carrying a full pack, especially as I hadn’t done any hill walking for a few months.

Although much of the way was on wide tracks, there were a number of narrow paths going through long grass so I was glad that it wasn’t very wet or I would have got my socks and boots soaking wet very quickly. The scenery around was not spectacular but the gently rolling hills and picturesque villages built from the local stone make it very pleasant.

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West along Roman Road where I joined the way near Shutford
Roman Road near Shutford
Epwell Church
Epwell Church

Past the village of Epwell, the route joins the main Macmillan Way, a long distance walking route from Boston in Lincolnshire on the North Sea Coast to Abbotsbury on the Dorset Coast, a distance of 290 miles. The route is quite well waymarked, which was a great advantage, as it is always very reassuring to see waymarks, especially when the route maps are very sketchy and there are not many landmarks.

As I was crossing the road, a fox ambled out from a pathway and wandered off up the road in front of me before heading off across the fields, unperturbed by my presence. A little further on, after passing a singularly unattractive transmitter mast, the route joined Ditchfield Lane along the boundary between Oxfordshire and Warwickshire, following a ridge, or wold, for a few miles. At first there was very little view because of the high hedgerows on both sides, but after a while the views opened up more, particularly to the west, making the walking more interesting.

I was looking for somewhere to stop for a rest, but there was nowhere convenient to sit down anywhere along the lane – no large stones, no tree trunks, no patches of dry grass, only the rather muddy lane., so I had to continue onwards until I dropped down to the road by Traitor’s Ford where the low wall gave me somewhere to sit. I had a snack and a rest, having done nearly six miles in just over two hours. The walking had been quite quick and easy and the route finding was helped by the fact that I had done this part of the walk six months ago in the very cold weather at the beginning of January. When I passed here then, the little footbridge by the side of the ford was covered in ice. I slipped on my way down and fell backwards. Rather than going down with a hard bump, the fall was cushioned by my rucksack and I came off unscathed. Some while later I stopped for a snack and when I started to peel a banana, I was surprised to find it very soft inside until I realised that this was one of the things that had cushioned my fall.

The weather was still quite cool and this had started to get through to me whilst I was sitting down by the ford, so the long steady climb up the road that ensued was not altogether unwelcome, as it helped to warm me up again. There were occasional glimpses of sunshine, but generally only for a few seconds at a time and not enough to raise the temperature much at all, though once I was walking I generated enough heat to keep me comfortable without having to resort to any extra clothing on top of my shorts and polo shirt.

Over the hill, I dropped down into the village of Ascott, which was as far as I had come on my previous walk before doubling back to Shutford via Hook Norton. From here on I would be on unfamiliar territory for much of the way until I reached the northern part of the Cotswold Way, where I done some walking about ten or so years ago, whilst I was contracting in Solihull. The very detailed route description in the guidebook which, unlike many guidebooks, was always on the same open pages as the map section to which it referred, made it fairly easy to keep on the right track, especially with waymarks to confirm the route.

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West from Ditchedge Lane beyond Epwell
W from Ditchedge Lane
Approaching the Village of Ascott
Looking back to Whichford Church
Whichford Church

The unspoilt village of Whichford with its 18th century rectory and Norman church was the next place I came to. The hills around here were getting a little steeper and there was a steady climb up to Whichford Wood, which required a bit more effort due to the weight of my pack and the fact that I was out of practice. Again there was nowhere to stop for a rest, not even a log or a fallen tree, only some rather damp ground, so I continued on to Long Compton, where I found a spot of ground that wasn’t too wet by the side of a pond on the way into the village. It was all very tranquil with only the occasional walker or worker here and there, and a little bit of birdsong to break the silence, though it would have been so much better with some sunshine. However, I was very thankful that the torrential rainfall of yesterday had passed by.

As its name suggests, Long Compton is very long, being well spread out along the Busy Stratford to Oxford road. On the way through, I passed the church with its thatched lych-gate and many attractive cottages of Cotswold stone. From the southern end of the village, another steady climb brought me up towards a radio mast with some wide, open views across the Gloucestershire Cotswolds, though in these overcast conditions, they lost much of their sparkle.

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Lych Gate at Long Compton Church
Lych Gate, Long Compton
Colourful Field towards Chastleton House
Near Chastleton House
Dovecote at Chastleton House
Dovecote, Chastleton House

Continuing onwards down the hill, following a minor road for about a mile, I reached the National Trust property of Chastleton House. When the house is open, there is a permissive path through the grounds past the dovecote and down to the house, but it was closed today, so I had to walk down the road instead. The dovecote could be seen up the hillside and the house was visible through the gates across the road.

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Chastleton House - a National Trust Property
Chastleton House
Adlestrop Village
Adlestrop Village

About a mile further on lies the picturesque village of Adlestrop, made famous in a poem by Edward Thomas (1878 – 1917).

Yes, I remember Adlestrop –
The name – because one afternoon
Of heat the express-train drew up there
Unwontedly. It was late June.

The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat.
No one left and no one came
On the bare platform. What I saw
Was Adlestrop – only the name.

And willows. Willow-herb and grass,
And meadowsweet and haycocks dry
No whit less still and lonely fair
Than the high cloudlets in the sky.

And for that minute a blackbird sang
Close by, and round him, mistier,
Farther and farther. All the birds
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.

The railway line still runs by, but the railway station was closed down many years ago. Its sign now adorns the bus shelter on the entrance to the village, together with a plaque showing the poem. By now, I was getting rather weary, having walked nearly 16 miles, so I took advantage of the bus shelter to have a rest. The shoulder straps and waistband of my rucksack were rubbing and my legs were feeling the strain of carrying the weight of my pack. This was not at all surprising for the first day of the walk, especially as I hadn’t done any real walking for quite some time. No doubt in a few days I would get more used to the schedule and the load.

From Adlestrop, the waymarking of the route started to get more intermittent, so I had to spend some time checking the guidebook to make sure I was on the right route. I strayed off the route through Adlestrop Park having been a little mistaken about the way that one of the waymarks was pointing, so I came out on the main road too far to the east, but I was able to rejoin the route by walking along the road to the railway bridge. Through Lower Oddington, it started to rain, but not enough for me to put on my waterproofs and it wasn’t long before it eased off again, though it still remained very dreary.

On the way to Upper Oddington, the path went through a field with a small group of cows, which was not unusual, but then I noticed that one of them was a bull. Generally, bulls are quite docile if they are in with cows, but he was standing right on the path and was not inclined to move, so I gave him a wide berth. As I was heading past, I heard the sound of hooves behind me and turned around to see a cow and some heifers running up towards me. This wouldn’t have bothered me too much, except for the fact that I couldn’t see whether the bull had decided to join in as well. However, he had stayed where he was, not showing any interest in what was going on. After a short while, the cow and heifers went off through a gap into the next field leaving me in peace.

By now, I was getting more weary and looking forward to the end of the day’s walk. The last mile was uphill along the roadway, as Stow-on-the-Wold is on top of the hill, with Maugersbury, where I had booked a B&B, just below. The B&B was well signposted through the village, and I reached there at 18.00. The landlady was outside by the stables where there was showing a mare and two young foals to a couple of people, this being very much an area for horses.

I had a single room without en-suite, but was pleased to find that I had the use of a bath and not just a shower, so was able to relax my weary muscles with a nice hot soak. The B&B was at the top end of the village, so it was not too far up a lane into Stow when I went to look for something to eat. There were several pubs and restaurants, but the first pub I came to was The Bell Inn. I ordered a pint of Wye Valley bitter but then found that they had already stopped serving food at 19.15. Downing my pint fairly quickly, I headed further up the road where I came upon a fish and chip shop, so I decided to call in there. As I was finishing off my fish and chips near the car park, it started to rain fairly heavily. I hadn’t brought my waterproofs with me so hurried quickly up the road to the next pub, the Eagle and Child, supposedly the oldest pub in England, though I am sure that many others also claim this title. The price of a pint of bitter at £3.15 took me aback somewhat, but this is an expensive part of the country, so it was only to be expected. After a while, the rain eased off and I made my way back for an early night.

According to my GPS, I had walked 21.3 miles, not including my walk into Stow and back, so it was not surprising that I was feeling rather tired, though most of the walking was quite easy with no hard climbing, only gentle inclines with a few steeper ascents. Though there had been a number of places with reasonable views of the Cotswolds along the way, and the route had passed through several attractive villages, there had not been anything particularly special about the day’s walk. But then I had not expected this part of the walk to be particularly inspiring and had undertaken it mainly to extend the Cotswold Way into a longer, circular walk, taking a fortnight instead of a week.

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